Studies show that manual treadmills burn 30% more calories than automatic ones.

enter image description here

Let's assume that there is no air friction.

The figure is a diagram of the forces acting on a person running on the ground, but it is no different from the principles in the treadmill.

Eventually, the friction force created by the force of the foot pushing the ground moves the center of gravity of the person.

In the case of an automatic tread mill, it is not necessary to consider the reaction force of the friction force but in the case of a manual tread mill, the force acts as a force that moves the manual tread mill itself.

What I'm curious about is this.

  1. If a person pushes the ground with the same magnitude of force, whether it's manual or automatic tread mill, shouldn't the calorie burn be the same in all three cases?

  2. Why do manual treadmills burn more calories because you have to push treadmills with greater force in order for the runner relative speed to manual treadmills is equal to the runner relative speed to automatic treadmills?

I'd appreciate it if you could explain it to me in an easy way.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ “Studies show”: links would be helpful. $\endgroup$
    – rob
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ @rob I cannot click your link. Where should I find it? $\endgroup$
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 13:55
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I was suggesting that you provide links, since you seem to be aware of these studies while I am not. $\endgroup$
    – rob
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @rob link its just article i read it yesterday! $\endgroup$
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 16:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is a misunderstanding of what a treadmill does. The person on the treadmill burns those calories, not the machine. How hard they want to work is their choice, not the choice of the machine. Niels Nielsen is correct, that for any chosen belt speed and inclination the electric motor of the machine will compensate for mechanical losses of the machine that make running on a passive belt unpleasant, but that's about it. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 16:21

1 Answer 1


In a powered treadmill, your leg muscles are not overcoming the friction forces in the belt, the support bearings, or anything else inside the machine- all that work is being done by the drive motor, so all you are doing is swinging your legs back and forth to keep up with the belt speed.

In a nonpowered treadmill, your legs are the power source for the belt mechanism as a whole so in addition to swinging your legs back and forth, you are performing actual work on the belt with your leg muscles.


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