Storia del tapis roulant moderno

Tapis Roulant | The incredible story from its invention to the present day

The treadmill is undoubtedly one of the most popular training equipment for the improvement of cardiovascular functions that you will find in a gym but also in a normal home.

For many people this fitness tool is an integral part of a training regime that offers concrete and visible results.

The latest market analysis carried out at a global level showed that :

The business linked to fitness and the sale of training equipment estimated to date at 15 billion euros at global level, will reach a turnover of 28 billion euros in 2024 alone.

The most popular training equipment in the world

The treadmill is currently the most popular and best-selling fitness equipment on the world market. The size of the global treadmill market has been estimated at $3.2 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $5.9 billion by 2030, recording a CAGR of 5.4%.

The origins of the treadmill

It may be strange, but the origins of the treadmill are not rooted in any form of exercise or sport you want to say. In fact, it was born in the world of engineering and construction. Throughout history, most of its iterations have maintained a strong link to manual labor.

Storia del tapis ruolant antico

In the 1st century AD. the Romans already used a precursor of the treadmill, known as a wheeled crane or polyspaston (in Latin “pulley hoist”).

This human-powered device was essentially a large wheel attached to a crane. Used instead of a traditional winch, the men walked continuously inside a large wheel similar to that of hamsters to allow the crane to lift large loads.

Due to the actual wheel diameter, the lifting capacity of the wheel crane was about 60 times more efficient than the purely manual construction methods previously used by the ancient Egyptians to build the pyramids. A real engineering enterprise.

Other applications

In the 19th century, the onset of the use of horses to move rudimentary treadmills to operate different types of machines in the absence of renewable energy sources such as wind and water came to the fore.

In some cases, moved by horses were also used to feed boats. This version featured a horizontal belt that closely resembles the models we know today.

tapis roulant antico azionato da cavalli

Smaller versions for dogs, sheep and goats were later created to operate churns, millstones, fan mills and screeches.

tapis roulant antico azionato da cani o capre

Treadmills to punish prisoners

The next major iteration in treadmill design came in 1817 and is perhaps its most famous application to date.

The idleness of the prisoners in the 19th century spurred engineer Sir William Cubitt to create the “treadmill”.

This machine, despite its name, actually looked more like a modern Stairmaster. However, Sir William sees this new invention as a means of reforming transgressors by giving them a glimpse of the real work.

Tapis Roulant usato nelle prigioni inglesi

Sir William’s design involved a series of steps positioned on the outside. Usually, the prisoners walked for about six/eight hours a day, covering a distance of 5 km.

The treadmill used in more than 200 English prisons was finally abolished in 1902.

Developments of the treadmill in the 20th century

In 1911, Claude Lauraine Hagen filed a patent in the United States for a “training machine” very similar to the modern treadmill. The patent was finally granted in 1913 and is surprisingly detailed and forward-looking for the time.

Claude Lauraine Hagen Progetto originale Tapis Roulant moderno

Hagen had imagined that his machine could be folded, allowing it to be easily transported.

It even took into account users of different heights including moving side rails and even thought of reducing the noise that the machine would do by attaching four external pillars to essentially lift the belt from the ground thus also allowing you to adjust the inclination.

Claude Lauraine Hagen Progetto originale Tapis Roulant moderno pagina 2

Proof that Hagen has turned this project into a working prototype is unfortunately impossible to find, however, such a patent is mentioned in many modern treadmill patents.

The 1920s of 1900

During the 1920s and 1930s some manually operated models came to the fore. They did not have an engine and required the user to manually move the wooden slats to create a momentum, very different from the continuous rubber tape to which we are accustomed today.

modelli di tapis roulant del 1920

The first motorized treadmill

The first motorized treadmill was co-invented by cardiologist Dr Robert A Bruce, nicknamed the father of stress cardiology, in 1952 used to diagnose heart/lung disease and conditions.

The Bruce protocol subjects patients to cardiac stress tests, linked to an electrocardiograph (ECG).

Robert Bruce father of the modern treadmill

Robert Bruce padre della cardiologia da sforzo

Another alternative was the Master test divided into two phases. This test is named after cardiologist Arthur M. Master in 1935, such patients were subjected to two ECG readings, one at rest, then another after climbing and getting off a small platform.

This test proved unreliable as it was difficult for many older patients to complete. By cant its accessibility of the treadmill and the ability to accurately control speed and inclination, allowed the Bruce protocol to quickly become the standard.


The late 1960s saw the introduction of the world’s first mass-produced home treadmill, invented by mechanical engineer William Staub. Dr. Staub’s inspiration comes from the book Aerobics written by Dr Kenneth Cooper, a former Air Force colonel.

Dr Cooper’s book used a point-based system to measure and improve cardiovascular shape. To combat sedentary behavior and inactivity, also recommending running for at least eight minutes a day, five times a week.

Staub built a prototype treadmill, the Pacemaster 600, and sent it to Dr Cooper for his approval. Seeing the immense possibility of a treadmill in the house, Dr Cooper has committed to financing this invention through his company Aerobics Inc, which in turn has helped Staub find a mass audience.

PaceMaster 600 il primo tapis roulant commerciale

In the 1980s, Aerobics Inc sold 2,500 models each year, and in the mid-1990s, sales reached an incredible 40,000 units per year.

Innovations in treadmill technology continued at a steady pace, shifting attention to comfort and usability.

Modern use of treadmill

Although the technology behind this fitness equipment has not changed dramatically in recent decades, perhaps the greatest advances have been made by the features added over the years. Today, companies, innovators and researchers seem to focus on incremental improvements and additional features, rather than changing the function of the treadmill.

From the Roman Empire, through the English penal colonies, in one form or another, it represents an extraordinary testimony.

The curved treadmill

tapis roulant curvo crossfit

The advent of new training methods such as functional fitness has allowed companies to revolutionize the concept of treadmills.

The latest model from the Kingsbox Royal Air Runner 2.0

This model of curved treadmill uses human body movement for its operation. The Royal Runner 2.0 is suitable for all athletes and regardless of their physical form, can incorporate running in their HIIT workouts (high intensity intervals) thanks to this wonder of the technique.

The Royal Air Runner includes a console holder, a phone holder (the console is compatible with the mobile app for smartphones), a bottle holder and wheels for easy transport are incorporated.

The new version of this model offers the possibility to simulate the uphill walk and/or the thrust of the sled.

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tapis roulant curvo kingsbox 2


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