A treadmill is a device generally used for walking, running, or climbing while staying in the same place. Treadmills were introduced before the development of powered machines to harness the power of animals or humans to do work, often a type of mill operated by a person or animal treading the steps of a treadwheel to grind grain. In later times, treadmills were used as punishment devices for people sentenced to hard labor in prisons. The terms treadmill and treadwheel were used interchangeably for the power and punishment mechanisms.
More recently, treadmills have instead been used as exercise machines for running or walking in one place. Rather than the user powering a mill, the device provides a moving platform with a wide conveyor belt driven by an electric motor or a flywheel. The belt moves to the rear, requiring the user to walk or run at a speed matching the belt. The rate at which the belt moves is the rate of walking or running.