Fitness pioneer William Staub, who invented the treadmill, has passed away at the ripe old age of 96.

And if you think you’re too old or out of shape to use his invention, think again — he was using one himself until just a couple months ago.

Staub, a mechanical engineer, built and marketed his first treadmill in the late 1960s. And while treadmills were initially used only for stress tests in doctor’s offices, Staub wanted them to be used by people who, for a variety of reasons, couldn’t walk or run outside.

But marketing treadmills to the masses wasn’t easy. “Some people couldn’t pronounce it. They would call it a threadmill,” said Staub’s son, Gerald. “I would joke and say we were helping people get no place quickly.”

Eventually, of course, they caught on. These days, there are millions of treadmills in homes and gyms. And while many of the residential units may be guiltily used as clothes hangers, Barbara Bushman, a professor of kinesiology at Missouri State University, credits William Staub with changing the way people exercise.

“From a public health standpoint, it’s so encouraging,” she said. “[With one piece of equipment] he really took away the excuse of ‘the weather’s not conducive to exercise today.’”

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