EXPERT FITNESS INFORMATION AND TREADMILL REVIEWS
From Simon Clarke
Simon Clarke

Treadmills –The Ultimate Cardio Machines Buyers Guide

Treadmills are considered by many to be the ultimate cardio workout machines, and rightly so. They allow you to walk, run or even sprint at any time of day regardless of the weather or your personal location. They do not limit your exercise with annoying traffic light stops as experienced by city runners and when used properly they are a lot kinder to your joints than the pavement is. In general, treadmill machines make the perfect exercise enablers.They effectively remove all effort barriers between you and exercise. Fitness aficionados have been touting the productivity and ease of use of treadmills for years now, and the latest treadmill designs just keep getting better. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, and the range of features available with many treadmills nowadays ensures you can have fun while exercising.

With two thirds of Americans who exercise doing so from their own home, there is a huge motivation for the market to supply buyers with high quality machines that have exciting and usable features. For instance, most of the equipment available today has a user interface that allows you to track your distances which offers valuable motivation to all users. These fantastic machines can facilitate your cardio gains, rehabilitation, or general need for exercise in a comfortable environment of your choice. When looking for home or in gym exercise equipment based around cardio, a treadmill is your best choice.

If You’re Thinking Of Purchasing A Treadmill, Read This Guide!

Treadmills are considered by many to be the ultimate cardio workout machines, and rightly so. They allow you to walk, run or even sprint at any time of day regardless of the weather or your personal location. They do not limit your exercise with annoying traffic light stops as experienced by city runners and when used properly they are a lot kinder to your joints than the pavement is. In general, treadmill machines make the perfect exercise enablers.They effectively remove all effort barriers between you and exercise. Fitness aficionados have been touting the productivity and ease of use of treadmills for years now, and the latest treadmill designs just keep getting better. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, and the range of features available with many treadmills nowadays ensures you can have fun while exercising.

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With two thirds of Americans who exercise doing so from their own home, there is a huge motivation for the market to supply buyers with high quality machines that have exciting and usable features. For instance, most of the equipment available today has a user interface that allows you to track your distances which offers valuable motivation to all users. These fantastic machines can facilitate your cardio gains, rehabilitation, or general need for exercise in a comfortable environment of your choice. When looking for home or in gym exercise equipment based around cardio, a treadmill is your best choice.

Step 1: UnderstandingBasic Treadmill Jargon

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To navigate the world of treadmill shopping you’ll need to be familiar with the jargon used in product descriptions. Covering this first will help you to not only better understand the rest of this guide, but also to understand what the words used to describe the treadmill machine you are looking at actually mean. Many of the more specific definitionsand feature names will be covered later in the guide, but first let’s cover the basics in the below diagram. These are all common parts of treadmills that may be worth knowing before heading out to buy your first machine.

Step 2: Assess Your Own Requirements And Desires

To ensure you don’t get side tracked along the way on your treadmill research expedition it is worthwhile to take a moment to figure out exactly what you personally want out of a treadmill. Consider, why are you getting one in the first place? Other important points to make note of explained below, and we do recommend that you literally take note of these before reading further. The headings you might want to use in your notepad are Intended Use, Budget, Measurements and Features.After ascertaining your personal needs for these requirements you can proceed to navigate the rest of the guide with ease. Let’s get started:

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  • What do you intend to use your treadmill for? Is it for general fitness, walking, rehabilitation, running or professional use? You might even be looking for a commercial machine, in which case, what do you expect your customers or clients to use the equipment for? Write this down in your notepad under the heading “intended use”.
  • What is your budget? Treadmills can vary greatly in price from a second hand $100 oldie to well over $4,000 for a state of the art machine. Knowing your budget before you begin will help you to identify the treadmills within your budget range immediately. This will make it far easier to research the ones only within your range, thus saving you valuable time.
  • How much space do you have available? How big is the space that you have to place your treadmill in? It might be worth getting the tape measure out for this one and determining the minimum and maximum width, length and height values that your selected treadmill space can accommodate. Also make sure to measure any compartments or vehicle that you might be wanting to store or transport your treadmill in. Having these measurements on hand when you go shopping can be an incredibly useful tool.
  • What are your personal measurements? How much do you weigh (hey, it’s okay, the treadmill will bring that number way down) and how tall are you? It’s important to get a machine that will support your weight and be ergonomic for your height. If other members of your family will be using the treadmill, take note of their measurements too. A surprisingly useful measure when treadmill shopping is the one between your forearm at a ninety-degree angle and the floor as shown in the diagram below. This measurement is often helpful when determining if treadmill arm rail heights are appropriate for you.
  • Which features do you definitely want and which do you like but aren’t deal breakers? We recommend making a list for this with one column headed “Definitely Want” and the other “Would Like”. This way it will be clear to you as you shop what is actually important to you in the treadmill that you end up buying. For now, your list might be small and only include the features you are aware of, like a user interface that tracks how many miles you’ve run. When you see new features in this guide that you hadn’t considered before, feel free to add them to one of the columns in your list so you’ll be fully informed when you head out shopping.

You’ve just completed the first step to making an excellent treadmill purchase, which is figuring out what you need and want. Now you can read the rest of the guide and take note of anything that correlates to your list of requirements alongside the list nowin your notepad. At the end of this short process you’ll have a great list of specifications to help you choose the ideal treadmill for you. So weather you’re looking for a large running treadmill or a cheap manual walker, we can now help you find exactly what you’re looking for. So without further ado, let’s get into the technicalities.

Step 3: Determine The Specifications Of A Treadmill To Suit Your Particular Needs

Main treadmill types

There are two main treadmill types available on the market today and each is suited to different purposes and budgets. There are manual treadmills for walkers, regular motorized treadmills for general exercise and among these are also high specification treadmills for professional athletes.This short sentence summary is however not at all conclusive and we recommend you read the full descriptions below to make your choice. It is important to distinguish which type you are after in order to cut down the massive pool of treadmills available for you to look at when purchasing. As such we encourage you to make note of the treadmill type below that best meets the needs you described for yourself in step 2.

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  • Manual treadmills: These are the most basic form of treadmill. They rotate their belt by using the users own active motion and in order to change the incline of the setup, users must manually adjust it i.e. hop of the treadmill and set it. For those who haven’t heard of the incline feature before, it is the steepness of your treadmill track. Because of the lack of automation, manual treadmills are usually the least expensive option when treadmill shopping. Many of them are foldable as well, which is an excellent choice if you are looking for a portable treadmill option because you need to use it in various locations. Foldable ones are also great for smaller areas that you’d like to use for different things during the day i.e. you can pack your treadmill up and down only when you need it. If you are on the taller side however, and or have a long stride, then the folding treadmills probably aren’t the best option for you as they tend to be on the compact side. Regular manual treadmills do have other advantages too though. Their instant deactivation upon the user stopping their walking routine makes them a great safe option for rehabilitation, younger children or the elderly. In general, this treadmill can be more tiring than its motorized counterparts because it is driven by the users strides, and maintaining a stride that is consistent can be difficult for some people. Nevertheless, because of its safety and cheaper price tag, you may want to consider opting for a manual treadmill.
  • Motorized treadmills: These treadmills offer a greater range of features and ease of use than manual treadmills, but usually come at a higher price too. Their belt rotation is powered by motors and most modern ones include motorized incline adjustment. This means that you can just hop on and start running from the click of a button and adjust the incline as you run. The convenience can be a selling factor for these, as well as the fact that they tend to come with digital interfaces that provide a range of fun exercise programs. Do be aware that if you get an incline motorized one then the tread belt surface will be slightly shorter than ones that only have continuous duty motors and not incline motors as well. “Continuous duty motor” means that the treadmill is motorized to run/rotate the tread belt for periods of time without the users help i.e. motorized not manual. Although motorized treadmills tend to be larger than their manual counterparts some of them do also have a fold up feature which can save you a lot of space. Foldable treadmills allow you to keep your treadmill folded up whenever you aren’t using it which is perfect for anyone wanting to double use their floor space.

General Features

Treadmills today can come with a vast array of features. This is both positive and negative for buyers as it creates the potential for you to be up sold on features that you will never really use. Figuring out what you want in a treadmill often requires a little imagination. Think, when you imagine going to work out, what features and functions will you use or want there? While reading through the below list of possible features, remember that more features generally mean a more expensive piece of equipment. As you read through this list, feel free to add or detract from the columns under the “Features” heading of your notepad.

  • Compatibility with phone apps: Weather for weight loss or general exercise, there are many phone apps and devices available today to help you track your progress. Some of the newer treadmill models include integration with these applications which can be a very cool feature for exercise motivation. Examples include iFit, Passport Virtual Active and wireless pulse rate monitors.
  • Incline settings: Most treadmills available on the market today allow you to adjust the steepness of your exercise. Doing this has major benefits including making your experience more interesting, helping you to burn more calories for the same walking speed, and also being better on your joints when it is varied throughout your routine. The usual incline settings are 10%, 15% and 20%. These will suffice for most users but for those specifically wanting incline training there are treadmills available with inclines of up to 40%. Do take into account that motorized treadmills may have motorized inclines that can adjust automatically as you run but manual treadmills will require you to manually adjust this.
  • Heart rate monitoring: The digital monitoring of your heart rate is also a common treadmill function. Some do it better than others with the basic approach being a pulse area for you to take hold of on the arm rails for awhile when you want your pulse to be Whenyou are running or walking though it is more comfortable to have your arms doing natural gestures by your sides. As such, wireless heart rate monitors have been invented and some treadmills are compatible with these.Some of the treadmills will even automatically vary your workout speed and incline to try and maintain your target heart rate during use!
  • Digital workout programs: Most motorized treadmills will allow you to choose from a variety of workout patterns. There are pre-set “courses” whereby for a certain distance the treadmill is programmed on one incline and speed and then it will automatically change these at certain points to simulate a natural environment. This can be a fun way to do exercise and people often end up finding courses they favour for frequent use on their own treadmills. Alternatively, you can simply set the speed and incline that you are looking for instead before starting your exercise if you have a motorized treadmill or elliptical.
  • Desk treadmills: Perfect for those who spend the majority of their working day sitting down, desk treadmills have become the latest craze in the office exercise equipment industry. These allow you to gently walk all day while utilizing the desk attached to the top of the treadmill to complete your work. Often on the more expensive end, we recommend getting one that either has an adjustable desk height or sits at the height of your 90 degrees’to floor arm measurement.
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  • Music speakers: Treadmills can come with built in speakers that allow your phone or music player to be plugged in and used to play entertainment for you. Listening to podcasts or music can be a great way to make your workouts go faster.
  • Tablet holders or TVs: Some treadmills come with built in TV monitors and others have a space for you to put a tablet in. This allows you to watch your favourite TV shows while exercising. Usually slightly more expensive than those without this, it is a worthwhile feature for people who like time to fly by while they exercise.
  • Fans: How’s your air conditioning? If it gets hot where you plan to use your treadmill, getting an inbuilt treadmill fan may be the perfect option. Fans help to keep you calm during your workout. They can be inbuilt or some can also be purchased separately and conveniently located near your exercise area.
  • Arm rails: Arm rails are great for safety and also help some users to stay “in the middle” oftheir treadmill. It’s important to get ones that are the right height for you. Aim for that 90 degrees to floor to arm height measurement.

Important features in practice

Many people do not think of the user interface or cup holders as being important elements in their treadmill purchase decisions, but veterans know better. These features are surprisingly useful when actually using the treadmill and can make the difference between an enjoyable treadmill experience or an unenjoyable one.

  • An easy to use interface: It may not matter the first time you use your treadmill, or the second, but by the fourth time it’ll start to wear on you if utilizing your treadmill requires an endless clicking of buttons. Getting to your preferred exercise routine on a digital treadmill should be simple and easy. The aim is to make exercise an enjoyable fun time that you can get into without mental barriers. Therefore, it actually is pretty important that the user interface is easy for you to use and that you understand the key elements of using it. Try them out in store and don’t hesitate to ask questions about the product interface systems before you buy. Ideally you don’t want to press more than 3 or 4 buttons before being able to start your workout program.
  • Item holders: So where were you planning on putting your water bottle? Or face towel? Or cell phone/music player? It is much more convenient to get a treadmill that has enough hollows/holders to hold everything that you want near you while you exercise. This is another benefit of treadmills, unlike when you’re doing regular running/walking, youwill not need to carry your stuff. This allows fort a more freeing experience and we recommend you make use of this perk by getting a treadmill that has a place to hold your stuff near you while you exercise.

Saving Space &Portability

Both manual and motorized treadmills can come with the ability to be folded up. This is fantastic not only for transport and portability but also for storage and space saving. If you live in an apartment or simply want to maximise the use of your living space, fold up treadmills are a great option as they allow you to compactly pack up your treadmill whenever you want. When you are exercising an area may be used up by the treadmill and then when you are finished you can fold it up out of the way. Clean, easy and neat, this is a great space saving feature.

Noise

In general, motorized treadmills are slightly nosier than manual ones. However, many motorised treadmills have now been designed to operate much more quietly as a result of thicker two to four ply belts (referring to tread belt thickness). If you live in an apartment it may be crucial to get a treadmill that won’t annoy the neighbours. The easiest way to identify a treadmills noise level is to try it out in store. If this isn’t possible then the thickness of the tread belt is a good indication. In addition to being quieter than one ply belts, two to four ply belts are also created to be more durable.

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Parameters

The four key treadmill buying parameters of motor size, speed, price and size vary widely within the industry. Reading about the technicalities of the models you are considering buying can save you a lot of effort in the long run and will help to ensure that you get a treadmill that performs in the way that you intend to use it. Here is a summary of the key things to look out for:

  • Speed: The speed your track is capable of reaching on a manual treadmill will depend on your own pace whereas that of a motorized treadmill can be set digitally. The faster you need to go; the more CHP your motor should have (see previous bullet point). Most treadmills allow for speeds of up to 10 mph which is plenty for regular users. As a point of reference, marathon runners can average 8.8mph at a decent pace. For those wanting to train for faster speeds, e.g. 5-minute miles, you may want to find machines with higher top speeds. Fortunately, a range of 12mph machines are becoming available at lower prices than when they were initially brought out.
  • Motor size: Treadmill motors come in a variety of intensities.Horsepower (HP) or continuous horsepower (CHP) is a good measure of how a motor will power your track. Continuous horsepower lets you know how much power a motor can output continuously whereas HP only tells you it’s peak performance. The amount of motorpower you’ll need is often determined by the type of exercise you intend to do with your treadmill and your weight. The range today is usually between 2.25 CHP and 5.0 CHP. If you are under 200 pounds then we recommend 2+ CHP for walking, 2.5+ CHP for jogging and 3+ CHP for running. If your budget allows, it is better to opt for a motor with slightly more capacity than you need as a motor running at full tilt will wear out sooner than one that is using only part of its power. It may be that you are using the treadmill to lose weight, thus if your starting weight is more than 200 pounds, we would recommend adding an extra .5 CHP to each of the previously mentioned CHP recommendations.
  • Size: There are two components to this, the size of the overall treadmill, and the size of the tread belt.The size of your tread belt can really affect your workout. Runners will require slightly more space than walkers in order to minimize the risk of slipping off the belt. In general, we’d recommend a tread belt of 22” x 55” for runners and 20” x 50” for walkers. Of course runners can operate on a 20” wide belt if they’re the straight running type. And we recommend a 55” in length belt for runners over 6 feet tall.The overall size component is important to consider too. The dimensions you measured earlier of your space for the treadmill will need to be adhered to. Most treadmills are about 7” long and 3” wide. It is important to remember that you’ll need around another 8” additional “clearing room” at the back of your treadmill to enhance your own safety in use in case of slippage.
  • Price: With the exception of a few rare finds, you generally get what you pay for in the treadmill industry. If you are planning on keeping your treadmill for a while or putting it to use often then it might be worth spending a little extra to get a higher quality model with more features. Important features such as motors, fold-up capabilities, inbuilt workout programmes and pulse monitors can really add a lot of convenience and enjoyment to your life. The idea is to get a treadmill that you will want to use when it’s time to exercise. By getting a slightly pricier but better featured treadmill you will ensure that what you have in your home or environment is an excellent workout partner. Fortunately buying up also means that your equipment will probably be designed to be more durable than cheaper alternatives. Each person has their own budget – we just recommend shopping at the higher end of yours for a lot of added satisfaction in use.

Step 4: Look To The Future Of Your Treadmill

A number of factors can increase or decrease the running life of the treadmill that you purchase. In order to get the best value for your money, consider how long you’d like to keep this treadmill for and the amount of use and maintenance you’ll be giving it. Factors to consider include:

  • Tread belt durability: The belt is a key factor of your treadmill and without it the machine won’t work, so it’s important to consider how durable yours will be. To determine this firstly look to the thickness of the belt, if it’s two or four-ply it will last a lot longer than a one-ply belt. Secondly look at the metal rollers that keep the track moving. The larger the roller diameter the less stress is exerted on the track and the longer your track will last. We recommend going for treadmills with a diameter of around 2.5”. The third factor to consider is the lubrication of the track. Sometimes this is a manual job that you’ll need to perform yourself (be sure to ask) and other times it requires no effort as many tracks are infused with silicone or another lubricant to keep them running well for many years. It is important to check this out before buying so you know what to expect from your track in terms of maintenance and durability.
  • Reversible deck: In addition to the above points, another way to increase the usable life of your tread belt is to get a reversible deck. This means that after the normal wear and tear has affected your belt over the years you can simply have your belt reversed and use the other side. This can double your treadmill surface life!
  • Warranty and servicing: If you’re buying new, there is usually a warranty and/or servicing contract included with the purchase of your treadmill. Most high quality motors come with lifetime warranties, and the cheaper ones come with 10-15 year warranties. So the motor is usually a long lasting part of a treadmill. The frame is also a durable part with almost all treadmills having lifetime warranty on this too. Remember that the warranty provided is a good indication of the manufacturers opinion on the quality and durability of the treadmill provided. The most variable warranty provisions are those relating to parts and labour. In general, cheap treadmill warranties won’t cover any labour costs and come with a 90-day parts warrant. This can then be scaled all the way up to more expensive treadmills which may come with free labour if you live in the dealer’s area and up to a five-year warranty on parts. This is the higher end of the spectrum though so it’s worth paying attention to the price tag attached to your higher warranty aspirations.
  • Appropriate capacity: It’s important to stay within the weight requirements of a treadmill. Failure to do so will put strain on its motor and may result in it breaking. To get the most out of your treadmill in terms of lifespan, try to choose one that has an “official” weight carrying capacity of at least 50 pounds above your body weight. In general treadmills are made to carry between 250 and 400 pounds but each one should clearly state its particular capacity.
  • Electronic guarding: If you’re using a digital or motorized treadmill it’s important to follow electronic safety guidelines. This includes keeping your water bottle away from the wall plugand installing a surge protecting plug between your treadmill and your wall outlet. These surge protection plugs can be picked up for as little as $15 online or at your local electronics store and may mean the difference between a long lasting treadmill or a short fry if you live in an unstable electronic area. Even if your area’s electricity is generally stable, it pays to be safe in this regard.

Step 5: Consider your safety

As with all things, your personal safety is paramount. Although a relatively safe piece of exercise equipment, the use of a treadmill does have some associated risks. Namely the natural strain on joints induced by running and the possibility of slipping off the back of the machine. Steps have been taken to minimize these risks and overall the treadmill is still a very safe thing to own. We do however recommend that you consider the following safety points before purchasing one.

  • Shock absorption: One of the main reasons people prefer treadmill running to regular road running is the minimized shock on your joints. Treadmills provide cushioning and can reduce the impact on your joints by up to 15% when compared to regular on road running. This safety element is most useful for runners and some treadmills offer the ability for runners to choose the level of support they want to run on. There are even advanced decks that will give you a firm surface to push off from and then cushion your feet as they land. This cushioning effect can be great for people with past joint problems.
  • Auto-stop functionality: When using a manual treadmill, the belt will automatically stop moving when you do. Motorized treadmills however will keep going and this can cause a safety hazard. In order to minimize the risk, it is a good idea to get a treadmill that has an auto stop feature. This usually involves hanging a key around your neck which is attached with some rope to the treadmill.Should you slip backward, the key will pull the rope out of the treadmill and trigger the auto stop function, bringing the belt to an immediate halt. This is a great safety feature for children, the elderly, those in physical rehab and all people with pets that could distract them during their workout.
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  • Incline: Most treadmills will come with an incline and this is important to vary this during workouts to reduce the stress placed on your joints and different muscle groups.

Step 6: Go shopping!

Now that you’ve figured out what you’re after in a treadmill and carefully explored the various possibilities with our guide, it’s time to go shopping! Take your list of measurements, estimated budget, specifications and features along with you while you shop in store or keep it handy if you’re doing so online. This will make the entire process much faster and help you to end up with a treadmill better suited to your needs.