Treadmill Buyers Guide
Posted 15/05/2017 : By: Sam Bodger
Treadmills were invented in 1818 as a way of harnessing the power of a horse to drive machinery that had previously used wind and water power. The first human powered treadmills were used in prisons as a way of punishing convicts and using the power they generated to pump water and grind corn. Nowadays treadmills are a staple at every gym and many homes. Naturally, they have been researched, developed, and perfected more than any other piece of cardio equipment.
The treadmill is the most popular piece of cardiovascular exercise equipment. Motorised treadmills allow you to specify the speed of the belt, allowing you to keep you running at a pre-determined pace, most other cardio machines are user powered and will slow the calorie burn as the user slows down through tiredness.
Motorised treadmills might include heart rate sensors that let you reach your target heart rate and monitor your pulse. Timers allow you to focus on your form, watch TV or even read while using a treadmill. Calorie counters help you meet your calorie expenditure goals for each workout.
The treadmill works both your upper and lower body simultaneously and burns more calories than other cardio machines. It's great because its speed and incline can be adapted to fit many different fitness levels. Treadmills may not be suitable for users with bad joints as the high impact could be too much for them.
This machine is a great all-rounder, it offers a good warm up exercise before strength training and also provides a great exercise to users who just want to lose weight and burn extra calories.
Treadmill Buyers Guide
When buying a treadmill, first know what you want to do on it, are you training to build up speed or endurance or are you looking to exercise to lose weight? How frequently you want to use it should also be a consideration, are several people going to be using it many times a week or is it just one person using it for infrequent exercise? The amount of space you have available for the treadmill should also be a major consideration.
Once you have answered these questions, it will be easier to buy the machine most suitable for your needs. There are a number of things to consider when buying a treadmill.
If you are planning to use the treadmill for walking only, a 2.0hp motor may be sufficient. If you intend to use the machine to build up speed over time, it is better to consider a treadmill with a more powerful motor. For jogging, you will need at least a 2.5hp motor and for running you will want a motor that is at least 3.0hp.
In all circumstances, it is best to get the highest horse power motor you can afford, as a higher capacity motor less strain will not running at the top end of its capacity, putting less strain on it and giving a longer service life. The Continuous Horse Power (chp) rating is more important than the maximum power that the motor can deliver.
If you are going to use the treadmill for running or jogging, a track length of 120cm (47”) will be sufficient, this track length will also be fine for people up to 155cm tall who want to use the machine for running. Almost all users will be able to sprint safely on a treadmill with a track length of 140cm (55”).
A treadmill with a deck width of 50cm (20”) will be suitable to use for running in most users’ case. A narrower deck will not be suitable for running and a wider deck will provide more comfort for runners and will be more forgiving of errors and missteps.
This is particularly important for people looking to run on their treadmill as good shock absorption gives better support when pushing off the deck and gives a more comfortable and softer landing. Life Fitness treadmills have a system known as FlexDeck™ which reduces knee and joint stress by up to 30% when compared to a non-cushioned surface.
Speed and Incline
When purchasing a treadmill, consider the top speed you are likely to need in the future rather than just what you need right now. A machine that features incline adjustment will give the user a more challenging workout and burn more calories. Running on an incline gives a better workout to the calves and back muscles as the runner adjusts their posture to stay upright.
Some machines also offer a decline options which works the hip, leg and ankle muscles harder and improves leg turnover which in turn improves user acceleration for when running on a flat surface. Be aware, however, that running on a decline is harder on the knee joints.
If space is an issue, then it is worth considering a folding treadmill. In most cases the deck folds upwards using hydraulic assistance, meaning you don’t need to be a weightlifter to fold the running deck away. Another consideration with folding treadmills is that the running deck is often a bit shorter to account for the space the folding mechanism takes up.
There is a huge variety of consoles on treadmills, ranging from LED and LCD displays on the lower end machines, to full colour touch screen displays on higher specification treadmills. The range of programmes available will vary across consoles, with the higher-end consoles usually offering a greater variety of fitness tests, user profiles and programmes.
Some consoles allow users to connect their phone to the console wirelessly via Bluetooth or NFC and others allow a wired connection via a USB port. Connecting a phone enables the treadmill to record and track progress through compatible fitness apps and allows the user to listen to their saved music while using the treadmill. Some of the more advanced consoles let you run in various locations around the world with the treadmill deck adjusting the incline as the terrain changes.
Most treadmills have a reading rack or tablet holder as well as a water bottle holder. You will most likely want to have a water bottle holder. Consider whether you will want to use your tablet to watch video or listen to music whilst working out and if so make sure that the treadmill has a suitable sized rack.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Many treadmills offer heart rate sensors on the handles, however holding the handles whilst running on the treadmill does not put the user in the ideal posture for running. Some treadmills also offer wireless heart rate monitoring using a chest strap such as the Polar heart rate sensor, allowing users to run in a more comfortable position and still take advantage of the heart rate based workouts offered on some consoles.
Motor Driven or Self Powered
Most treadmills are motor driven, making them one of the few cardio machines where the user sets how fast they want to run and then keeps up with the belt as it moves at that speed. A more recent innovation is the self-powered treadmill. These usually have a curved deck, to speed up on a curved treadmill, the user runs faster and to slow down, the user allows themselves to drift down the treadmill. These treadmills burn more calories than the powered versions.
There are many things to consider when buying a treadmill. As with most types of product, buying the highest specification product you can afford will usually get you a piece of equipment that is more durable and with more features.
There are ways to save money. Refurbished items can get you a higher quality treadmill at the price of a cheaper model. Remanufactured items will not usually carry the original manufacturers warranty but a reputable refurbishment company will often guarantee their work.