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A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Treadmill

WARNING: Always check with a doctor prior to beginning a new workout routine.

Running is one of the best cardiovascular activities you can do for your body, but going for a run outside isn't always possible. With a treadmill in your home gym, weather won't get in the way of getting a good workout. This machine is specially designed with smooth even terrain and includes features designed to help you get or stay in shape. From touchscreen options with surround sound to folding models featuring dozens of built-in programs, buying a treadmill can be a daunting task with all the options that are available. Here is an extensive breakdown of some of the most common styles and features you should consider before making a purchase.

Types of Treadmills

Manual Treadmills

These treadmills are operated by the user without a motor. The belt moves by the motion of your feet as you push down and back on the belt.

  • Quiet operation - You won't have a noisy motor to wake up the household during your late night or early morning workouts.
  • Ideal in small spaces - Manual treadmills are typically smaller without a motor and elaborate console. If you want to get some exercise but don't have much room to work with, consider this design.
  • Can help save on electricity - These models are typically more affordable than motorized counterparts and don't require electricity or power from a battery while in use.
  • Simplicity - Manual options are ideal for those who don't want to deal with confusing menus, user preferences or unnecessary modes.
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Folding Treadmills

Motorized folding treadmills give you the space-saving benefits of a manual model, while allowing you to reach higher speeds for jogging and running.

  • Occasional runners - If you typically don't run fast or long distances, folding models will give you just enough space to get a light jog going. Keep in mind the motor size you need for your workout style when buying these treadmills.
  • Perfect for apartments and small spaces - These options are a perfect solution if you live in a small apartment or home. Just open it up for a quick cardio workout, and break it down quickly when you're done.
  • More customizable features - Whether you want to listen to your favorite workout mix or load your most recent progress, advanced consoles make your life easier while you work up a sweat. Some models allow multiple users to program their preferences and sessions, so your whole household can use the equipment with ease.

                                                                                                                                                    Browse all folding treadmills

Running Treadmill

With a wide belt, sturdy deck and long platform, these models are built to handle mile after mile of running.

  • Endurance runners - If you're an athlete training for a long-distance run, running treadmills give you the space and support needed for intense training.
  • Taller athletes - With a fixed base and long belt, these models allow for natural movement without needing to compromise the blessing of a long stride.
  • Incline training - Non-folding designs typically have higher max inclines for steep hill runs, allowing you to burn more calories as the slope increases.
  • Workout versatility - Higher-end machines typically have more options for you to fine-tune your workouts and get a totally customized cardio session whenever you want.

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Treadmill Features


  • Incline - An adjustable incline adds intensity to your workouts by mimicking uphill walking or running. This feature is designed to help you burn more calories and target muscles in your calves, glutes and hamstrings.
  • Decline - Some treadmills offer an adjustable decline, since downhill walking targets different parts of your body. Downhill movement can work your hip and knee extensors, which may be especially helpful if you utilize an incline feature on your home equipment for a more balanced workout.
  • Adjustable stride length - Taller runners can benefit with an extended deck to accommodate their longer legs and distance between steps for a natural stride and rhythm.
  • Horsepower - Motors featuring higher CHP ratings offer more power, allowing them to operate more quietly and efficiently than low-power models that need to work harder to achieve the same speed.
  • Motor size - Your exercise style should determine the motor size on your treadmill. Look for a motor with a 2.0 continuous horsepower (CHP) or higher if you plan to use your equipment for walking. For more intense routines, consider a 3.5 CHP for jogging and 3.0 CHP or higher if you're primarily a runner. For an exerciser over 200 lbs., add 0.5 CHP to your target motor size.
  • Screens - Many console displays feature beautiful LED or LCD screens to show your at-a-glance running stats and programs. You can take your workout to the next level with advanced features like web browsing, movie and music streaming and more for serious workout entertainment.
  • Health data and vitals - Witness progress in action as the console measures your heart rate, blood pressure and other useful health data while exercising. You easily can keep track of the distance traveled and the workout's intensity, so your routine can adjust from day to day.
  • One-touch speed - Get back to your target speed with one simple push of a button without needing to navigate through other menus or features. This is a great option to pick up where you left off the day before in your training.
  • One-touch incline - After you find your perfect speed, tap the one-touch incline selection for your ideal incline level for targeting specific muscles in your legs.
  • Web integration - Thanks to partnerships with iFit and Google Maps, some advanced models allow you to vary your routine with real-life inspiration from local or faraway topography. Pick a location around the world for a run, and the incline automatically adjusts to mirror your geographic selection.
  • Pre-programmed workouts - Choose from a wide variety of programmed workouts designed to work for anyone from beginning to advanced athletes. These programs typically target specific needs, like fat-burning or an ideal heart rate. You can also find treadmills with innovative hill training terrains for a more strenuous and exciting session. Including pre-programmed sessions in your routine can easily make your workouts more exciting.
  • Interval training - This is another pre-programmed exercise designed to get your heart rate pumping while your movement constantly changes in preset intervals. Select from various interval levels designed to test your physical abilities. During this workout, the machine‚Äôs speed and incline change in short sessions, targeting your fast-twitch, anaerobic muscle fibers.
  • Cushioning - You can help reduce the harsh effects that running takes on your joints, knees and legs with a cushioned deck. A fully cushioned deck is ideal for runners who want maximum padding as they exercise. Models with an adjustable setting can accommodate a household of runners with various needs, while a harder deck can resist early wear and tear and imitates roads or other pavement.
  • Deck width and length - Make sure you're able to fit on and use your equipment properly. A treadmill with a wider, longer deck allows you to move more naturally as you work out from home. Look for a model that can accommodate your normal stride and physical size without adjusting how you run or walk. A wider deck allows larger users to get on and off the equipment more comfortably.
  • Water bottle holder - A console water bottle holder helps remind you to stay hydrated while you work up a sweat. Make sure you're able to reach the holder while the treadmill's in use to get the most out of this feature.
  • Pulse grips - Check your heart rate in an instant with a convenient pulse grip on your machine. The sensors are able to accurately determine your pulse during a session, allowing you to measure your heart rate against the target zone for your age group without having to stop your session. Many models feature these grips on the handles.
  • MP3 Port - Cue your favorite music in an instant with an MP3 port. These convenient ports allow you to plug in your own MP3 player for easy access to your music library.
  • Bluetooth - Sync your equipment to a laptop or smartphone to view and track distance walked, calories burned and more data with a wireless Bluetooth connection. This is a great feature for anyone who divides their time between a home gym and the neighborhood fitness center.
  • Speakers - Unplug your earbuds and let the high-quality sound system of your treadmill fuel your workouts. Some models also feature surround sound for a more immersive experience.
  • Tablet holder - Relax and enjoy your favorite TV shows or media using a tablet holder. Simply prop up your reader or tablet on the convenient holder, and you're free to multitask while you get your blood pumping on the treadmill.