How to Choose the Right Treadmill For You

treadmillWhether you’re planning to start training for a marathon or just want to add a little exercise to your daily routine, buying a treadmill for your home is a great place to start.

Be sure and do your homework to find the right one for your needs. Here’s a guide to all the features, treadmill types and other variables you should consider before choosing a treadmill to buy.

Features

Motor Power and Belt Speed. If you plan to run fast for long periods, look for a machine with a powerful motor and a high top-belt speed.

Belt Size and Weight Capacity. Longer, wider belts and sturdier machines facilitate use by avid runners and heavier people.

Programmability. Working out can get boring quickly. Most treadmills let users choose workouts with hills and variable speeds to keep exercise interesting.

Entertainment Options. Consider whether you want to read, listen to music, watch TV or surf the Internet while on your treadmill.

Types

Manual Treadmills. Treadmills that lack motors also lack high price tags. You go only as fast as you push yourself.

Motorized Treadmills. Motorized treadmills require you to move as fast as the belt, ensuring at least a minimum workout. Motorized treadmills offer many programming options.

Fold-and-Store Treadmills. If you have limited space in your home gym or only plan to use your treadmill occasionally, consider a folding treadmill that stores out of the way.

Construction

Machine weight limits typically range from 275 lbs. to 350 lbs. Consider the size of the belt. Longer and wider belts allow for taller, heavier and faster users than shorter and narrower belts. A cushioned or adjustable-tension belt reduces the impact on your feet, ankles, knees and hips.

Workout Features

Motor and Speed. Most treadmills have motors with a maximum output of 2.5 hp, which allows the treadmill to reach a top speed of 10 mph (equivalent to a 6-minute mile). Heavier users and competitive runners probably want a machine with a motor rated for 2.8 hp or higher, with a top speed of 12 mph (equivalent to a 5-minute mile).

Console and Monitor. While consoles differ, each console displays the same basic information: belt speed, time spent, distance covered, and calories burned. Some treadmills have built-in hand pads or chest straps that sense your pulse and report your heart rate. Others have touch screens, televisions or course displays that add interest to a workout.

Incline/Decline. Incline training has been proven to burn significantly more calories than running/walking on a flat surface. A few treadmills incline as much as 40 degrees and decline as much as 10 degrees. A maximum 10-degree incline and no decline is the standard for most treadmills.

Workout Programs

Preprogrammed Workouts. Every motorized treadmill comes with preprogrammed workouts which vary by general length, speed and incline/decline of the deck. Use the console to choose your workout before you begin exercising. The chosen workout makes the treadmill change speed and angles automatically.

Programmable Workouts. Most treadmills allow you to design workouts by entering weight, desired workout time, desired incline/decline and desired speed. You can usually store this information in the console itself or on a removable data device such as a memory card or a USB drive.

Interactive Workouts. Some treadmills support a wireless device and Web application called iFit Live, which connects you and your treadmill to the Internet, allowing you to receive personalized workouts and interact with other iFit users.

Upper Body Workout. A crosswalk treadmill with ski-pole type handles exercises your upper body while walking or light running and strengthens your arms, shoulders and upper back, while burning more calories.

Fan. Several treadmill consoles have built-in fans to cool you during your workout.

Cost

A treadmill can range between $400 and $4,000 depending on what features you want; most motorized treadmills start at about $1,000. Increase your investment if more than one person will use the treadmill, as multiple users create more wear and tear on the parts and motor. A model with features that will help you meet your fitness goals is an investment in your health, so try not to skimp on cost to avoid buyer’s remorse later.

Entertainment Features

Many treadmills are equipped with entertainment options ranging from trays and ledges for books and magazines to Mp3 player docking stations and Wi-Fi connections. Some treadmills have digital televisions built into their consoles.

Smart Buying Tips

  • Test different treadmill floor models.
  • Sears offers its complete catalog of treadmills online. Read online product reviews of the models you are interested in.
  • To save excess wear and tear, buy a treadmill that gives you a good cushion — say, 50 lbs. — between the weight of the heaviest person who uses the machine and its manufacturer-specified weight capacity.
  • Less expensive foldable treadmills may have looser frames which can shift and shake during use.
  • Look for the word “continuous” when checking a treadmill’s motor power rating. Most models output at least 2.5 hp.
  • Do not pay for more incline or decline than you plan to use.
  • Look for a display console that you can read easily.
  • Look for upper body exercise handles that lock in place. Otherwise the handles may move back and forth when not in use causing interference and annoyance.
  • Some treadmills require significant assembly. Consider paying the set-up fee.
  • Test out a treadmill’s speakers and television, if possible. All audiovisual equipment is not created equally.
  • If you intend to position your treadmill in front of a television or in a room with a radio or stereo, consider a treadmill without built-in entertainment features.

Other Useful Tips

Shoes. Using a treadmill stresses and strains your feet, ankles, leg muscles and hips in the same way that running or walking on any other surface does. Wearing shoes that fit well and provide proper support reduces your risk for exercise-related injuries.

Mats and Tiles. Placing a rubberized mat or specially designed carpet under your treadmill keeps the machine from slipping and sliding while you exercise. The mat also protects your floor from damage by the treadmill feet and frame.

Pedometer and Heart Rate Monitor. A portable pedometer and a heart rate monitor are beneficial as they record your stats and track your progress.

Have you bought a treadmill recently? What features were most important to you? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

 

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