Treadmills: Our Buying Guide
To this day, treadmills are some of the most, if not the most, popular exercising machines. Even though they may be costly when compared with other exercising machines, most treadmills offer the proper setting for losing a lot of weight, for undergoing a full body workout, for training stamina, or simply to maintain the required physical shape for a variety of sports.
A treadmill can also provide an adequate, comfortable and secure workout setting for the entire family. It can be one of the wisest investments that you can make if you want to adopt a healthy lifestyle. That’s why it’s extremely important to make the right choice when it comes to such an exercising machine. Therefore, here are several crucial aspects regarding treadmills that you should consider.
Do You Really Need a Treadmill?
This is a vital question that you must ask yourself, and answer before buying a treadmill. To answer this question, first of all you must take a closer look at the advantages, and fitness possibilities that a treadmill can offer.
In terms of fitness possibilities, a treadmill can provide the best setting for losing weight, considerably superior to spin bikes, ellipticals or others. That’s because running engages a large number or muscles, even though many aren’t focused directly. On top of that, running promotes a highly effective cardio or aerobic workout, engaging your heart and lungs at maximum. This results in a consistent amount of calories burned. Physical endurance building requires running in just about any sport. Therefore, if you aim to improve your stamina, a treadmill is the best choice. Evidently, if you’re training for marathon, triathlon, or race track running, a treadmill provides the exact setting that you require, for indoors exercising. Most of the advanced treadmills offer track running functions and programs, measuring distance in 1/4 miles, and higher speed settings, creating adequate conditions for professional training.
Apart from the fitness possibilities a treadmill can offer, there’s also the comfort factor. Needless to say, a treadmill gives you the possibility to have your daily running or walking session, in case the weather outside is inappropriate. On top of that, you can watch TV or your favorite online streams while running in the comfort of your home. Various treadmills have online connection functions, that allow the online analysis of your progress, competing and comparing your progress with others. Most mid-range or highly advanced treadmills feature decks with various suspension and cushioning systems, rendering the workout much easier on your knees than running on asphalt or concrete. And finally, in case of injury, you can quickly get help, or take the necessary measures.
Now, if all these aspects fit to your needs of an exercising machine, it’s a good chance that a treadmill is exactly what you need. Therefore, it’s time to get to phase two: learning about the main features of treadmills.
Key Treadmill Features and Everything that You Should Know About Them
The first thing that you should know about treadmills, is that depending on their drive systems, there are two major categories: mechanical and motorized.
Mechanical (or manual) treadmills, also known as speedboards, don’t have any motor that sets the belt in motion. You actually have to propel the belt under your own movement, the pace being determined entirely by how fast you walk or run. These are typically cheaper, as they don’t include a motor, and most of them don’t even come with arm rests or a progress tracking console. These are actually great for short, high-burst sprints, However, they’re not the most adequate for long-run training, as they require a lot of focus, in order to maintain the right speed.
Motorized treadmills, as terminology suggests, feature a motor that powers the running surface. They require to be connected to a power circuit in order for the treadbelt to be set in motion. Speed is controlled through the treadmill’s console. Most superior models have an additional motor for adjusting the incline, in order to expand the exercising spectrum, which is also controlled through the console. In general, these treadmills can cover the complete training spectrum this type of machine can offer. Plus, they come with a wide array of features.
Okay. Now let’s have a look at the key features of a treadmill, pointing out each and every important aspect that you should know about them.
Deck and running surface
Regardless if a treadmill is mechanical or motorized, the deck with the running surface is their most important component. Before purchasing a treadmill, this part is the one that you should study the most. The first aspect to consider is deck thickness. The thicker the deck, the more
stable a treadmill is, and the more cushioning you will have during running. Deck thickness also points out durability, and a higher supported user weight. Thicker decks can also take a lot of pounding without sustaining any damage.
Many treadmills have their decks reinforced with suspensions and cushioning systems, to absorb as much impact as possible, thus considerably increasing the comfort and healthiness of your exercising. Although a treadmill with a cushioned deck may cost a bit more, a cushioning system is definitely a feature to look for.
The running surface or the tread belt is also a very important aspect to consider, when on the lookout for a treadmill. In general, tread belts can vary in width from 15″ to 22″, and in length from 45″ to 62″. Evidently, a tread belt that 15″ x 45″ isn’t exactly the most adequate for running, especially not for taller users. A treadmill with a short and narrow belt suggests that it is meant for walking, or at least for light training, and for shorter users. On the other hand, treadmills with a 22″ x 55″+ belt, are definitely meant for running.
Another aspect to consider about tread belts is their structure. Most treadmills offer a 2-ply belt, for enhanced rigidity. This prevents the belt from stretching or buckling over the rollers, resulting in a smoother run. More advanced treadmills feature multi-ply belts, which also offer additional cushioning, and a better running setting.
The rollers of a treadmill’s deck are also important. These are the components that work directly with the belt, keeping it aligned and reducing friction. It’s always best to look for a treadmill that features tapered rollers. These have a bigger diameter at the middle, promoting a better alignment and also reducing the strain on the motor. Overall, the way the rollers work with the belt, can considerably prolong the life of the motor, and of the treadmill itself.
Many treadmills come with an incline mechanism, which raises the deck to provide an uphill running or walking setting, and to increase resistance. Now, this mechanism can be mechanical or automatic.
Treadmills with a manual incline system, usually have fewer incline levels, between 1 to 4 in general. But in order to adjust the machine’s incline, you have to stop your running session, and manually adjust slope, by securing the deck in the desired position. This can be a bit inconvenient, but nonetheless, a treadmill with incline increases the spectrum of exercises.
On the other hand, an automatic incline system is typically powered by a motor (different from the drive motor of the machine). Treadmills with automatic incline can offer up to 20-25 incline levels, and their adjusting is done via the treadmill’s console.
Of course, there are treadmills with no incline mechanism, but their deck features a slight, “natural” incline. If their decks is mobile, and not fixed rigidly to the frame, you can obtain the 0°, completely level running surface, by putting something under the rear of the deck.
It is a fact that a treadmill is only as good as its motor. Typically, the larger the motor, the higher the traction power, and the longer the treadmill will last. But when it comes to treadmill motors,
there are two very important aspects to consider: peak duty and continuous duty.
Peak duty refers to the maximum power output of a treadmill, the amount of power that particular motor is capable of generating for a short period of time. Continuous duty reflects the continuous power that the motor can deliver and maintain for heavy usage, and an extended period of time. That’s why the continuous horsepower is much more important to consider than the peak horse power.
The peak horsepower of a treadmill’s motor can range between 2HP and 8HP, and usually, the listed power of a treadmill’s motor is the peak power. But as a general idea, the continuous horsepower of that particular motor is lower. If a motor has only the peak power listed, to determine its continuous power, cut off about 40% of the value specified for its peak horse power. Also, you should know that for running longer distances, you need a motor of at least 2.0 HP continuous power. For walking or light jogging, 1.0-1.5 HP continuous power works as well.
Most treadmills can supply speeds between up to 10-12 MPH, but there are highly professional treadmills which can provide speed settings of up to 25 MPH. Evidently, running at such high speed on a treadmill is extremely dangerous. The average runner trains at speeds between 6-10 MPH, while walking requires 0.5-5 MPH. Therefore, if you want a treadmill for running, make sure it has speed settings for at least up to 10 MPH.
Mechanical treadmills typically don’t have a console for tracking any values such as speed,
distance etc. They provide the deck with the running surface, and that’s about it. On the contrary, most motorized treadmills do come with some sort of monitoring device.
On a motorized treadmill, even the most basic console should feature a safety key, for the quick shut down of the machine, and a basic “computer”, which calculates distance travelled, calories burned, and time spent working out. It also serves as main control for speed adjustment. Some of the basic consoles also have an odometer function, which indicates the total distance the treadmills has been used.
Slightly more advanced treadmills include pulse sensors incorporated in arm rests or handlebars, or even in the console itself. This function is actually great to have, if you need to keep track onto your pulse and heart rate. But its not entirely necessary, as you can always buy a chest strap and a special device for this purpose.
Evidently, advanced treadmills are equipped with advanced consoles, with various extra functions. For example, on gym-level treadmill, the console controls the incline and speed, offering gradual and quick keys. It supplies a certain amount of preloaded workout programs, which automatically adjust speed and incline. An advanced console should also provide a step counter function, powered by a sensor inside the deck which detects each foot strike. Also, other functions to expect from the console of a top dollar treadmill are goal tracking, race track function, alarms and achievement notifying functions.
Along with the more or less consistent amount of workout programs and fitness related functions, many treadmills offer various amenities. Among them can be numbered: speakers, cooling fan, bottle holder(s), media tray for attaching your tablet or book to the console, accessory holders, or USB charging ports for your devices.
One of the more and more common functions offered by the top quality treadmills, is the USB slot for workout data import and export. These treadmills allow you to copy your workout data on a USB stick, and upload it online, on various sites, for better analysis. You can also compare your data with others, and even compete online.
Other Aspects To Consider Before Buying
For most treadmills, the sound emitted by their motors isn’t extremely loud. In general, it’s a buzzing or whirring sound that’s far from being loud enough to interfere with your TV. However, no matter what treadmill you use, especially when you begin running at higher speeds, your cadence will be heard. Therefore, if you live in an apartment building, or share a house with multiple people, you might want to consider whether your exercising will become a nuisance to them, or if they can cope with it.
Most heavy-duty treadmills are usually bulky. They feature long and wide decks, and require at least one foot clearance on each side, and a couple of feet clearance from the rear, for safety purposes. Therefore, before purchasing one, you may want to check and double check its
dimensions, to be sure that it will fit into your own home.
Some treadmills feature a foldable deck, or foldable frame. Most of them are meant to be folded and stored (if folded) vertically, not horizontally, and even when folded, they still may take quite some space.
Of course, there are treadmills which don’t have arm rests and a functional dashboard or console, and feature just the running surface, which offer much better storing possibilities.
Treadmills can weigh between 40 lbs. and 500 lbs. Of course, your average treadmill for home use, has a weight between 100-250 lbs. Weight adds stability and sturdiness, but it also may raise problems with its relocation. Even though most treadmills are equipped with transport wheels, which facilitates their relocation, the heaviest ones may require quite a bit of help from other people during assembly or moving.
Each exercising machine comes with a specified supported weight. Treadmills don’t make an exception from this rule. The average treadmill can support users between 200-300 lbs. If you’re heavier, it’s best to opt for a model designed for your size range. Even if a treadmill seems to have a deck solid enough to support you, the motor simply may not be powerful enough set the belt in motion when you’re on it.
Treadmills don’t come cheap, at least not the most inclusive and powerful ones. And most of the time, it’s best to opt for a mid-range price points, as the cheaper ones may not supply you with the workout setting that you need. Therefore, especially if you’re heavier, rather than buying a cheaper treadmill for $200-$300, which may simply die under your weight, it’s best to save some, and invest in a more durable and capable model.
The warranty of an exercising machine is actually a quality indicator. Thus, if you see a treadmill with lifetime warranty at least for the frame and motor, you can be sure that’s a quality treadmill. Certain companies offer additional warranty for different parts though. So, especially if the model you’re buying is expensive, it may be worth to pay an extra $100-$200 for an extended warranty. Better safe than sorry.
Some of the Best Brands in the Business
There are several fitness equipment brands which over the years have received excellent ratings specifically for their treadmills. These are:
Sole is also a brand that offers treadmills known for their revolutionary cushioning system – Cushion Flex. This suspension system is one of the best, as it can reduce the impact on the spine, knees and feet by up to 40% than running on asphalt surfaces. Currently they offer 7 treadmill models, covering to meet the needs of every user.
The SOLE F85 is the best rated treadmill from this brand at the moment. Even if it’s not the most expensive and the most inclusive, it’s quite an outstanding piece of exercising equipment. It’s a heavy-duty treadmill, being able to support users up to 400 lbs, offering speeds up to 12 MPH, just about the speed required by marathon athletes to practice. It’s equipped with a 4.0 CHP, DC motor… Read Full Review.
Schwinn is actually known for their superior indoor bikes, but lately they have expanded to the treadmill market as well. They currently offer two for the best mid-range treadmills that you can find, with excellent 4-cell and 6-cell design SoftTrak™ cushioning system, highly advanced monitoring systems and plenty of other top-class features.
Currently, Schwinn offers only two treadmills, the Schwinn 830 and Schwinn 870.
The Scwhinn 830 treadmill currently benefits from better feedback from users all over the world, as it comes with a better price quality than the second. It’s a medium-range treadmill, with 2.75 CHP motor, providing speeds up to 12 MPH. It also has an incline system, and provides a running surface of 22 x 55 inches. The console of this unit is quite inclusive, providing… Read Full Review.
ProForm is one of the leading brands known for performance and innovation, which also currently offers 14 cutting-edge treadmills. Their models are equipped with the ProShox™ cushioning system, multifunctional consoles with a wide array of programs and amenities, and decks for users of all sizes.
The ProForm PRO 2000 is one of the best rated treadmills from this manufacturer. It’s actually a gym-grate machine, which has been slightly adapted for home users. Needless to say, quality is one of the main traits of this machine. Equipped with a 3.5 CHP motor, a 0-30% automatic incline, and capable of 1-12 MPH speeds, this machine can definitely supply a training setting for professional runners, for the off-season periods… Read Full Review.