Buying a treadmill can often be quite a large purchase – and a very confusing one with all the wide range of brands and models available on the market. To help you along we have outlined some of the main things to consider and keep in mind when choosing the treadmill that best suits your needs.
How much do you want to spend?
Treadmills can vary greatly in price depending on the type and the features it includes and the most high-tech, top of the range models can set you back about £4000. We obviously haven’t all got that kind of money to spend on a piece of exercise equipment but even if you only have a fraction of this available it doesn’t mean you can’t still own your very own treadmill. A basic, non-motorised treadmill can cost as little as £150. Having said that though, with treadmills as with most exercise machines, it is very much a case of “you get what you pay for”. A more expensive model will typically be much more stable, have a more spacious running surface and come with useful added features. If you can it is always best to see buying a treadmill as an investment – spending that little bit extra will ensure that you get a solid piece of equipment that will keep running for years to come.
How much space have you got?
Before buying your treadmill you will have to decide what size you would like it to be and work out where you are going to keep it. If you will be using the machine for running rather than just walking or light jogging it is a good idea to choose a model with a good-sized running deck as your strides lengthen at higher speeds. This of course means that the entire treadmill will be larger and will take up more space. Always measure the space you have available to make sure that your chosen treadmill will fit. If you are a bit short on space opt for a model where the deck can be folded up for storage, freeing up that much needed floor space for other things when the machine is not in use. Most manufacturers offer a choice of folding models and these can be of just as good quality as their full platform counterparts.
Who will be using the treadmill?
You will need to think about whether you, or anyone else who will be using the treadmill, have any particular requirements. A very heavy user will have to check the maximum user weight of the treadmill to ensure that it will keep running smoothly under the extra strain, whereas a taller person might require a longer running surface to be able to run comfortably. It is also important to consider any medical factors such as joint or cardiac problems. For those with joint problems it is worth investing in a machine with extra good deck cushioning, both for comfort and protection. If using a treadmill for cardio-rehabilitation, heart rate controlled training can be a very useful feature for a safe and effective workout. However, please note that heart rate monitors may not be suitable for people with pacemakers.
How will the treadmill be used?
If you will primarily be using your treadmill for walking, a manual or motorised model with a top speed of about 5mph, might be all you need. If you intend to do some more serious running however you need to opt for a machine that can handle speeds of about 10mph and ideally has a spacious running deck.
There are a number of key treadmill features upon which a buying decision is made. These include:
Motor and speed
The cheapest treadmills are manual, i.e. it is your own action rather than a motor that provides the power, which means you will always control the speed of the belt. They can sometimes be a bit difficult to get used to at first and put more strain on your knees and hip joints. Motorised treadmills are superior to manual ones but do cost a bit more, starting at about £350 for a basic model. With a motorised machine you will pre-set the speed at which you want to work out which makes the exercise more efficient and the motion more natural. When looking at the size of the motor, it is the continuous duty rating which is important. Continuous duty means that the motor will run at the indicated horsepower rating for extended periods under weight-bearing loads. If the power rating of the motor is specified as peak duty or is unspecified, it doesn’t really mean much at all. If you will be using the machine for proper running it is best to go for a motor with at least 1.5hp continuous duty. A smaller motor will not provide enough power and may not offer the speed range you require.
The vast majority of treadmills come with some sort of incline adjustment. Adding incline intensifies your workout so if you are buying a treadmill with quite a low maximum speed it might be worth making sure that it has suitable incline levels to add that extra bit of variety. Cheaper models normally only have two or three set incline levels and you will have to adjust it manually. With other machines you can set the incline level to any percentage you want up to a maximum of about 10-15%, and this is often done automatically by pressing a button so that you don’t have to interrupt your workout to change the incline level.
Having pre-set or even customisable workout programmes with your treadmill is great for some extra variety and can be very good for keeping you motivated. If you are the kind of person who easily gets bored while exercising, investing in a machine with a good range of programmes might just mean that you will end up getting more use out of it. Some treadmills come with a heart rate monitor included and many of these will also offer heart rate controlled workout options. With heart rate controlled training the treadmill will automatically adjust the speed, incline or both to keep you in your target heart rate zone. Programmes like these have been proven to assist in weight loss and improving performance and can also mean a safer workout.
Always check out the warranties offered on any treadmill you are considering. A good, durable treadmill from a good manufacturer should be backed by generous warranties. Generally speaking, the longer the warranty offered, the better the quality of the treadmill. Most treadmills come with at least a one year parts and labour warranty. Better quality products often come with a two or three years parts warranty. Machines from a higher-end manufacturer will often come with a lifetime warranty on the frame and on some models even the motor will be backed by a lifetime warranty.