Buying Guide to Treadmills

Buying a treadmill isn’t as simple as heading to the nearest department store and picking one off the shelf. First, you must determine the type of treadmill that best meets your needs in terms of features. Then you must find one that meets your budget.

Treadmills come in all sorts of configurations from the bare bones budget machine to the high tech treadmill with all the bells and whistles. Expect to pay between $500-$1500 for the entry level treadmill, up to $3000 for a middle of the road treadmill and beyond for a top of the line machine.

Common features to consider when shopping for a treadmill include whether the treadmill has a motor or not, incline adjustments, speed adjustments, pulse monitor, sturdy handrails, programmable workouts, connections for electronics such as a CD player, DVD or internet. Another distinction is whether you want a stationary treadmill or a portable folding model.

Manual treadmills work by propelling the belt using your own power. Motorized treadmills use a motor to power the belt and you must keep up with it either by walking or jogging depending on the speed setting. Oftentimes, a second motor is used to power the incline adjustment.

Choosing a motorized treadmill opens up terminology related to the motor such as peak duty and continuous duty ratings. Peak duty represents the maximum power the treadmill can operate at for a short period. Continuous duty ratings determine the motor’s quality and ability to perform for an extended time. For walking and jogging, a motor with a continuous rating of between 1.0 and 1.5 should do the trick. Runners should choose a treadmill with a rating of at least 1.5 and people weighing over 180 pounds should go with a motor with a continuous rating of 2.0 or more.

A few tests to try out the treadmill’s motor:
âÂ?¢ Set the speed to 1 MPH and step on the belt. Make sure the belt doesn’t stop or slow down.
âÂ?¢ Slowly increase the speed of the treadmill to the level you plan on using. The speed should stay consistent once you’ve reached it.
� Adjust the incline at various speed settings. The belt speed should stay consistent regardless of the incline adjustments.

Size matters in treadmill design. Runners and those with longer strides require longer decks and belts. It’s important to test drive a treadmill to get an idea of the length of deck that works best for you and your intended workout.

Another important feature is the cushioning of the deck. The deck acts as a shock absorber. For the best cushioning, choose a low-impact deck with a 2-ply belt and a one inch (3/4 inch for walkers only) board thickness underneath the belt.

On board electronics vary from the basic to the high tech. Basic electronics on a treadmill display speed, incline, distance, time and calories burned. Higher tech versions offer pre-set workouts, allow a user to enter data such as age and weight, vary intensities and inclines, and even include ports for plugging in electronic devices.

Emergency shutoffs are available as either a clip, switch or key to stop the machine if you get too tired or fall off. As an added measure of safety, some machines require access codes so that young children can not activate the treadmill.

Folding treadmills have improved in recent years. If space is at a premium in your workout room, a folding model is worth considering. Some features to check out include stability, weight capacity, ease of both folding and moving.

An option to the treadmill is the elliptical trainer. Elliptical trainers provide a low-impact cardio workout and is considered a hybrid of the treadmill and stationary exercise bike. As with treadmills, elliptical trainers come with electronics and programming abilities. Test riding for comfort is also recommended.

Treadmills are a big investment. Look for one with a decent warranty should something go wrong. A 90 day warranty covering parts and labor is pretty standard on a basic machine but for the high end treadmill, look for a three year warranty on the motor and 2 years on the drive train. Treadmills are one of the few products that Consumer’s Reports actually recommends considering an extended warranty on because of their expense along with the complexity of repairs often requiring housecalls.

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