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How to Buy A Treadmill

Treadmills remain the most popular exercise machine available today. Buying a treadmill can be costly, but it's a highly advantageous purchase that provides a myriad of health benefits. Treadmills allow users to train for a wide range of sports or activities. They keep endurance up, burn significant amounts of calories, and can help you efficiently maintain your weight. A high-quality treadmill can provide a safe and fun way for the whole family to start and stay on the path to a healthy lifestyle. It's very important to choose a treadmill that can lead you toward your specific fitness goals, as well as sustain its performance through the amount of use you will give it. So buy accordingly.

Introduction to Treadmills

  • They are easy to use
  • The movement (walking or running) is natural
  • They offer low-impact workouts
  • They can be adjusted to fit whatever workout level you desire
  • Using a treadmill is just like taking a walk or a run
  • Depending on the model, you either propel the belt under your own power or the machine sets the pace (determined by you) and you keep up

Treadmill Features

Motors

  • A treadmill is only as good as its motor; the larger and heavier the motor, the longer the treadmill will last.
  • Motorized treadmills have one motor that drives the belt and another (the lift motor) that raises and lowers the running bed to create an incline
  • Motors allow you to set the pace for your workout so you can stay on track
  • Treadmill Duty versus Continuous Duty*
    • Continuous duty: This is the amount of continuous motor power that is consistently delivered during heavy usage over an extended period of time.
    • Treadmill duty is the amount of power output at which the motor is rated. These motors are specifically designed for treadmill usage.

Horsepower

  • Horsepower is the measurement of power of a treadmill motor; manufacturers use two measurements for horsepower: continuous and peak
  • Continuous horsepower is how powerful a treadmill can continually operate without dropping off
  • Peak horsepower is the maximum horsepower a treadmill can generate for a short period of time
  • Since peak horsepower is usually significantly higher than a motor's continuous capability, continuous horsepower better helps you determine which treadmill will accommodate your intended exercise use
  • Generally speaking, the larger the motor the more powerful it can operate at a continuous rate
  • You should look for a treadmill that indicates at least a 1.5 continuous duty horsepower motor for runners and a 1.0 for joggers and walkers
  • Use the chart below to help you select the right motor based on your intended use:
Choosing the Right Motor
Your WorkoutRecommended Horsepower
Walking or light jogging1.0 hp - 1.5 continuous hp
Running1.5 hp - 2.0 continuous hp

Incline

  • Incline raises the treadmill's running bed for increased resistance
  • Treadmill incline mimics walking or running up hills, making your workout more challenging, burning more calories and further increasing muscle tone
  • Manual incline means you change the incline yourself; this is usually offered in 4 different placements, such as 3% incline, 5% incline, 7% incline and 9% incline; treadmills with manual incline are less expensive than those with powered incline
  • Power incline offers you automatic adjustment so you can change the incline while you're walking/running to add variety and challenge to your workout; most treadmills offer a powered incline from 0%-10%
  • Powered incline is inarguably more convenient and easier to use

Belts/Decks

  • The thicker the deck, the more cushioning and comfort it offers your legs/joints
  • Look for new proprietary deck cushioning systems designed to provide superior comfort and impact absorption during walks and runs
  • Belts vary in length, depending on whether the unit is geared more for walkers/joggers or runners.
  • Belt widths range from 16 inches to 22 inches, while lengths vary from about 45 inches to 60 inches
  • Long stride for walking or light jogging 18-22 inch width, 50-60 inch length
  • Average stride for walking or light jogging-16-18 inch width, 45-50 inch length
  • Some people prefer the smaller, more compact version for a workout because it forces them to keep a quick pace
  • Others find the wider and longer belts to be more comfortable and a better fit for their longer stride
  • Short belts will not accommodate long legs. If you have long legs you should definitely look into a treadmill with a longer belt.
  • Treadmills are designed to cushion your step, which is especially important if you have any sort of knee, ankle, hip or other joint problems
  • Do not buy a 'bouncy' treadmill

Speed

  • Most treadmills offer speed setting from 0 to 10 mph
  • Most people walk in the 3-6 mph range, runners from 6-10 mph

Computer Controls

  • Computer panel displays: LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) OR LED (Light Emitting Diode--easier to read because it is brighter)
  • Most treadmills have some sort of computer programming, ranging from a simple odometer and speedometer to pre-programmed workouts and storage capabilities
  • Computer controls can provide feedback such as speed, distance, heart rate, pace, calories burned, laps taken, time elapsed, incline and more (depending on the particular treadmill)
  • Seeing these progress readouts offers motivation to increase intensity and add challenges to your workout
  • Heart rate monitor capabilities are a valuable addition for your fitness routine. Once your target HR zone is programmed in, your treadmill will adjust speed and/or incline according to HRM readouts in order to keep that desired heart rate zone, offering optimal workout efficiency for weight loss and total-body conditioning
  • The more advanced the computer controls, the more expensive the model
  • Computer controls allow you to store your previous workouts to monitor your progress
  • They offer you a variety of workouts and difficulty levels to maintain your interest

Emergency Shut-Off

  • Many treadmills have an emergency switch that stops the machine should you fall off of it or get too tired to continue. Some also can only be turned on with special keys or an electronic code, allowing you to control who uses it.

Space Savers

  • If space is a concern, look for a smaller model or for a model that folds up for storage when not being used
  • Many models fold up so you can slide them into a corner or out of the way

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