Treadmill Buyers’ Guide

Owning a treadmill may be your key to losing weight sensibly and improving your cardiovascular fitness. Keeping a treadmill in your home makes exercising more convenient, and it also eliminates the costs associated with maintaining a monthly gym membership.

Our treadmill buying guide can help you choose the best treadmill that fits your budget and individualized exercise needs. A number of treadmill features are explained below.

Motor

Home treadmill motors generally range from 1.25 horsepower (HP) to 4.0 HP. Many treadmill manufacturers advertise their motors’ power as “continuous horsepower” or CHP. This provides a better idea than does a simple horsepower rating, because it indicates the machine’s capability under conditions of regular use instead of its peak capability. Motors with 1.25 HP are widely considered to be sub-standard and are inadequate for anything but light use by lightweight users. A satisfactory motor for walkers and joggers would have a 1.75 to 2.0 CHP motor. Stronger motors are required for exercisers who run rather than jog or walk. For instance, runners of average weight should seek out at least a 2.5 CHP motor. Since motor capability requirements also increase with user weight, users who weigh more than 225 pounds are advised to purchase treadmills with at least 3.0 CHP motors. Also note that quieter motors are associated with the more expensive treadmill brands. Motors that are advertised as “commercial quality” are usually noticeably quieter than motors intended only for home use. More information on treadmill motors can be found on our site HERE.

Track size

Treadmill tracks vary in size from about 16” – 20” wide and 42” to 62” long. Track length may not be of great importance to petite walkers, but it’s important to users who are tall and/or who take relatively long strides when running. Most walkers will be satisfied with a 50” x 16” track. Tall people and most runners are advised to purchase treadmills that have at least 55” – long running decks. Track width might be important to larger runners and people who move their arms significantly when running. A standard comfortable track width for runners is 20”.

Treadbelt durability

Treadbelts that are 2-ply or 4-ply are thicker and more durable than those that are one-ply. Thicker treadbelts also tend to be quieter, making it easier to hear entertainment while exercising, as well as reducing distractions to others in your home. The metal rollers that propel a track are also an important treadmill component. Wider rollers help to extend belt life.

Track speed

Treadmills that support top speeds of 10 mph are adequate for most users. Of course, runners who are training for a 5-minute mile will want machines with higher top speeds. Home treadmills that reach 12 mph are available in the mid- and upper-price categories.

Track cushioning

Track cushioning helps to protect treadmill users’ joints from the impact of exercise. Compared with road running, cushioned treadmill running typically reduces impact by about 15%-40%. Cushioning is most important for runners, but it also reduces impact upon walkers’ bodies and thereby helps to improve their stamina. Many treadmills feature adjustable cushioning so that runners can choose their preferred combination of support and cushioning. Furthermore, the more advanced running tracks have differential cushioning that supports the back foot and front foot differently; feet get more support as they push off the track, and they get more cushioning as they land.

Incline

Most treadmills tracks can be inclined between 10% and 15%. This helps users to burn calories more efficiently than when they train on a flat surface. Most treadmills include a second small motor that controls the incline, but the most inexpensive portable models

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Amanda Brooks
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Our Running Guru
Amanda Brooks
Amanda Brooks
Running Guru