Part I: Things to consider when buying a treadmill
Every treadmill is essentially the same, much as every car has four wheels, two bumpers and an engine, and so too, there are common traits every treadmill share. However, the materials making up these features can vary as much as apples to oranges.
So, take note of the following…
- Frame: The frame is the most important part of the treadmill, because it needs to sustain your constant pounding. Welded frames are more durable than bolted frames. The best way to insure frame quality is to check the warranty as most reputable manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on their frames.
- Weight limit: If you weigh over 250 pounds, check the warranty for weight limitations.
- Speed: If you are a fast runner, select a treadmill with maximum speed of 10 to 11 mph or greater. A treadmill with a maximum speed of 10 mph is sufficient, however, for most runners.
- Speed key: A brisk walking pace is about 4 mph, while at 10 mph you’re clocking a six-minute mile, roughly the speed of a world-class marathoner.
- Continuous duty horsepower vs. peak horsepower: Some manufacturers report the peak horsepower of their machines, which measures the maximum power a machine can generate. The continuous duty horsepower rating tells you the maximum power the machine can sustain. Unless you are planning to run a few wind sprints, this is the number to keep an eye on.
- Continuous duty means that the treadmill will run at its listed horsepower rating with a significant workload over extended periods, whereas the peak horsepower only refers to a motor’s maximum power, not its sustained output. **PRODUCT TIP: You want minimum 2.5 Continuous Horsepower if you have a) multiple users; b) any users over 200lbs; c) and/or are planning on using the treadmill for running.
- Incline/decline: Most motorized treadmills allow you to adjust the incline via a switch to make your workout more challenging and increase the intensity of your workout, on manual machines you will have to make the adjustment by hand. Typically, adjustments are in 0.5 percent increments, up to a 10 to 15 percent grade. A few high-end machines also offer a decline or downhill function. Before you buy, test the machine to make sure it remains stable in the incline mode.
- Safety: Safety features, like an automatic shut-off switch or an emergency kill-switch that senses if you have fallen, are common on motorized treadmills. They also act like a key, meaning without that the treadmill is inoperable. This is great if you have a couple of kids you do not want playing with it while you are out of the house.
- Monitor: You’ll want a monitor that clearly displays belt speed, distance covered, mph, and time elapsed and degree of incline. Better treadmills use a simultaneous display monitor, which has a place on the panel for most or all of the readouts. A scanning display rotates readouts through a single window.
- Cushioning: Better machines have cushioning between the belt and beds to absorb shock to your feet, legs, and back. If you plan to run or jog regularly, this is an important feature.
- Fit: Make sure you choose a model that is both long enough for your stride and wide enough that you will not end up constantly stepping off it. If you plan to do a lot of running, test the machine at a high-speed setting, when your stride will be the longest. Also, make sure the controls are easy to reach. If the treadmill has handrails, make sure they are in a convenient location for your body type.
- Programming: Pre-set programs, which automatically change the speed and tempo of your workout, are common on automatic treadmills, and are a key way to alleviate boredom. Some models also offer custom programs that essentially replay your favorite workouts, and a few will even adjust your workout according to your pulse rate. Favorite features for runners are the automatic warm-up and/or cool down program, which helps reduce the risk of muscle pull.
- Controls: The control buttons or switches you use to change settings on the treadmill are critical. Slide switches are often imprecise and hard to manipulate. Look for simple up and down push-button controls.
- Heart-rate monitors: There are three basic types of heart-rate monitors. The best is the wireless pulse sensor, which straps around your chest. The hand grip monitor reads your pulse from two metal grips on the front rail, which you need to grip for three to five seconds (Note: this method of heart rate monitoring can be off as much as 5 to 10 beats per minute). A thumb sensor, the least accurate monitor, requires you to press your thumb onto a sensor placed on the control panel. Ask one of Fitness Town’s in-house personal trainers to calculate your target zones.
- Noise: If you’re buying a motorized treadmill, check to see what it sounds like while you’re working out on it and how well it absorbs the shock of your feet — especially if you’ll be using it in an apartment building. If your workout area is small, you may also want to look for a folding machine, but keep in mind not all folding treadmills are built the same.
- Accessories: Look for features like water bottle holders and reading racks to eliminate excuses and keep you on the treadmill longer…
Understanding the above features along with knowing your own needs will allow you to know what key features to look for as well as the questions you want to ask when dealing with your local treadmill experts. Next week, in Part 2 of “How to buy a treadmill”, we’ll be addressing the importance of the “8-minute treadmill test” . Until then, happy training!