Buying and choosing a treadmill can be overwhelming with so many manufacturers and models available. How do you navigate the different specifications and features?
This simple guide will show you the key things to look out for so you can decide what machine suits your needs.
Jogging or running?
Will you be doing mostly walking and jogging or will you be running. Generally speaking, the faster you need to move, the more powerful motor you will need.
The power of treadmills are indicated by HP (Horse power) or CHP (Continuous horse power).
In simple terms, HP is the peak performance of a motor and CHP is the power measured across the whole range of the motor’s action. Therefore a CHP rating is a better indication of a motor’s performance than just HP. For example 2.0 CHP would be better than a 2.0 HP rating.
So what numbers do you need?
For wallking, a 2.0 CHP motor will suffice, for jogging 2.5 and running 3.0 CHP.
If you weigh over 220 lbs, you should add 0.5 CHP to compensate for the extra load on the motor.
Basic vs Features
Some treadmills are very basic and offer simple settings such as the speed and the incline needs to be adjusted manually by lifting supports on or off at the base.
Top of the range treadmills have touchscreens with an array of training programs to help you workout in different ways. They may have simulations where you can run virtually connected to the internet and screen. Many have bluetooth connections so you can listen to your music and also track your progress with your phone.
How do you decide on what to have? One consideration is price. Obviously, the more you pay, the more features you’ll get. The other consideration is the “motivation” factor. Having more features can make running more enjoyable and the programs can help you reach your fitness goals faster too. Our consensus is, if you’re paying all that money for a treadmill anyway, why not spend that little extra so that you will get the most out of it?
Generally, you will find that the more expensive treadmills are sturdier and are made with more durable materials, parts and have more powerful motors. In life, you do get what you pay for and this is no exception. However, if you are a light user, you may find that a budget treadmill is sufficient for you.
Size and space
Treadmills come in varying sizes. Some have wider and longer belts and some are shorter and narrower. A larger size does give you more space and comfort when running especially if you are taller or have a longer stride, but this also takes up more space in your house too. Remember that the heights of treadmills vary too, so bear this in mind if you have a low ceiling.
The average treadmill is 28 wide and 64 long in inches. This is a ball park figure to go off when comparing machines.
Regarding space: Some machines are folding meaning that the running belt area can be lifted up to give you space for cleaning and giving you more room in the house. This generally reduces the footprint of the treadmill by half. This is useful if space is a consideration for you but standing (or non folding) treadmills tend to be more sturdier than folding ones although recent improvements in design has made even folding treadmills as sturdy as non folding ones now (see the Sole F85 treadmill review for example).
Some treadmills are called incline trainers – so called because they have a large range of incline angles for example up to 40 degrees and to -6 on a machine like the Nordictrack x9i treadmill. This is useful if you are using the machine for cross country training or are building up strength. The more basic treadmills may have a lower range of up to 10% gradient if you do not need such a gradient and are mainly simulating regular road or track running.
So there you have it. These are the basic things you need to consider when choosing the right treadmill for you. If you’re having difficulty prioritizing the categories when choosing a machine, I would choose “durability” first. The worst thing that can happen is buying a treadmill and having issues with it and having to waste time calling customer service and waiting for parts or engineers to come fix it. Having a machine that is cheaply built is a false economy in my eyes. I would much prefer to spend my time with my family and have vacations than on the phone to a helpline!
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