If you’re in the market for exercise gear, there’s usually a reliable way to figure out what piece of equipment is best for you.
Looking for a new tennis racquet? For a few dollars, you can rent a demo racquet for a day. Need new athletic shoes for a pickup basketball or soccer game? There are plenty of brick-and-mortar sporting goods where you can try on different sneakers and cleats for fit, support and padding.
Before you map out how to find the treadmill that’s right for you, it’s critical to be sure what your training goals are, says Matt Camargo, regional director for Prosport Physical Therapy and Performance in Laguna Hills, California. “Knowing your goals will help provide clarity and guidance in what to prioritize when choosing a treadmill,” he says. “Some have features that vary greatly from each other.”
Different Fitness Goals
Various treadmills will work best for different fitness goals, including improving your:
— Aerobic capabilities.
“Some treadmills range from general to advanced,” he says. “General ones possess basic functions in terms of speed, incline ability and power. A highly advanced one has higher capabilities of speed, incline ability and power.”
Factors to Consider
If you’re in the market for a treadmill, here are the major factors you should consider:
— Your goals.
Your goals. If your goal is to improve your running performance, you’ll want a treadmill with higher horsepower to withstand higher speeds and a smooth transition between incline levels, says Marcia Robles, a personal trainer based in San Francisco. She advises to look at the continuous-duty rating or continuous-duty horsepower of the treadmills you’re considering. Treadmill motors range from 1.5 CHP to 5.0 CHP.
“If you plan on running intense intervals, then choose a treadmill with a CHP rating that is higher up on the scale,” she says. “While reaching top end speeds, you’ll want to maintain your natural running form, so be sure to pick a treadmill that offers a spacious running deck.” If you’re an avid runner and cover more than 20 miles a week, you might consider a commercial-grade treadmill.
On the other hand, if orthopedic issues have you looking to use your treadmill for walking or light jogging, be sure to look into the cushioning system provided by the manufacturers. “This will help you choose the treadmill that offers the smoothest experience in a way that provides the least amount of stress and impact on the joints,” she says. “In this case, having a running deck that is not as wide might help instill more confidence and comfort in your workout, knowing that the side rails are within easy reach.”
Price. Knowing your personal budget is probably the second most-important factor when it comes to choosing a treadmill, Camargo says. Knowing your fitness goals and your plans for how often you’ll use the treadmill can help you decide on a budget. If you plan on using it every day, you might be willing to spend more.
Treadmills range from a few hundred dollars to about $3,500. “Depending on your goal, there is a treadmill for everyone,” he says.
Size and space. You need to account for where you’ll be putting the treadmill and how will you get it there, says Jenny Harkins, a certified group fitness instructor and owner of Treadfit, a fitness facility in Chicago. “Does it need to go up or down stairs?” she says. “If so, you’ll want to consider the dimensions of the treadmill and the staircase to insure a fit.”
She suggests looking for a treadmill that weighs less than 300 pounds, and considering models that fold up, which would make it easier to move into your space. Also, be sure to measure the dimensions of the location in your home where you plan on placing the treadmill, to make sure it fits. Finally, check on whether treadmills you’re considering have special electrical requirements. Some commercial-grade treadmills require a 20-amp dedicated circuit.
Treadmill dimensions. In addition to being sure your treadmill will fit the space you’ve picked out in your home, it’s a good idea to think about its dimensions. Treadmills typically range from 45 to about 60 inches, though some can be longer. People who are looking to use their treadmills primarily for walking can get away with a shorter treadmill length.
Treadmill width can range from 16 to 22 inches, so having a running deck that is about 18 inches if you’re walking or jogging might help instill more confidence and comfort in your workout knowing that the side rails are within easy reach, Robles says. “A longer treadmill surface is better suited for running or for individuals that are taller in stature,” she advises. “The longer length allows a person to comfortably increase their stride length. Having a wider running deck is also a good option for this group because it allows the user to run without feeling constricted by the side rails.”
Power. The amount of power you’ll need in a treadmill depends on how much it will be used, Camargo says. “If you’re an occasional runner, then having a high-powered motor isn’t really necessary. But if you’re going to use it for long durations and frequently throughout the week or with multiple users, then invest in a treadmill that has a suitable motor to match the usage.” Remember, treadmill motors range from 1.5 CHP to 5.0 CHP (continuous horsepower).
Speed and incline. If your workout goal includes performing to progressing to advanced type treadmill workouts, you should purchase a treadmill that can go at high speeds and at higher inclines, Camargo says.
Keep in mind that some treadmills go up to 10 for speed and incline, while others can go up to 15 for both, Harkins advises.
Other features. Many treadmills offer an array of features to choose from, Robles says.
— Fans. Built-in console fans can help you stay cool during your workout.
— Heart rate control. Some treadmills can adjust speed and incline based on heart rate monitor data.
— One-touch control. One-touch speed and incline make it easy and efficient to make adjustments as you are moving.
— Pre-programmed workouts. Less expensive treadmills might only allow for manual mode where the user must adjust their own speed and incline. Pre-programmed workouts offer the user more workout variety. These routines will alter parameters such as time, incline and speed for you so all you have to do is focus on your workout.
Reliability. It’s important to keep in mind that some brands that stores sell are not considered highly reliable and often get poor reviews from users, Harkins says.
Websites where you can read reviews of treadmills include:
“Look for reputable brands that offer solid warranties on repairs and parts,” Harkins says. “You often pay more for reputable brands like Precor, NordicTrack and Life Fitness, but you save money in the long run.”
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Update 03/17/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.