What to look for when buying a treadmill.

I've been asked by quite a few people lately about what to look for when choosing a treadmill to buy. My initial response.."Um, I dunno..."...cos, I don't have a clue.
So I asked my lovely PT Elizabeth, who kindly put me in touch with her good friend Rob Campbell from Crazy Cheap Fitness.
Rob was very kind to do this guest post for me. It is quite detailed, so if you're serious about getting a treadmill, then read on...

Guest Post by Rob Campbell, www.CrazyCheapFitness.com


The range of treadmills on the market is large and can be quite confusing. Very simple manual or magnetic treadmills (ie: no motor) can be purchased for under a few hundred dollars. These are not motorised and off the most basic and simple treadmill features. Usually they are quite compact and have a very simple computer.
Motorized walking machines up to $700 price range. These are the next level up and normally offer motor sizes up to about 1.5HorsePower (HP), speeds up to 12 or 13km/hr, manual or no incline and a basic computer with hand contact heart pulse, selection of programs with speed, time, distance etc. For Crazy Cheap Fitness this has always been a huge selling range for us as they offer the safety and ease of use of a motorized treadmill, in a compact/affordable package while still being able to do a jog if required. negatives: Usually small deck sizes and small motors can wear out with heavy use. Also, weight rating of these machines are typically only up to 100kg.

Then you get the largest range of treadmills: The home running treadmill market. 
Price range is typically $1000 to $3000

Running machines should have at least a 2HP DC motor (continuous duty, not peak duty - the specification plate on the motor will tell you the rating of the motor if there is any confusion). speed range at least 16km/hr, Motorized incline - 10 level is fine, Running belt size of at least 450mm wide by 1250mm long, Hand contact heart rate system, Good sized computer with bright display and a decent selection of programs. programs automatically vary the speed and incline over time and offer interval training, hill training profiles etc. great for keeping treadmill workouts interesting.

Budget running machines around the $1000 to $1500 mark should offer all of the above features. Maximum user weight ratings of at least 120kg are typical in the budget end, but look for a weight rating of more than this - up to 150kg if possible. Fold up deck design is also very handy for moving the treadmill or storing it away when visitors come over.

A more feature packed home running machine may have a 3HP motor, Speed range up to 20km/hr (although I don't know many people who will do 20km/hr for long), Big running belt 500mm wide by 1400mm long and built in heart rate monitor/receiver system. These are much more accurate than the hand contact pulse system. Expect to pay $2000 although there are deals out there if you shop around. We do a machine with many of these features for only $1300.

The last significant range of treadmills is the commercial treadmill sector with prices in the $10's of thousands of dollars (yep). These are big and heavy duty and designed for non-stop gym use. The specifications usually reflect this (and the price too).
these machines usually offer AC motors as opposed to DC motors used in most home machines. Oversize & reinforced decks, big strong frames and solid computers with hardy buttons are standard. They are very big, very heavy and not designed to be moved around the typical family home. many commercial gyms and Personal Training Studios hire/lease these machines under lease/service agreements. popular commercial brands include Life Fitness, Techno Gym etc.

Things to consider before buying:

So when considering purchasing a treadmill for home use, it helps to think about the following before starting to look around at deals:

  1. Who is going to use the machine? Mum only or will the 15 year old most likely use it too
  2. Will the user of the machine want to run fast, jog only or walk only or a combination of all?
  3. What is the maximum user weight of the heaviest user?
  4. Are any of the users particularly tall?
  5. Budget?
The above information should then steer you to a particular treadmill range and will allow you to refine your search more to models with particular specifications that suit your needs.

Many users over 100kg, even if they only wish to walk/jog, are usually forced to get a running machine that can handle 120kg plus, simply because the small machines are not rated over 100kg.

Particularly tall people have few options but to purchase a large running machine with oversize decks because it is not practical, not mention unsafe, for them to try and walk/run on small decks with small belts.
This is my PT Elizabeth...ain't she cute.....

Must haves:

Regardless of the treadmill range you are looking at, be it a walking or running machine, the following should be non-negotiable "must haves" for any home use treadmill:
  • Emergency safety cut-off key that disables the machine if the key is disconnected should the user fall. Also comes in handy when little ones are around and you don't want them to use the machine.
  • Quick speed buttons (and quick incline buttons too if applicable). saves you hammering away at buttons.
  • Don't buy a treadmill with a motor size of less than 1.5HP.
  • Fold-up design. it's very hard to move/relocate a treadmill if it doesn't fold up.

Optional luxuries/Wish list features:

Keep a look out for the following:
  • User definable programs. these allow you to set and save your own programs and user information and then come back to it next workout.
  • Built in heart rate monitor/receiver system - they work with a chest strap and heart rate information is wirelessly transmitted to the treadmill computer without having to place your hands on the contact sensors. Much more accurate than the hand sensor system although wearing a chest strap can be uncomfortable for some.
  • suspension system. Most treadmills have a fair bit of give in the deck and the majority of people find this level of cushioning acceptable, however you can get treadmills with suspension systems that reduce stresses on legs and joints.
  • Built in TV and audio

Buying New versus a Secondhand Deal...

Honestly, buy new and make sure warranty is comprehensive. No point getting a deal off ebay then not being able to get a part when it breaks down in 6 months or worse, having to send the machine interstate at your cost. Consider buying second hand very carefully. If the machine is close to new and warranty is transferable/will be honoured under new ownership then this would be one example where secondhand is OK. Treadmills require maintenance and servicing to keep them in good and safe working order. Always read and follow all maintenance procedures detailed in owner's manuals or contact us and we can put you onto some exceptionally good technicians who can help you in this regard.

Happy shopping!


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