Treadmills are the most popular pieces of exercise equipment purchased for the home. They are easy to use, and according to the American Medical Association, they are the most effective calorie burners for most people. There are many types of treadmills: fold-up models, models designed for walkers, heavy-duty designs for runners, even ones that can monitor your heart rate and adjust your workout accordingly!
Your treadmill needs a strong motor, but don’t believe all you hear about treadmill power. If a sales person, ad or product literature pumps up the “horsepower” of a treadmill, ask what kind of horses. “Peak HP” is the treadmill’s top power output, may last only moments, and cannot be sustained. What you DO need to know is the CONTINUOUS-DUTY horsepower, the power a treadmill can sustain continuously, rated over 24 hours of non-stop use. High continuous HP typically means the treadmill can work efficiently and powerfully under more weight, and that it’s easier for the treadmill to maintain a steady speed with the harder impacts at higher speeds. 1.5 Continuous-duty horsepower or higher would be recommended for most users.
Treadmills typically run from 0 to 10 mph. Some will go as high as 12 mph. If you don’t plan to run, there are models built specifically for walking. Again, it comes down to finding the model that suits your particular needs best. Do check that a treadmill has a low starting speed, so you won't be jerked off balance by a sudden start.
The belt is a vital component of every treadmill. Belt size translates directly to a treadmill’s walking surface size. We recommend a belt at least twenty inches wide, with plenty of length to accommodate a comfortable stride. A 6’ 6” user can typically run on a belt 52” or longer.
You need a deck that’s durable, low-or-no maintenance, and shock resistant. A deck should be firm, yet “give” a little under your stride. This absorbs some of the shock normally transmitted to your ankles and knees. Maintenance-free treadmills are usually self lubricating, which allows the belt to glide over the deck with ease, significantly reducing wear on the motor, deck, belt and rollers.
A smaller treadmill may suffice, but not if it’s also going to be used by a 6-foot-plus user and 280lbs. Similarly, a folding treadmill may help if space is tight, but you may have to compromise on functionality and durability. Once again, it’s best to do your up-front planning, and have your exercise area thought out and tape-measured ahead of time to save guesswork in the store.
Bring your questions on treadmills—or any aspect of fitness and exercise. Our certified fitness professionals are walking encyclopedias of information and you’ll have all of their attention. They’ll be glad to share their knowledge and help you make informed decisions that will get you the results you want.