Not all fitness equipment is the same so don’t move a muscle until you’ve read this guide.
Types of Treadmills:
There are two types of treadmill, motorised and manual.
- Manual treadmills require you to push the running belt around with your feet. In other words you are the motor. The advantage of a manual treadmill is they are cheap to buy. However they do have a few downsides. To make sure the belt turns easily and smoothly you will probably have to keep the treadmill on an incline. This will mean you are always going up hill and unless the bearings are of an exceptional quality you will need to push the belt hard with your feet and this will more than likely result in you raising up on your toes to give it the push required. This not only feels awkward it will also but a strain on your knees and lower back.
- Motorised are used in health clubs. Home treadmills are not as big or have the same size motor but they function in exactly the same way. Read on to find out what you need to look for when buying a motorised treadmill.
Treadmills mostly have two motors, one to drive the belt and the other to raise the elevation. The drive belt motor is usually measured in horsepower (HP). Most sources recommend a continuous duty motor and go for a minimum level of 1.75HP as a rule of thumb however not all motors are the same. Test the treadmill by trying it at different speeds, listen to the motor for signs of labouring and be aware of the motion of the belt, it should remain smooth.
The motor should drive the belt at a slow start speed (from 0.1 – 0.5mph). Top speed depends on your intended use. Most treadmills will offer 10-11mph and that is fast enough for the majority of exercises, but some go as fast as 15mph (25kph) that‚s a 4 minute mile.
A feature to raise the running bed incline to simulate hills for a more intense workout. This can be achieved with a motor or manually. Manual inclines are not ideal, as you have to get of the treadmill and interrupt your workout to alter it. Motorised inclines should raise the treadmill smoothly and the treadmill should still feel solid underfoot as it does so.
A cushioned running surface will help reduce the impact on limbs and joints by absorbing shock. Once correctly aligned the belt should not move from side to side with the impact of moving feet.
Belt Widths and Lengths
Widths range from 11″ to 22″. Lengths vary from 36″ to 60″. Compare different sizes for comfort and price. Most people agree that the wider and longer the belt the more comfortable and safer the workout feels.
Emergency Shut Off
Most machines have this facility, which stops the machine should you fall. Additional safety keys will allow you to control who may use the machine.
Console and Feedback
The control console should, at minimum, tell you your speed, distance and time. More advanced consoles offer pre-programmed workouts or the facility to customise your own. Consoles that show you a hill profile are popular as they tell you where you are in a programme and show you what’s coming next. Take the time to understand and operate all the controls.
Heart Rate Monitors and Heart Rate Control
There are two types of heart monitor, contact and radio transmitter. Contact monitors include ear lobe units, thumb pulse and those you grip hold of. Radio transmitters involve a belt that is worn around the chest. Radio transmitter belts provide a more accurate reading. They send the read-out to a receiver, which can be the equipments console, a wristwatch or a PC.
Space Saving Folding Features
A popular feature whereby the running bed folds up for storage purposes. Check to see if the treadmill has a good piston assist. Quality treadmills have heavy running decks and this will help prevent you putting your back out.