There’s something so motivating about exercising and losing weight in the spring and summer, but when that warm sun fades away, your motivation to exercise can also head south for the winter. Winter rain, snow, and wind can make someone who’s been dedicated to their fitness or weight loss program want to hibernate, but the end of good weather doesn’t have to mean the end of exercise.
With a treadmill in your home gym you can keep working toward your fitness goals, and there are treadmills that suit everyone from the power walker to someone training for a marathon or working out on a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) program.
This guide on how to buy a treadmill will help you choose the perfect treadmill to add to your home gym.
Table of Contents:
How a treadmill works
A treadmill is a popular piece of fitness equipment used for walking or running in your home gym. At the most basic level, a treadmill operates with a motor that turns a belt, and you walk or run on the deck that moves with the belt. The motor sets the speed of the treadmill and the deck adjusts to the speed of the belt turning.
You can run on a flat deck to simulate the roads, but some treadmills also offer an incline option to simulate rolling hills to improve your strength and endurance.
Connected treadmills take your fitness to another level
Many treadmills today allow you to connect to online resources for instruction, fitness classes, or structured workouts. Some even offer specialized coaching services to more specifically suit individual fitness needs and goals. Usually these will require connecting to an app and signing up for a monthly subscription. Learn more about Connected fitness in this recent article on the blog.
Why you would want to purchase a treadmill
Treadmills offer you an indoor option for cardio when you can’t or don’t want to go outside, and because cardio is great for burning fat, losing weight, and maintaining your health, having one in your home means you never have to stop a fitness program when the weather turns.
Treadmills have a cushioned deck for running or walking, so they can give you a lower impact workout too, and because some treadmills have programs designed to simulate hills and HIIT training, you can get a workout in that’s as tough or easy going as you’d like.
Mechanics of a treadmill
When choosing a treadmill, there are a few factors you’ll want to take into consideration.
Not all treadmills have the same size motor, and because the motor does most of the work in the treadmill, you’ll want to make sure that the one you choose is powerful enough for you.
A treadmill motor is measured in horsepower, and the higher the horsepower the more powerful your treadmill. But horsepower isn’t the only factor you should take into consideration when you’re choosing a treadmill motor. You also want to make sure you look for the Continuous Duty Rating (CHP).
A continuous duty motor will ensure that, during every moment of your workout, your motor is able to deliver the minimum horsepower required. The minimum CHP rating on a treadmill you choose for gym equipment should be 1.5 CHP.
What size of treadmill motor do you need?
Once you’ve taken a look at the different treadmill motors, the question you should ask yourself is how often you plan on using your treadmill. Will you be walking, jogging, or running, or will you be doing all three? How often will you walk or run?
In general, someone who walks on a treadmill needs a 2.0 continuous horsepower motor. If you plan on jogging, a 2.5 continuous horsepower motor will be the minimum you should choose, and anyone who’s an avid runner should have at least a 3.0 continuous horsepower motor or higher.
Types of treadmill frames
Bicycles are available with steel and aluminum frames, and so are treadmills. The type of frame you choose will affect the cost of your treadmill, and when deciding you’ll want to focus on the strength of the frame and how stiff it will be.
Most treadmills are made with steel frames, and steel is stronger than aluminum. On the other hand, aluminum is lighter than steel, and because it’s more flexible, the machine itself isn’t as stiff and will have more flex.
You’ll find that most treadmills at the local gym have aluminum frames, while someone buying their own gym equipment for the home choose a steel frame.
Should you choose an electric or manual powered treadmill?
There are two main types of treadmill: manual or electric powered. Which you choose depends completely on what you’re looking for in a treadmill.
With a manual treadmill the movement of your feet against the deck moves the belt, and the belt only moves when you do. Manual treadmills are less expensive and generally have fewer features than a treadmill built with a motor, but the bonus of a manual treadmill is that you don’t need electricity to run it. That means you can put it anywhere you’d like, and you get a great workout because it’s entirely powered based on your own horsepower.
An electric treadmill requires electricity, but you won’t need to strain to start it. All you have to do is turn it on and the belt will begin moving, and although you need electricity to run it, an electric treadmill also gives you access to great options like steep incline, and workout programs designed to help you train for a marathon or do a HIIT workout.
Specific features of treadmills
When choosing your treadmill, there’s a lot of specific features you’ll want to look for.
Treadmill incline and treadmill decline
Just like the gentle slope of your favourite outdoor trail, a treadmill with incline and decline offers you the ability to run up and downhill on your treadmill.
The incline of a treadmill is what helps you really simulate an outdoor workout, and that’s because most roads tend to have hills when you’re outside running. If you’re running on a zero incline, you’ll find that most resembles running outdoor on a track. Most treadmills will vary between a 10 to 15 % maximum incline and 3% decline. Incline trainer models typically can range from 40% incline to 6% decline.
Climbing and running down virtual hills on your treadmill will help you get the most out of each and every workout. Running downhill is one of the best ways to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes while burning more calories, and running uphill will target your quadriceps and calf muscles.
Maximum speed of a treadmill
How fast your treadmill runs depends on the motor and horsepower, but most treadmills you would purchase for your home gym equipment have a max speed of 12 mph.
Size of the treadmill deck
What size of treadmill deck do you need? That depends on whether you plan to run or walk on your treadmill. It’s recommended that you have a minimum of 22” wide belt if you run and 20” if you walk, and the belt should be 50” in length for walkers, 55” in length for runners, and 60” in length if you’re someone who’s over 6’ tall.
Pre-set treadmill programs help you achieve your goals
One of the best features of electric treadmills are the pre-set programs you can use to help you lose weight and to automatically manage your walk or run. When you choose a pre-set program the treadmill will keep you on pace by alternating the incline and speed of your workout. If your treadmill has a heart rate monitor, it will set the pace to keep you in the optimal heart rate zone for burning fat, and you have control over the intensity of your pre-set workout.
Maximum weight limit & capacity of a treadmill
A treadmill’s weight capacity depends on the type you purchase. If you buy a treadmill designed for use in a home gym, the weight capacity averages around 300 lbs. A commercial treadmill for use in a gym can have a maximum weight capacity of approximately 660 lbs.
It’s a good idea to make sure the machine you choose for your home gym is rated to withstand the weight of the people who will be using it on a regular basis.
Monitoring your heart rate on a treadmill
When you monitor your heart rate during exercise, you’ll know whether you are working out too hard or not hard enough. Treadmills generally utilize an EKG pulse grip right on the handle to measure your heart rate, and there are also models with a wireless Bluetooth-enabled chest strap to keep you on track.
How noisy is a treadmill?
Although the latest treadmills are designed to run quietly, when you consider that your feet are pounding the belt with each stride, they can sound noisy when you’re using them. You can minimize the noise factor from your treadmill by putting it on on a solid surface like a cement floor or carpeted area to absorb vibration. You can also add a treadmill mat.
Storing your treadmill
Foldable treadmills make storage simple if you’re tight on space. Consider what size of storage area you’ll have for your treadmill before you buy, and if you’re limited on storage choose a foldable treadmill that will let you store it vertically.
Setting yourself up for success on your treadmill
Adding a treadmill to the fitness equipment in your home gym is a great way to lose weight and get fit, but it won’t help you do that if you’re not motivated to use it. The latest treadmills have technology built in to make exercise fun, and when you’re having fun working out you’ll be able to meet every fitness goal.
Focus on the treadmill console
A treadmill console is your command center, and that’s where you will enter your personal profile information including age, weight, and your overall health goals. But that’s not all the console of a treadmill does: some models offer you a back lit touchscreen to keep track of all of your workout stats and show you your progress.
Add your tablet to watch your favourite shows while you exercise
Many treadmills now offer an integrated tablet holder so you can enjoy your favourite TV shows, movies, or web browsing while exercising, and if you opt for a subscription program like iFit technology, you can replicate outdoor runs via Google maps.
Plug in your playlist
You can use headphones while running or walking, but with a treadmill that offers built-in speakers you can turn your music up loud and not be tethered to a cord.
Cool down with built-in fans
You get hot when you work out, and that’s why many models of treadmill offer built-in workout fans. Some will even blow a cool stream of air at the same intensity as your workout.
A treadmill as a replacement desk chair
Not every treadmill can double as a desk, but if you’d like to work out while you work, you can choose a desk treadmill. They offer you an oversized 18” x 40” desk surface for your laptop, and when you’re not using the treadmill for exercising, the desktop height can be adjusted to a sitting position.
Caring for a treadmill
A treadmill will be your constant workout companion, and keeping it in tip top shape is important to extending the life of your machine.
It’s not hard to take care of a treadmill. Every time you use the machine do a quick wipe down so there’s no excess moisture on the handles, console, or belt. Look for dust and debris on the belt and be sure to wipe that away with a damp cloth each time you use it. Once a month look for areas on the side of the treadmill and belt that could be accumulating dust.
There are a few other areas of a treadmill that need to be cleaned a few times per year, and you should take a look in your owner’s manual for instructions on how to clean them or to find out whether it’s time to call a professional for servicing:
- Your treadmill’s motor area may need to be cleaned a few times per year
- Most treadmills are pre-lubricating, but you may need to lubricate your treadmill once a year
- The belt can shift out of alignment and may need to be aligned by adjusting the bolts on either side of your treadmill
- You may need to adjust the tension on the belt of your treadmill as it can stretch out over time
The benefits of a treadmill mat
You can add a treadmill mat to the floor underneath your treadmill, and that mat will protect both your floors and your treadmill from damage. A treadmill mat can also reduce noise vibration, so if you have it on the floor of your condo or apartment, the mat can reduce the sound that travels through the floor.
What kind of a treadmill do I need if I’m going to run once per day vs. once per week?
If you’re only going to be running or walking once per week, you may wish to pick a basic treadmill. Basic models come with 20+ preset programs, have incline, and can hit speeds up to 10mph. If you are a frequent runner, you should choose a standard or elite treadmill.
Standard or Elite treadmills hit speeds up to 12 mph, have incline, and give you access to over 30+ programs. Elite treadmills will also give you even more features including built-in fans and shock absorption to cushion the blow of running on your joints.
How much should I expect to pay?
A treadmill can range in price from $200 for a basic, manual treadmill, up to an average of $4500 for an full featured model. If you have a certain budget in mind, you’ll want to think about which treadmill features are most important to you. Console options, motor, maximum speed, and incline/decline capabilities will have the biggest impact on price.
How many years will a treadmill work for me?
With the proper care and maintenance, a treadmill should last you an average of 7 to 10 years.
Is running/walking on a treadmill hard on my joints?
Running on a treadmill can cut your risk of stress fractures by up to 50%. It’s easier on your joints because it helps you maintain a steady pace and the belt you’re running on will absorb some of the shock of your foot striking the ground. There are also treadmills with extra built in shock absorption for avid runners.
If you have an injury or any joint concerns, you may want to consider adding an elliptical machine to your gym equipment. An elliptical will mimic the motion of running and will have much less impact on your joints.
What should I look for in my treadmill warranty?
You should look for a parts warranty of three to seven years for your treadmill, and you should also be covered for at least one year of labour should your treadmill need servicing. When interested in a model, check to see if there is a lifetime warranty on the frame, and be sure to know exactly how long the warranty on the motor will be effective.
Should I be concerned about safety, and do all machines have an auto stop function?
It’s safe and easy to walk or run on a treadmill, and some models will include a safety key that, when attached to you and the treadmill, will stop your run if you fall or lose balance. Other models, like manual treadmills, have extra-long safety handles in case you lose balance.
Children are attracted to the buttons on the console of a treadmill, and to keep your children safe, it’s a good idea to keep any electric treadmill unplugged and in a locked room.
For safety and ease of use, it’s recommended you leave 1-2 meters of clearance behind your treadmill when setting it up for use.
Is it difficult to set up a treadmill?
Treadmills are designed to be simple to set up and operate. A foldable treadmill may fold horizontally or vertically, and some models have wheels on the base designed to make it simple to roll it into place.
Will my wearable fitness device track my activity on an treadmill?
Fitness tracking devices will keep track of your workout when you’re running or walking on a treadmill, and if you use a favourite app to track your run, you can choose a treadmill workout and it will accurately track that too.
Take the next step
Ready to hit the treadmill for a great workout? You can find the perfect treadmill for you at Best Buy.