When it comes to choosing a treadmill one can easily get confused given the number of options available on the market, however in order to identify which treadmill to choose for your particular needs there are basically 5 main factors you need to consider and we will go through these below.
1. Type of Treadmill
This factor is the most decisive in the purchase of a treadmill because it affects not only the structure but also the performance achievable with it and, above all, its final price.
A treadmill is a machine that allows you to perform cardio workouts such as walking and running. This machine can be used by beginners and trained people alike, to do some physical exercise of whatever intensity, in the comfort of their own home. At a basic level, there are two types of treadmills on the market, electric and magnetic.
These differ in different aspects that are very important to know and to consider. Let’s look at these in more detail below.
This type of machine will definitely allow for a more complete workout. It provides the most effective and practical physical exercise and this is why it’s the classic treadmill used in most gyms around the world.
The operation of an electric treadmill is based on the presence of an internal motor which allows the belt on which a person walks or races to move according to a pre-set speed and inclination that can be selected and activated through the control panel. With this machine you can therefore achieve a complete and versatile workout.
The electric treadmill is obviously more expensive than the magnetic one, given that it is more sophisticated and allows for a variety of exercise options. It’s usually a more heavy-duty machine, and the more high-end brands and models are able to support even heavier users, and to have frequent and intense training sessions.
Electric treadmills can come in two sub-categories, either with manual tilt adjustment (whereby you will have to adjust the inclination level manually before climbing onto the treadmill), or those in which this setting is adjusted electronically and which will therefore allow you to change the incline level directly from the control panel even while the machine is in use.
An electric treadmill often includes several preset training programs for you to choose from depending on your fitness or training goals. These machines thus allow you to perform workouts based on a goal (for example, number of calories to burn or run time) and to perform tests to evaluate the fitness of the user (through heart-rate monitors).
For all these reasons, the electric treadmill is ideal for those who are serious about their training requirements and want to buy a machine similar to the one found at the gym, and also one that is reliable, durable and as effective as possible.
The magnetic treadmill does not have a motor and therefore the movement of the carpet is powered directly by the user’s legs.
The performance of this model is considerably less intense than an electric machine, which is why this this type of treadmill is more suitable for those who are looking for a “walker” or those who are not interested in engaging in intense running sessions.
The slope of this kind of exercise machine is always set manually and therefore the user will have to select this before starting the workout.
Obviously the price of this type of treadmill is generally much lower than the electric version and is therefore often an affordable option for those with a limited budget. Having said this, you must keep in mind that even the weight and size allowance are generally lower on these manual machines.
2. Structure and Performance
The structure and performance factor refers to the most important elements of a treadmill. They determine the type of workouts you can perform and, consequently, the results that can be achieved by using a particular make or model compared to another one.
There are several elements that, when added together and considered together, make a treadmill more or less powerful, fast, or robust. These are mainly relevant to electric treadmills, since much of the performance of this tool depends on the technical specifications relating to the motor (which, in the case of magnetic-type treadmills is non-existent!).
Let’s look at these features in more detail:
- Engine Type: electric type treadmills include an internal motor that can be DC or AC. A DC motor is more common in domestic products, while an AC motor is predominantly found in products that require more intense motor movement, and therefore used for more professional and industrial equipment. The engine power is expressed in horse power: this value varies from 1.5 to 3.5 Hp in the simplest and domestic-only machines, while it can easily go up to 6 Hp in professional treadmills.
- Shock Absorbers : It is important that the shock absorbers are of high quality to prevent the impact of the stride in walking or running to put too much pressure on the joints of the knee or back. The thickness of the treadmill carpet also contributes to the dampening effect and usually ranges from 1.2 mm to about 4 mm in professional products. Even the table itself housing the carpet and motor components contribute to a better cushioning of the treadmill.
- Maximum sustainable weight : the maximum weight of the treadmill user, which can vary from just under 100 kg to over 150 kg. Clearly, a higher weight-to-weight capacity means that the treadmill is more robust and reliable. The higher weight tolerance is also synonymous with a more powerful engine and more powerful shock absorbers.
3. Workout Features
This factor considers the more technical characteristics of the treadmill that affect the typology and the effectiveness of training that can be achieved. For this reason, it is important to carefully consider this factor before purchasing your machine, so that you choose one that is appropriate for your athletic and physical needs . The intensity and effectiveness of training are also influenced by these features.
Let’s start by considering the type of treadmill you decide to use: Magnetic models, for example, are less suitable for those who want to go for more intense physical training, like running sessions. These type of treadmills are usually more suitable for those who want to use them for walking, and are not ideal for an intense workout at high speeds.
The features to consider for your workout requirements will be based on the following technical parameters :
- Pre-set programs : meaning, the workouts already calibrated within the machine that the user can choose from. These would relate to options such as the calories you want to burn during your training session, or how long you want to run. Once you have chosen a training program type, the treadmill will automatically set the speed, slope, and duration that you will need to keep during the session and will also include a warming-up and cooling down phase at the beginning and end of your session. The more sophisticated treadmills also allow you to wear a heart-monitoring strap that can “communicate” directly with the treadmill console to detect the user’s heart activity and show the beats per minute directly on the treadmill display monitor.
- Speed levels : these can vary widely between treadmills. The speed function is obviously not adjustable in magnetic carpets (which is why they are not suitable for running) that do not work with the belt’s own movement, but only thanks to the “push” given by the legs and the feet of the user
- Tilting Levels : The slope of the treadmill platform is a feature that makes training more realistic and intense, simulating an uphill movement while walking or running. The gradient value can range from 1% to 40%. Almost all treadmills come with this possibility (which, among other things, allows for greater calorie consumption). In magnetic models the inclination is always manual (the ‘ user adjusts the height of the platform slope before stepping on it) while in electric models it can be automatic (a small electric motor driven by the console raises and lowers the platform directly while you are using it)
- Resistance Levels : In magnetic treadmills you can choose from different degrees of “difficulty” of the carpet friction and movement which leads to greater or lower resistance and therefore allowing for a more challenging workout. With electric treadmills there is no resistence since the difficulty of the workout is determined by the combination of speed and slope setting.
The size factor plays an extremely important role in choosing your own treadmill, either magnetic or electric, because it’s a balance of two important elements: the practicality of use (how much space will be needed at home and how easy it will be to store it after use) vs comfort and performance (how small can I go before the treadmill is not sufficient for what I need it for?).
You will therefore need to consider the Bulkiness/Adaptability and the Size of the Surface Carpet
Here you want to look at the treadmill as a whole unit and analyse if you have enough space in your home where you can store it.
For practicality of use make sure you can keep it in the room in which you will be using it, or alternatively, if you’re going to be storing it somewhere else when not in use, make sure that it is easy to move it into the room in which you will be exercising. If you store it or leave it in a dull unventilated place you will end up never using it.
So, you should consider if it can be folded vertically so that it occupies less space and therefore can be stored behind a door or even under a bed. Also, if you need to move the treadmill from one room to another in your home, make sure it has wheels, for ease of movement.
This refers to the actual size of the running surface (moving carpet) on the treadmill, that must be considered before purchase, to ensure that it can allow you to perform the exercises you want to use it for.
The size of the ribbon on which you run is an element that should not to be underestimated because it can greatly affect the performance you get from the treadmill, especially if you intend to use it for running.
The more you walk and run fast, the longer the stride of our legs will be, which means that you need a wide surface, enough to adequately accommodate the user who wants to run or walk at high speeds.
Experts recommend that if you will be using the treadmill for anything from a leisurely walk to a brisk walking session then a surface area of 1 meter in length by about 40 cm in width should be enough. On the other hand, if you want to jog or run on the treadmill in a more intensive way, then you will need to buy a treadmill with a surface of at least 1.3 metres in length by half a metre wide.
This will also depend on the user’s height and weight. It goes without saying, that a very tall person will need a longer suface area since each step they take covers more ground.
Also consider that there is a correlation between the engine’s capacity and the travel surface area. The more powerful the engine is, the larger the carpet needs to be to allow for enough space to run at high speeds that a powerful engine is capable in offering.
The comfort factor is another decisive factor when purchasing a treadmill, especially for those users who intend to use on a regular or daily basis because a comfortable treadmill and carpet makes training more practical and enjoyable for everyone.
There are several elements that can make a walking or racing treadmill more or less comfortable:
- Console : All consoles provide settings such as speed, burnt calories, distance traveled, gradient, and elapsed time. Depending on how sophisticated (and expensive) the treadmill is, you may have a console with a back-lit display and larger screen which is clearer and more comfortable to read even while you’re moving at a certain speed. Also some models include a heart rate or handheld sensor for heart rate detection, which can be displayed on the display
- Additional Accessories: Certain accessories are vital during your training session and if available on the treadmill undoubtedly make the use more comfortable as they allow you to have those little features that come in handy during your training sessions, such as the water bottle holder, or a towel hook where to rest your towel, and a mobile holder.
- Other extras: then there are some other extras that while not essential make the training experience even more enjoyable. Features found on some of the higher end treadmills include MP3 player input, USB drive, and/or Bluetooth to listen to your favorite music during training, others have a built-in fan to cool off while running and others include even small LCD screens to entertain you while you train, and on which you can watch movies or other TV shows.
Other factors to keep in mind when choosing a treadmill
Are the materials important?
The range of materials used to produce treadmills is not extensive, but it definitely affects the stability of the machine, its comfort and also performance.
Good quality models are distinguished and you should keep an eye out for little particulars that help you distinguish easily the quality of the product. Items like padding on the handles, the thickness of the running belt, the materials with which the screen is made and the control buttons, and even the weight of the whole treadmill can give you an indication whether it is well built or not.
Is the brand important?
Many brands deal with electric and magnetic treadmill production, for home use or gyms, and placed in different price ranges. Our advice is to choose a reliable brand to ensure you’re buying a machine that is both adequate and safe, thanks to the quality of the materials used to produce it and expertise of technical personnel.
Also, relying on a well-known brand and company is also an advantage when it comes to after-sales service, whether to find spare parts or for customer service when necessary.
The optimum choice would be to refer to renowned brands, some of which are distinguished for the production of treadmills and other quality sports gear: among the most popular (both for home and fitness products) we recommend Technogym, Kettler, JK Fitness, and Tx-Fitness.