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Before You Buy a Treadmill

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Updated April 17, 2014

Smooth 5.25 Treadmill

Smooth 5.25 Treadmill

Smooth Fitness

Finding the best treadmill for your budget can be a chore. You must know what you are looking for to get the best buy in a treadmill. Studies have shown that people get more out of a treadmill than other fitness equipment because it is natural to walk or run. So you are more apt to stick with it for longer each session and keep using the equipment itself.

Price

You get what you pay for when it comes to treadmills, but for most of us any treadmill is going to be a significant investment. When you shop by price, you must be even more careful to select the best in that price range. The price ranges generally break down to budget ($500 to $1,500), mid-range ($1,500 to $3,000) and quality ($3,000 and up). There are often significant sales and discounts.

Treadmill Motor and Horsepower

The motor matters as it gets the heaviest workout. The horsepower (HP) ratings can be confusing. The figure you want to look at is the "continuous duty rating" and shop for 1.5 to 2.5 HP "continuous duty." The "peak duty" rating is less valuable. The "treadmill duty" rating falls between continuous and peak. Look for the longest warranty on the motor -- 1 year at least. DC (direct current) motors are quieter.

    Treadmill Stability and Smooth Ride

    Test treadmills wearing your workout shoes and clothes. A shaky or jerky ride is unacceptable. The hand rails should feel sturdy enough to support you and be in a good position to grip easily and not block your arm motion. The belt must be wide enough and long enough for your stride.

      Treadmill Workout Features

      Boredom kills treadmill workouts. Choose a model that has the most pre-set and programmable workouts to vary pace and incline. The incline and speed should be easily adjustable from the console. A pulse monitor is good. A water bottle holder and book rack are essential for me. Some models plug into a video or audio player or the internet for new workouts. Books or videos can get you going in the right direction.

      Noise and Space

      The treadmill needs to work in your space. How noisy is it? If you plan to watch TV or listen to music, you need to be able to hear those over the treadmill itself. A model that looks small in the store can turn into an elephant in your spare room. Check its size when folded or stored and test how easy it is to move.

        Manual Treadmills vs. Motorized Treadmills

        Due to the difference in cost, many people are tempted to buy a manual treadmill instead of a motorized treadmill. But manual treadmills have many drawbacks vs. their motorized cousins. They are often difficult to get moving without using an extreme incline, and once moving you can't change the incline. The low price also often means less sturdy construction.

        Treadmill Bargains and Alternatives

        If a new treadmill breaks your budget, you have many alternatives to find good treadmills at bargain prices. There are also many ways to use somebody else's quality treadmill. Browse my tips on how to use a good treadmill for fewer dollars -- or even for free. You should also try elliptical trainers. They give a lower impact workout while exercising both your upper and lower body. Top quality elliptical trainers are a similar price to bargain treadmills, so you get more for less.

        Folding Treadmills vs. Non-Folding

        In the last several years, considerable design improvements have contributed to folding models being comparable to the stationary treadmills. Look for stability, ease of folding, weight capacity, and how easy it is to move.

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