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Should You Buy a Folding Treadmill?

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Updated December 10, 2008

In the past, purchasing a folding treadmill meant compromise. You were going to compromise on stability for the convenience of a space saving exercise machine. In addition, the overall durability and quality of components would be less then you would find in a stationary treadmill.

Design Improvements in Folding Treadmills

In the last several years there's been considerable design improvements that have contributed to folding models being comparable to their stationary equivalent. In fact, the treadmill company I worked for used the exact same frame for both their folding and stationary models. I could not tell the difference between the two.

Space Advantage with a Folding Treadmill

There is no question that treadmills are space hogs. An average treadmill with a 20" wide belt can be 3.5" x 6". If you are living space challenged, and you prefer not to sacrifice a good portion of a room to exercise equipment, then a folding treadmill makes sense. In addition to the fact that many folding treadmills are easy to move, and can be stored.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Folding Treadmill

1. Stability: With any treadmill, you want a solid and stable feel. You’ll find that many folding models under $1,000 will lack stability. They just are not structurally built well. You probably want to test the treadmill in person. Try both walking and jogging. Jump up and down. The ideal treadmill will absorb your impact without being sloppy.

2. Cost: What should you pay for a good folding treadmill? If you plan to have the machine around for a reasonable amount of time, and intend to use it on a regular basis, then you are going to need to shell out a few bucks. I generally recommend that you pay around $1,000 for a machine primarily for walking, and start at $1,500 for a treadmill that will be used for jogging or running.

3. How easy is it to fold the treadmill? Most folding treadmills are equipped with hydraulics, making it a breeze to fold up or down. There are some that require power lifting. Regardless, remember to always lift with your legs, and not with your back bent over.

4. Will you be moving the folding treadmill? Almost all folding treadmills are designed to move, the difference is the effort required. If you plan to constantly move the treadmill, check out how easy it is. If it is a 200 lbs. treadmill that requires tilting it on two wheels in order to move it, you are going to need some strength training in addition to a cardio workout. There are some models that when folded, have four recessed wheels that pop out, making it simple to move.

5. Weight capacity; You can assume that all manufacturers are going to exaggerate the weight capacity of their treadmill. It is a standard practice. Whatever the capacity states, minus at least 50 lbs. You want a machine that can withstand the impact of your weight. Otherwise you’ll find the motor, belt, rollers and bearings will burn-out prematurely.

6. Warranty: The warranty is always a good indication of the quality of the treadmill, whether it’s folding or stationary. Be leery of models that have 90 day warranties. That suggests built-in obsolesce. I recommend a folding treadmill that has a minimum 1 year service, 2 year parts and 5 year motor warranty.

Best Brands for Folding Treadmills

There are a number of good brands that build folding treadmills. Two that stand out are Sole and Smooth. Sole folding treadmills are used in the Hilton hotel chains for in-room service. If they can hold-up under that type of environment, they should do well in your home. Smooth has a good reputation for quality machines and customer service. Both Sole and Smooth have received "Best Buy" awards from Treadmill Doctor. Fred Waters is the author of expert reviews on more than 70 treadmill models.
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