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Manual Treadmills vs. Motorized Treadmills


Updated May 29, 2014

Treadmill Walkers in Gym

Treadmill Walkers

© Deklofenak / Depositphotos.com

Treadmills come in two basic varieties, just like lawnmowers: manual and motorized. But, unlike a lawnmower, you will generally get a better workout from a motorized treadmill.

Manual Treadmills - Getting Going

On a manual treadmill, the action of your feet against the deck moves the belt.


  • You provide all of the motive power and exercise your lower body.
  • It can be difficult to get the belt moving initially. That straining against the belt can stress your joints.
  • You may have to raise the incline of the treadmill significantly to make it easy enough to get the belt moving.
  • Once the belt is moving, however, you would have to stop and get off to change the incline. So you are stuck with one incline level during each workout.

Motorized Treadmill Advantages

  • The belt is moved by the motor, you don't have to strain to start it.
  • On many treadmills, you can adjust the speed and incline while you are still walking or running. On others, you may have to get off and adjust the incline manually. But you just have to turn on the treadmill to start the belt again.

Manual Treadmills - Speed

With a manual treadmill, you go only as fast as you push yourself. If you slow, it slows. If you stop, it stops.

Motorized Treadmill Speed and Workouts

The speed is adjustable and many motorized treadmills have workout programs that adjust the speed to give you a varied workout. This pushes you to go faster.

The constantly moving belt of a motorized treadmill motivates you to keep up.


Manual treadmills are relatively inexpensive, in the $100 to $200 range.

Motorized treadmills for home use cost from $750 to $5,000, and generally the more you pay, the better you get. Most motorized treadmills under $1,000 have underpowered motors and are less sturdy and have fewer options for adjusting the incline or programmed workouts.

Best Bargains

The biggest motivation for buying a manual treadmill is the low cost. But you can often find a good used motorized treadmill for a huge discount. You will be able to get a better quality treadmill for your dollars. Many people sell their almost-unused treadmills as the New Year's Resolutions wear off. You can find practically new treadmills sold as used.

Next: Finding Treadmill Bargains and Alternatives to Owning: Tips on finding and buying quality used treadmills, and alternatives to use other people's treadmills.

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