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August 4th, 2007

Buying a treadmill can be a daunting experience. With so many different brands and treadmills to choose from it’s difficult to know which is the right one for you. However, if you follow a few guidelines then you should be able to narrow your choice and select a treadmill that meets your needs.

How much do I want to spend?
The amount of money you have available to spend and how you’re going to use the treadmill will influence the type of treadmill you should buy. As a rule of thumb, the more you have to spend, the better the build quality, the more functions and aftercare service you get.

How much space have I got?
Treadmills occupy a reasonable amount of space. For safety reasons, you should also have an additional run off area at the back of the treadmill of around 3 meters. If space is an issue, then consider a folding treadmill. These have improved dramatically in recent years. The more reputable brands are of solid construction and have excellent functions.

How will I use the treadmill?
If you’re mostly going to be walking then you could buy a cheaper machine with a less powerful motor and lower maximum speed. However, if you’re looking to do some serious running then you’ll need to spend at the higher end of the market.

What motor will I need?
The motor is the heart and soul of the treadmill. The motor should be powerful enough to meet your short term and long term goals. Depending on how you intend using the treadmill will determine the power output required.

Manufacturers specify the power output of the motor in horsepower (HP) and may quote a “continuous Duty” and/or “Peak Duty” value. Check the Continuous value when comparing the power of the motor. This shows how much horsepower can be delivered at all times regardless of the user’s weight. Peak Duty is simply the maximum HP that the treadmill can deliver.

The following table is a guide to the Continuous Duty rating compared to activity.

Activity Continuous Duty
Walking 2.0 HP
Jogging 2.5 HP
Running 3.0 HP

What maximum user weight should I get?
Most manufacturers specify the maximum user weight for their machines. As a guide, choose a machine that has a Max. User Weight of around 20kg (45lbs) more than the heaviest user. This will help to reduce the workload on the motor, belt, rollers and bearings.

What maximum speed should I get?
The speed required will depend on whether you will be mostly walking, jogging or running. As a guide, the maximum speed should be around 3kph (2mph) faster than your regular running pace. This will enable you to do interval training and help to reduce the workload on the motor.

The following table is a guide to the speed level required compared to activity.

Activity Desired max. speed
Walking 10 kph (6 mph)
Jogging 15 kph (10 mph)
Running 20 kph (12 mph)

What incline do I need?
Most treadmills allow you to adjust the incline of the running deck. This feature can be used to increase the intensity of your workout. Most treadmills have a maximum incline between 10% and 15%.

What programmes can I follow?
Good quality treadmills will come with a number of different workout programmes. The number and type of programmes will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The most popular type of programmes are interval training, hill sessions and heart rate zone.

What is heart rate training?
Heart rate training programmes work by changing the intensity of your workout to keep your heart rate at a specific level. You will normally have to input some personal details via the console, for example, age, weight, gender. The machine will calculate an estimated maximum heart rate and control the workload by altering the speed and/or incline.

Your heart rate is monitored by the machine via hand grip sensors on the treadmill or a chest strap that sends a signal to the console.

What safety features are there on a treadmill?
Most models include a feature that will automatically shut down the machine in a matter of seconds. Some have a large panic button on the console that you can press. Others have a key which is inserted into or attaches onto the machine and a clip which is attached to the person on the treadmill. If you fall or trip then the key will detach from the machine and it will stop within a few seconds.

The latter method is better because it does not require physical intervention by the person on the treadmill.

How much warranty can I expect?
Most manufacturers will cover parts and labour for the first two years. If you’re going to be using the treadmill a lot then look for a warranty cover that has a longer period on the motor as well as parts and labour.

Try before you buy.
It may not be possible to try a treadmill before you buy it, but you should at least go down to your local fitness store and have a look around. You can always ask your friends for their experiences of treadmills. They may be able to give you some other pointers.

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