Get Moving America! - Is buying a treadmill right for you?

Marcela Otero
Mar 23, 2017

Walk into any gym and odds are good that you’ll see a long row of treadmills, possibly with people waiting to use them. Treadmills are one of the most popular pieces of cardio equipment at any gym, probably due to the fact that they most closely mimic the natural movements our bodies are most used to, i.e. walking and running. They can be great aids for promoting weight loss, maintaining muscle tone, and achieving an overall healthier lifestyle.

Maybe you don’t have time to drive to a gym, though. Or maybe the gym you go to is under-equipped, and there’s always a wait. Perhaps you have small children in the house, and don’t want the expense of having someone sit for them as regularly as your workout schedule would necessitate. Even if you prefer to run outside, sometimes the weather just won’t cooperate. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, getting a home treadmill might be just the solution you’re looking for.

Treadmills can get very expensive, though, despite being little more than moving rubber belts. It’s surprising how many models there are, with varying levels of bells and whistles, suited to different levels of usage, with correspondingly different price tags. Here are a few things to consider before making the plunge.

Just how committed are you?

Most people treat a treadmill like a New Year’s resolution  —they buy an inexpensive home model, use it on and off for the first six months, and then relegate it to a neglected corner of the spare room, before eventually losing it under layers of laundry. Prior to deciding on such a big purchase, try using one at a local gym for a bit first, to see how you like it and if it will actually see some real, consistent use. Also, consider if you will be primarily running or walking, since that will help determine both the type and the price point of your machine.

Conversely, are you super-duper serious about running?

Though the internet is rife with testimonials of people who bought their treadmill in 1993, run 10 miles on it every week, do minimal maintenance, and it’s still running like clockwork, be warned — this is not the norm. Most home treadmills last between seven to twelve years, with regular use and maintenance. If you train for a spring marathon every year, however, and are clocking in 60 miles a week on your poor treadmill, chances are it’s gonna conk out a lot quicker, and you’d be better off with a combination of outside runs and a gym membership.

Price!

You’ve logged in the hours at the gym, you love running and are getting better and better at it, and now you want to take the plunge. Your budget is going to determine the type of machine you’ll be able to purchase. Just like with any large appliance, try and get the highest quality treadmill you can afford. It should be quiet, easy to use, and hopefully long-lasting. Though there are some models to be had for under $1000, keep in mind that if you expect it to see a good amount of use, you would be better served by spending a bit more, perhaps in the $1500-$3000 range. That price range should offer more workout options, better motors, and more stability. If its primary use is going to be running, that’ll put more stress on the machine, which must be taken into account as well.

Specs

Treadmills generally have two motors — one to work the belt, and one to lift and lower the incline. For moderate use, try and get a continuous duty motor of at least one and a half horsepower. For constant running, aim for between two and a half to three horsepower. Other than that, which is the most crucial factor, try and check the stability of the whole machine, as well as the cushioning of the running bed, in a store. Some other extras to think about have to do with how sophisticated you’d like your machine to be. Included workout programs, a heart rate monitor, hook-ups to online fitness or music apps, and foldability can all factor into your ultimate decision.

Manual vs. motorized

Though a manual machine is definitely going to be less expensive than a motorized one, the disadvantages may outweigh the savings. They’re often difficult to get moving, unless on a steep incline, which is impossible to adjust once you’ve started moving. This difficulty getting started can also lead to joint stress. Since their construction tends to be less sturdy as well, they’re best suited for walking rather than running. These are not hard and fast rules, however, as certain manual machines are very well designed and are excellent choices.

Warranty

If you decided to buy your treadmill from a Craigslist ad, rather than a website or store, this obviously won’t apply to you. If, however, you went the more traditional route, shoot for three to seven years of coverage on parts and, at the very least, one year on labor. Most offer a lifetime guarantee on the frame, but be sure to try and negotiate one for the motor as well.

The long and the short of it is that getting a treadmill can be a big decision, but it can also be a fun one. There are so many options out there that even the selection process can be entertaining, as long as you remember what your priorities are. So, without further adieu, start shopping with our top 10 best treadmills!