How To Shop for a Treadmill
have become the hottest home exercise choice. According to the
National Sporting Goods Association, treadmill sales have exceeded
those of all other home exercise equipment.
to understand why. Next to good shoes, a treadmill may be the
single most important purchase runners
or joggers can make.
anything your training demands--hills, tempo, intervals, long
distance--you can do on a treadmill. And you can log those miles
while watching Seinfeld reruns or keeping an eye on your kids,
without worrying about heat, cold, wind, ice, cars, darkness,
potholes, mean dogs or scary people.
Now let's take your treadmill
education another step and go treadmill shopping. Before we
set out, though, a word of caution: Treadmills are expensive,
and they're complex. A bad buying decision could leave you with
one more inactive exercise hulk languishing in that musty corner
of your basement. So tread carefully as we steer through the maze
of buying a 'mill.
First off, remember as with most things you get
what you pay for. A $1,000 treadmill may serve you well, but a
$3,000 machine is likely to perform better for a longer time.
The following are some more specifics to absorb
before you buy.
|Runners will want a 1.5 h.p. or higher "continuous duty" rating for their home treadmill, say most retailers...
long should a home treadmill last? Retailers tell us
the range is seven to 12 years, with 10 years about average. Of
course, with proper care, some treadmills far exceed the average.
With neglect, even the expensive ones die young. Dust is the primary
early killer of treadmills, Once a week, take a dry cloth and
wipe up any dust between the belt and deck. Also keep the floor
around your treadmill clean and free of dust.
about the warranty? Generally, the longer the warranty,
the higher the treadmill's quality--and price. Ideally, you should
look for a warranty of three years for parts and one year for
labor, with dealer-provided in-home service for the first year.
Most problems, if they occur at all, will crop up in the first
90 days. Mostly it will be relatively minor stuff, such as adjustment
or replacement of a component.
the difference between a "home" and a "club"
often separate treadmills into two categories: "home"
or "residential," and "club" or "commercial."
Good home treadmills are essentially smaller versions of club
treadmills. The high-end home treadmill can easily withstand regular
daily use and features extensive programming options, often more
than are found in the club treadmills. Club treadmills come with
a superior warranty and a bigger motor that can take round-the-clock
beatings. They also carry significantly higher price tags.
Serious about fitness? Hi-tech
"club" treadmills last longer,
but cost considerably more.
do horsepower ratings mean? Horsepower (h.p.) is a measure
of motor power, and runners will want a 1.5 h.p. or higher "continuous
duty" rating for their home treadmill, say most retailers.
While higher ratings (2.0 h.p. or higher are common) do indicate
a more powerful treadmill, your overall aim should be a machine
that efficiently integrates the workings of the motor, belt and
deck to give you a steady ride, which some 1.5 h.p. treadmills
Continuous duty means that the treadmill will
run at its listed h.p. rating with a significant workload over
extended periods of time--an important consideration. Be wary of
manufacturers who list "peak-performance" h.p. ratings.
It sounds impressive, but all peak performance indicates is a
motor's maximum power, not its sustained output.
the best belt size? To handle the long stride and natural
side-to-side movement of runners, treadmill belts are expanding
in width and length. Twenty-inch-wide belts are becoming common,
and no belt should be narrower than 17 or 18 inches. The length
of the running area should be at least 50 inches, with 55 to 60
inches preferable for taller runners.
important is the construction of the deck? Often overlooked
by consumers (perhaps because it's hidden beneath the belt) is
the treadmill's deck, or bed. Better-quality decks are usually
made of thin layers of laminated wood, coated with lubricants
to minimize friction between the belt and deck, which in turn
reduces strain on the motor. The smoother the deck coating, the
less friction between the belt and deck.
Deck construction, more than the belt, influences
how smooth or hard your treadmill feels to run on and how well
it absorbs shock. You want a surface that gives a bit but doesn't
are reversible, meaning they can be turned over--thereby (in theory,
at least) doubling the life of the deck. Some decks require owner
maintenance without which they may succumb in a year. Proper care,
however, can extend a deck's life for the lifetime of the treadmill.
or DC? Direct-current-driven
(DC) motors power most home treadmills. DC motors start slowly,
provide a more consistent response to speed, incline and weight
demands, and tend to run quieter than alternating-current (AC)
motors. With DC, you're dealing with fewer internal parts, which
may cut down on repairs.
AC motors, which tend to be found in club treadmills,
start the belt at a faster speed. But you should be safe plugging
either an AC or a DC motor into your wall outlet at home.
A good home treadmill can cost up to $5,000 and will likely be
the most expensive piece of exercise equipment you'll ever buy.
Why so much money to run in place? To answer this, we contacted
Cybex International, manufacturer of the high-end Trotter line.
that make the best treadmills install the highest grade of parts
and components available, including expensive motors, safety and
comfort features and long-lasting decks. Your treadmill's components
have to be able to withstand a terrific beating--more than 1,000
footstrikes per mile of running. With the price of a high-end
treadmill, you should get a machine that is absolutely durable,
with a longer, more complete warranty that reflects its superior
Paul Reeve is the
voice behind TreadmillAdvisor.com.
More tips about buying a treadmill around the Web:
Consumer Reports - Treadmills Buying Guide
Treadmills for Dummies - Safety Tips