Whether at the gym or at home, one of the most popular pieces of exercise equipment is the treadmill
. Recently eclipsed by elliptical trainers but having withstood the onslaught of stairsteppers, the exercide treadmill
is still a great way to knock down a few miles of running or walking. Any gym you walk into usually has a bank of about 10 or 20 of these professional level machines. The gym models are usually heavier, have larger motors, are more rugged, and of course cost more than home models. But depending on your budget, you can find treadmills ranging from $300 to $3000. Keep in mind that this is one category where you get what you pay for. A $300 treadmill that is flimsy and breaks after 2 months is less valuable than a $1500 model treadmill
that runs non-stop for 10 years.
Picking a Treadmill
It helps to check out some of these treadmills at a store before making a decision to purchase. It is hard to judge the feeling of the deck, the power of the motor, or the solidness of the construction from reading a review. Everyone has their own preference as to how they prefer to workout - jump on some treadmills and put in 5 or 10 minutes jogging or walking to see how they feel and compare. You will likely be spending hundreds of hours on a treadmill once you buy it - make sure you like the way it feels. Sears carries the NordicTracks, Healthriders, Reebok, Bowflex, ProForm, Image, and Weslo treadmills. There is usually a Sears near everyone - start there for an in-person demo. Walmart carries the Image, Weslo, and IronMan Treadmills. You can ofter find a NordicTrack store at your mall - that's another great place to get some hands on testing of a treadmill. In terms of price, the more you pay usually gets you a sturdier build, a stronger motor, a longer and wider treadbelt, and more sophisticated electronics. Base your decision on how long you plan to own the exercise equipment, how much you will use it, and what additional features if any you require (heart rate monitors, fans, shelves for books/music, etc.). If you are a walker rather than a runner, you may well be best served by a lower cost unit without all the fancy bells and whistles and expensive motors and electronics. But if you are a runner, we don't recommend you spend less than $400 unless you accept that it may well turn out to be a "disposable" treadmill - use it for a year or two and then junk it. Otherwise, plan on spending closer to $1000 for a more rugged model, and up to $2000 if you are looking for closer to gym quality equipment. Most of these are folding treadmills
, allowing you to fold the running deck up like a jack-knife so that the whole unit can be stored more compactly against a wall. Keep in mind that the larger units are quite heavy and can be difficult to move up or down stairs, even though they often have rollers at one end so they can be tilted and moved once on a flat surface with relative ease. Most also come with safety devices to keep children from accidentally starting the treadmill, and to keep you safe if you should stumble or fall (they turn off automatically if the safety key is removed). We found some excellent reviews in Consumer Reports
magazine that rated treadmills on ease of use, ergonomics, construction, exercise range, and safety. CR separated the treadmills in non-folding and folding varieties and then thoroughly tested them for both walking and running. You can browse the most popular treadmills online here
It's not even close when it comes to head to head comparisons. The Bowflex is the clear winner and their Bowflex Series 7 Treadmill
is the #1 SELLER on Amazon.com and experts agree with this pick. It sells for less than $1500 and features a durable, 3 HP motor plus a large 20 x 60 inch surface area for walking or running. There are 15 workout programs included, so your exercise can vary each time you are on the treadmill. Want to check how your heart is doing during a workout, just grab the grip or telemetric heart rate monitors and see how fit you really are. Some of the programs include hill intervals, recovery test, calorie goal, fat burn, body mass index (BMI), and distance goal. Want to put the treadmill away when done, just fold it up and put it away. The folding treadmills are definitely the way to go unless you have tons of space in your garage or a spare bedroom. The incline range goes from 0 to 12 % and the quick incline and quick speed keys are features that owners like. The backlit LCD computer display is easy to read and there are 2 cup/bottle holders. Need a solid warranty, how about 15 years on the frame, 10 years on the motor, parts and electronics are 2 years and labor is 1 year. The Bowflex Series 7 Treadmill is top rated and certainly deserves this ranking. You can see all the Bowflex treadmills online here
For avid runners, go with a reputable name in quality treadmills - Landice
. The Landice treadmills have been tested by consumer magazines for years and they consistently rank near the top in terms of durability and reliability. The Landice L7 Cardio Trainer is well built and sturdy enough to handle hours of running every day. It is non-folding and will cost over $3300, but owners are very happy with performance and features offered on this model. In head to head comparisons, the Landice rated higher than Precor, Nautilus, and Bodyguard. The L7 Cardio Trainer has a 4 HP motor and is very easy to setup with 5 built in programs. My wife seriously considered buying this exact model as she trained for the Portland Marathon. She assumed there would be days that the rain would wipe out here training regimen and having a solid, indoor treadmill was something she wanted. Ultimately, we got lucky and the weather never was that bad as she was able to run outdoors leading up to the marathon. We still have our eye on this particular model since consumer magazines rate it so highly and feedback we've heard from fellow runners is very positive. Another excellent brand is Precor for runners. You can see all the top rated Precor treadmills online here
. Precor gets the top spot from Consumer Reports in their latest ratings.
Treadmill for Walking:
Why join the gym just to have access to a treadmill when you can buy a reasonably priced one for home use. Many people only need a treadmill for walking and the Horizon Evolve SG Compact Treadmill
is one worth considering. Not as rugged as the Bowflex or Landice (listed above), the Horizon is both compact and sleek. The Evolve SG will fold down and store quite easily. The 1.5 continuous horsepower motor can handle users up to 250 lbs. The speed range goes from 1 to 6 MPH and the running area is 17" x 45". Walkers will feel comfortable but some joggers may feel a little confined. The Horizon is a great walking treadmill and features include thumb pulse heart rate monitor, 2-watt audio speakers with input jack, 2 programs, and an LCD console display. Owners call the Horizon treadmill a "real spacesaver", "durable and compact" and "perfect for walking". A few people complain that the treadmill belt must be moving to get your statistics - so you can't just stop walking/running and check your stats. Another walking treadmill to consider would be the Proform C 525 Treadmill
which at under $600 is looked at as a "great value buy".