Buying A Treadmill
Purchasing a treadmill is a significant investment so it's best to do a little research before deciding on which treadmill is right for you.
This guide is designed to help you better understand the various components that make up a treadmill and how to compare the quality of different machines. As with all equipment of this kind, the more the product costs, the higher quality it will inevitably be. It's important to know your usage requirements and match these with the right machine, this can save you from future headaches in the form of possible breakdowns and repairs.
The motor is one of the most important components to consider. This is what drives the running mat and can make the difference between a quiet, smooth running machine and a loud noisy treadmill that struggles to run at the selected speed.
The first question to ask is, what is the horsepower? When comparing treadmill motors only consider the continuous horsepower rating. Many manufacturers will quote the peak horsepower rating which can be misleading. Peak horsepower is the maximum horsepower a motor can reach but when a motor is reaching the peak horsepower it can overheat and burn out. Continuous horsepower is what the motor can deliver for sustained periods of time during normal use.
There is no industry standard for motor horsepower rating so how manufacturers may quote this varies. As a general guide you should look for a continuous horsepower rating of 1.5 – 2.0hp and above.
The ultimate test of horsepower is to run the machine at around 4kph then walk on the machine, hold the handles and using your weight try to pull back and slow the machine down. If you feel the running mat slow down or can feel the motor struggling, the motor is not powerful enough and will eventually cause you problems.
Running Surface Size
Running surfaces vary in length and width depending on whether the treadmill has been designed for walking or running. For walking, any narrower than 40cm is too narrow for comfort and safety. If you intend to jog or run you should consider a running surface that is at least 43cm wide.
The length of the running surface also depends on whether you are walking or running and the height of the user. For safe and comfortable walking, the length should be 125cm or more and for running it should be at least 130 – 135cm.
The quality of the running mat is also important as this will dictate how fast the mat will wear. Generally speaking, thicker mats are better quality as they are quieter and wear better whilst providing a good surface to run on. Make sure to check that the running mat is made using a 2 ply construction.
As running mats wear, they become rough on the underside and start to stick to the board supporting them. This places a lot more strain on the motor and drive system which causes motors to burn out before they should. This can result in expensive repair bills.
It is very important to keep the area between the mat and the running board lubricated to ensure as little friction as possible. A good quality treadmill will be pre-lubricated during factory assembly but will still need cleaning and regular applications of lubricant depending on how much you use it.
We recommend checking the product manual before purchasing to familiarise yourself with the ongoing maintenance that is recommended. Just like your car, any machine with moving parts will require some form of servicing or maintenance. By following the instructions, you will prolong the life of your treadmill and protect your investment.
The rollers at either end of the running mat are what provide the smooth drive from the motor. A general rule is the bigger the roller the better. This allows the mat to run with less tension which reduces wear on the mat, the roller and the bearings.
A larger roller has more surface area which provides more “grip” on the mat and prevents slipping. It also means less ‘bending’ of the running mat as it goes around the roller, resulting in less flexing and reduced wear. Larger rollers also turn slower which reduces heat build-up and potential breakdown of the mat fabric.
Look for products that come with 2.5” rollers as this will dramatically improve the life of the treadmill.
Console Controls and Displays
The control panel will have some form of LCD or LED display. They are available in various colours, shapes and sizes; much of the choice comes down to your personal preference and what type of information you wish to see.
The display can show such information as speed, distance, time, laps, incline, calories burned and heart rate. They aid in your experience but more programmes and gadgets don't necessarily mean a better quality product.
Nearly all treadmills come with a range of pre-installed exercise programmes. These programs control the speed and incline of the machine and simulate various workouts such as hill climbs and interval training.
Having these programmes can provide some variety in your fitness training. Some treadmills will also include user programmes; these enable you to either create your own programmes or record a workout which can be repeated in future. User programmes enable you to personalise the treadmill to suit your own specific workouts.
Heart Rate Control
Many treadmills come with sensors for monitoring your heart rate whilst exercising. Basic models have inbuilt sensors on handrails which shows your heart rate. More advanced models have a wireless chest strap, these are more accurate than hand sensors.
Heart rate information allows you to work within a specific zone which can be set on the HRC (Heart Rate Control) programme. The treadmill will then raise and lower the intensity of the workout to maintain your heart rate in that pre-set zone. These programs are great for achieving specific goals, particularly weight loss.
Finally the most important consideration when purchasing a treadmill is the company that supplies you the product. Do they offer after-sales services and back-up spare parts?
Treadmills are a large investment, so be sure you are dealing with an established supplier that has a good history in the industry. Ensure they carry adequate stocks of spare parts and employ trained service technicians. This is especially important if you are purchasing online.
Check the warranties and make sure the supplier has the ability to back them up. Warranty promises are only as good as the company making them!