Buying A Treadmill
Purchasing a treadmill is a significant investment so it pays to do a little research prior to deciding on which treadmill to buy.
This guide is designed to help you identify the various components that make up a treadmill and how to compare the quality of various machines. As with all machinery, you get what you pay for so being sure of your usage requirements and matching these with the right machine will save you later 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 selected speed.
The first check is the horsepower rating. When comparing treadmill motors only consider the continuous horsepower rating. Many manufacturers will quote peak horsepower rating and this can be misleading. Peak horsepower is the maximum horsepower a motor can reach; when an electric motor is reaching peak horsepower it can overheat and burn out. Continuous horsepower is a measure of the power the motor can deliver for sustained periods during normal use.
There is no industry standard for motor horsepower rating so there are variables between manufacturers on how they quote the horsepower rating; however as a general guide you should look for continuous horsepower ratings 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 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 problems.
Running Surface Size
Running surfaces vary in length and width depending on whether the treadmill has been designed for walking or running. Any narrower than 40cm is getting too narrow for comfort and safety when walking. If you intend to jog or run you should consider running surfaces that are at lease 43cm or wider.
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.
Running mat quality is important as it dictates how fast the mat will wear. 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 and causes motors to burn out before they should which can result in expensive repair bills.
The majority of domestic treadmills have a lubricant applied between the mat and the running board underneath. It is very important to keep this area lubricated to ensure as little friction as possible. Good quality treadmills will be pre-lubricated when assembled at the factory but will still need regular cleaning and applications of lubricant depending on how much use they get. It pays to check the owner’s manual prior to purchase and familiarize yourself with what ongoing maintenance 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.
Generally thicker mats are better quality as they are quieter and wear better whilst providing a good surface to run on. The minimum requirement to make sure of this is to check that the mat is made using a 2 ply construction.
The roller at either end of the running mat are important as they provide the smooth drive from the motor to the running mat. A general rule is the bigger the roller the better as this allows the mat to run with less tension which reduces wear on the mat, the roller and the bearings. This is because a larger roller has more surface area which provides more “grip” on the mat and prevents slipping.
Larger rollers turn slower which reduces wear and the mat doesn’t have to turn such a sharp corner at either end which reduces heat build up or the breakdown of the mat fabric.
Many treadmills in our market are supplied with 2” rollers, 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 (Liquid Crystal Display) or LED (Light Emitting Diode). They are available in all sorts of colours, shapes and sizes; much of the choice comes down to personal preference and what type of information you wish to see.
Various displays will show speed, distance, time, laps, incline, calories burned, heart rate and more. Don’t be misled by thinking that more programs and electronic gadgets mean a better quality product. With the developments in electronics over the past decade this componentry has become cheaper in comparison to the engineering parts such as motors, rollers and bearings.
Nearly all treadmills come with a range of pre-installed exercise programs. These programs control the speed and incline of the machine and stimulate various workouts such as hill climb and interval training. Having a variety of programs can provide some variety in your training. Some treadmills will also include user programs; these provide the software to enable the user to either create their own program or record a workout to be repeated in the future. User programs are good as they enable you to personalise the treadmill to suit your own specific workouts.
Heart Rate Control
Many treadmills come with sensors for monitoring heart rate whilst exercising. The basic models have sensors for the user to grip which shows a read out of the heart rate.
Better models have in-built receivers which receive messages from a wireless chest strap; the information from a chest strap is more accurate than hand sensors.
The heart rate information allows the user to work within a prescribed zone as when set on the HRC (Heart Rate Control) program the treadmill will raise and lower the intensity of the workout to maintain the heart rate of the user within a preset zone.
These programs are very good for achieving specific goals, particularly weight loss goals.
Finally the most important consideration when purchasing a treadmill is the company that supplies the product and the after-sales service and back-up spare parts.
This is a serious 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 that they 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.