Your Complete Guide to Buying a Treadmill: Read Me First!

Buying a treadmill is quite a big commitment, it means that you want to get fitter and live a more healthy lifestyle. It also usually means quite a high outlay of money up front,  as well as the space required and many more points to consider. 

We have put together a complete guide that may help you avoid a costly mistake, keep an eye out of what you should be looking for, and generally make you a little more knowledgeable about treadmills.

Why should you buy a treadmill, and what are the benefits?

Let’s firstly look at the fundamentals of what a treadmill is, “A device used for exercise, consisting of a continuous moving belt on which to walk or run.” This immediately gives the first benefit of why you should own one, it allows you to mimic walking or running outside in the comfort of your own home.

Why would you want to run inside instead of outside?

Time – You don’t have to spend time getting ready, old T-shirt and non-matching shorts, no problem. Also, you can be running on a treadmill in under 5 minutes.

Conditions – It will always be dry and warm in your own space, also no need to carry your music around with you or your water bottle! You are free to concentrate on getting the best workout possible. 

Comfort – Not everybody feels comfortable walking or running in public

Safety – Especially in winter, some areas may be unsafe to run on your own in the dark.
Your own pace – You can walk and run at your own speed, you may even want to push yourself by adding incline to a treadmill making it more difficult. In reverse, you may want to build up your fitness levels and know that you can stop at any time.

Surroundings – Not everybody has immediate access to scenic running routes close to home 

Is treadmill technology good?

Fitness technology has advanced massively in the last 10-15 years. No longer a huge, bulky, noisy and expensive piece of equipment owned by the rich and famous like the late 90’s early 00’s. Treadmills are now mass market with lower costs, better quality and more benefits and features than ever before.

For example, a fold flat treadmill that slides under your bed packed with features can be bought for around £350 ($425). 5-10 Years ago this would not have been possible, or cost upwards of £1500 ($1800) for anything close. There has never been a better or more cost effective time to own a treadmill for your home.

How impactful on your body is running on a treadmill vs other fitness equipment?

In terms of joint impact, a treadmill is the highest out of the big four pieces of fitness equipment (Treadmill, Cross trainer, Bike and Rower). The benefit is that you will burn more calories and have a better overall workout due to full body motion on a treadmill, over any other piece of fitness equipment. 

When we look at joint impact in particular, this does have some caveats, the majority of treadmills on the market will have some type of impact protection built in that cushions your joints as your land. This makes them a much better choice over outdoor running, where you would mainly run on hard surfaces such as pavements and concrete. 

The caveat is that walking on a treadmill, however, is considered a low impact workout and will not come with the same associated risks associated with higher impact running. 

What are the key benefits of using a treadmill?

As initially noted above, a treadmill is a full body workout with a focus on your legs, in addition it will also work your arms, back, shoulders, bum and core.

People who are new to running and use a treadmill often are recorded after a few weeks saying everything feels somehow tighter. This is true, many muscles in the body will strengthen, while at the same time fatty deposits will start to disappear.

What are the popular types of Treadmills?

Treadmills have two main subcategories:

1. Portability

Treadmills are often sorted into three distinct areas when specifically looking at portability, fixed, folding hybrid and fold flat.

Fixed – Large treadmills that are typically more like the ones you would find at your local gym. They are mainly heavier, have more features and programs, and require a full time available space in your home.

We would advise buying this type of treadmill if you have a large permanent space available such as your own gym area, garage or spare room.

Folding hybrid – I would say this covers the bulk of treadmills on the market. They are often heavy and packed full of features, but give you the ability to fold the running track close to vertical. This allows them to be stored away on a temporary basis or longer if you have space in the garage.

I would however advise these treadmills are not easy to move or fold flat, so manoeuvring them would be on a temporary basis, not each time you need to use the machine. 

Fold flat – Treadmills that are fold flat typically have fewer features and smaller frames. Having said that, many when in their open state will perform the same as a traditional treadmill. These treadmills would suit a user who has very little space and needs the option to store them under a bed or between a gap in the wardrobes before and after each use. These are getting more popular, especially in many cities where space is a premium.  

2. Manual vs electric powered

Manual treadmills – Not connected to a power supply, you would have to push the belt to start, and your own momentum would power the machine. Typically, features are limited due to an LCD screen being battery powered or energy generated from your movement.

Manual treadmills are often fold flat, as people want the convenience of being able to place the treadmill in any area of their property and complete a workout.

Powered treadmills – They require a permanent connection to a powered socket. They will have more features than a manual treadmill, and the bulk of treadmills on the market will be powered. We would always recommend a powered treadmill where possible, as you will have a much better workout experience.

What do we recommend when looking to buy a treadmill?

Like when looking for a new or second hand car, there are specific areas where you need to pay a bit more attention. We would recommend you consider the following:

Running track size – Having a good size running track is a good start, make sure that you take some measurements and are happy with the size that is listed.

Motor power – Aim for as close as you can to 2hp peak power or more. This will be enough so that it doesn’t feel sluggish when your foot hits the running track, and it gives it enough power to help you through your stride. If you are on the heavier side, this becomes even more important. 

A motor size of 2hp is enough to cover walking speeds right up to interval sprint training.

Cushion support system – Many modern treadmills will have their own cushion support. The main point is that you are looking to ensure that the treadmill you are thinking of buying makes a point to include the type of system. Cushion systems will be a series of robust springs between the running track and frame. 

A good treadmill will often make a point about the type of cushion system that is included. Many brands make a point to highlight this with some nice colours such as those included on Reebok and JTX Fitness treadmills.

Incline options – Incline is the ability to change the treadmill, giving you the effect of running up hill. Check to see if the treadmill had manual or powered incline settings. Typically, more expensive treadmills would have the option to change incline via a button on the program display, which would power the rise and fall of the frame.

Manual incline just makes it that more difficult to have to get off, adjust, then start running again. Choose a treadmill with a powered incline option where possible.

Programs and features – These are features that are unique to your circumstances and naturally the more features on offer the more expensive the treadmill. Some treadmills have inbuilt fans, speakers, heart rate monitors and more. Have a quick read and make sure it has what you personally need. 

We would class the essentials as a nice looking display with clear options to change the speed and incline as well as feedback on distance, calories and time.

3rd party workout programs – LCD screens and advanced features are becoming more common. This is due to the rise of brands such as Peloton and NordicTrack including a full colour LED screen that gives you the ability to follow workout classes. These can make you feel like you are running through a nice forest or across a tropical beach. 

They are very nice, but often come with a premium price tag. Often they will require a monthly subscription, so ensure that you are really going to use your treadmill regularly if you commit to buying them. 

Safety features – Should come as standard, but just check there is a start/stop cord included.

Manufacturer’s warranty and support – Guarantees can tell you a lot about what you are buying. How long is the guarantee? Is it 1 year? Some brands now offer longer cover periods, showing their commitment to you and showcasing their high quality standards. JTX Fitness for example include a 3 year (at home) warranty for many of their treadmills.

GymTechReview’s Top Treadmill Picks!

This is a tricky one as there are so many factors to include. We regularly update this section as we look at price to performance as a ratio. If an excellent treadmill is heavily discounted, we may feature it for this month. Budget is also a consideration, and we will look to make recommendation for all levels.

Great Value

Pro Fitness T2000 Folding Treadmill

Shop now – View the latest price

Read full review – T2000 Treadmill Review

Best Folding Treadmill

Roger Black Easy Fold Treadmill

Shop now – View the latest price

Read full review – Roger Black Easy Fold Treadmill Review

Feature Packed

JTX Sprint-7 Treadmill

Shop now – View the latest price

Read full review – JTX Sprint-7 Treadmill Review

Top tips when setting up and using your treadmill

Plan ahead – Ensure that you have the space needed for a treadmill, measure the width and height of the treadmill as well as your own height plus 1-2ft (minimum). This will give you the required headspace as you bob up and down, as well as the height increase from being on the treadmill. 

Also check your floor, many people include foam gym tiles or an old piece of carpet to ensure their floor isn’t damaged.

Take your time setting up I know instinct is to rip open the boxes and want to use your nice shiny new treadmill as soon as possible. Take a step back and work through any instruction manuals in great detail. If it says it takes 1 hour to complete, and it takes you 3 hours, then so be it.

I will often personally take more than the recommended time simply because I want a perfect setup, plus one of the very first treadmills I reviewed I forgot to unscrew a safety bolt, and it almost broke the incline motor before I even started.

Attach the safety clip – Make sure you do this, especially on your first few uses, this is often the time when most accidents happen.

FAQ’s all about treadmills

How much does a treadmill cost? 

Treadmills vary in cost from £100 ($130) right up to £10,000 ($12,500) it really depends on what your budget and requirements are.

How much space do I need for my treadmill?

We would recommend at least 2ft (60cm) all away around your treadmill for clear space.

Should I buy or hire a treadmill?

This is up to you, if there are treadmills available to hire you could see if you like to use a treadmill before making the purchase. However, prices in my local area require a fixed term contract of around 3-6 months, which worked out to be half the cost of the treadmill I was looking to consider!

Are treadmills hard to assemble?

This varies depending on the treadmill brand, over the years this has been getting much better with the majority of treadmill providers only requiring minimal setup as the running and frame are all pre-assembled. This means that often you only have to attach the arms and main console. 

Some modern treadmills come 90% assembled, you only have to lower the running track, and you are good to go. Check prior to purchase, often it will be noted if none, partial or full assembly is required. You can also check the online instruction manual if they are included.

Is a treadmill good for losing weight?

One reason why home treadmills have grown so much in popularity is how go they are for overall fitness and health benefits. For those with limited capacity, a brisk walk is a great way to improve their complete levels of fitness with low impact.

In a few short months, regular runners will see their overall levels of fitness change dramatically. They will be more toned and also remove excess body fat through high levels of aerobic exercise.

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