Basic features to consider when choosing home-use treadmill

Here below are some the criteria that you have to understand before you buy a home-use treadmill. These are important considerations when choosing a best-fit treadmill:

1. Motor & Horsepower

The motor is the heart of a treadmill, without it, a treadmill will be nothing, because it cannot do the basic work. Also, motor has to work hard and cope with lots variations during exercise sessions.

Horsepower (H.P) is a measure of the motor's power. It can be classified as Continuous Horsepower or Peak Horsepower. Peak Horsepower is higher numbers and sound impressive, but all Peak Horsepower indicates is a motor's maximum power before failure, not it's sustained output (Continuous Horsepower). The motor's horsepower rating in the specifications can be somewhat confusing and misleading, because many manufacturers or brands label or list Peak Horsepower. The motor doesn't always function at the Peak Horsepower. The Peak Horsepower is important for interval training and surges but is less important, and the rating of treadmills generally lies between peaks and continuous load.

What's the relation between Motor, Horsepower and Speed? It's very simple, the stronger the motor, the heavier a person the treadmill can carry, and the faster you can run! In general, the size of a motor is directly related to the price of the treadmill. Why the motor matters? Cause it gets the heaviest workout. How fast do you want to go on your treadmill? It depends on your needs. If you use treadmill only for health and don't have the running habit, then you don't need the large speed range. If you are a heavy-duty user, like professional runner, you may need large speed range for practicing. Then you have to choose the high horsepower motor.

Ideally, a 1.5 Continuous Horsepower is suited to home joggers and runners. It can goes up to almost 10 mph. Some treadmills can go up to 15 mph, but they're usually the over-$2,000 models, and only a pro runner would really find them useful. Most treadmills have maximum speeds of 10 to 12 mph, which is usually more than enough. Beginners usually start at 3 to 4 mph, move up to 5-6, and then hit a plateau at around 8. So unless you're planning to run races, the conventional speed range should be enough.

2. Running Surface

The size of a running belt is related to stride and natural side-to-side movement of runners. The taller a person is, the longer their running stride. Also, side-to-side walking movement is important for determining the width of the running belt. Ideally, you want a running belt size of at least 44cm wide by 130cm length. The longer and wider a running belt is, the more comfortable and confident you will feel on the treadmill. All you have to do is to make sure the belt is wide enough for your stride, and it allows the lateral movements that you need to make. We would call it as running surface, not running belt. If you are taller side and have a longer stride, or you want to really stretch out when running fast you may need a treadmill with a longer belt surface. Before you buy a treadmill, the best solution is to walk into the store and test it out fully in your running gear.

3. Cushion

Cushion is a shock-absorbent layer under the belt designed to reduce the impact of your feet on the machine. Why is it so important? It not only protects the treadmill itself, but also helps prevent strain on your feet. If you want to protect your knees and ankles while exercising, you have to consider about it. Of course, good cushion is also able to increase the endurance of a treadmill. Most treadmills have some form of cushioning, but a good model would have a stronger cushion layer specifically made to reduce impact on your joints and ligaments. Good cushioning is especially important for prolonged workouts.

There's no best way to judge a treadmill's cushion, because of running habit of everyone is quite different. We would strongly suggest you to try it out at the store and see how it feels. If you're not a heavy-duty user, cushion is largely about personal taste. Some people like the pounding effect of their feet on the rubber, while others like a bit of bounce to their step. There may even be a trainer at the store who can determine your running style and recommend a model that fits.

4. Incline

Most of motorized treadmills are equipped with incline function, you can change the incline while you are still running or walking. The computer system may do this for you, without having to stop. Incline and speed control are two basic function for a treadmill. By adjusting the incline levels, you are able to train different muscle groups and to increase the training effect. For example, if you always run at incline level 0, all the muscle group you are training is the same. You may add up the incline to train hamstrings. It would be help to shape your body and leg. Also, some study shows that increasing the incline level would burn more calories during the training.

5. Safety

Solid and sturdy well made machine will be the first choice. Because a treadmill will suffer lots pressure (every step you step on it, it has to suffer your whole body weight!), you have to choose good quality one. The machine must fit your weight and fitness level, as well as your future weight, fitness and capability. Any shakiness or jerkiness in the ride is a warning sign that you need to step-up to the next model.

Some people want treadmills without handrails to give them more freedom of movement. It is totally wrong concept. According to the regulation of EU, a safety treadmill must equipped with handrail which covers at least 1/3 length of a treadmill body frame. Handrails can ensure proper treadmill use, even for people who've been working out for years. They also prevent you from falling off the sides in case of an accident, and help you regain your balance when you make a misstep.

6. Console

It's very important to monitor your status while exercising, and that's why console matters, because it displays your exercising information and is your interface to your machine. Features that are essential are accurate feedback including running time, distance, speed, incline and heart rate. Without these information, you will not be able to revise your training sessions. The more features a treadmill has, the more complicated the console tends to be. Some feature-laden treadmills have consoles so packed that you can barely read them, but it doesn't mean fewer features are better, they just have to be well situated on the console to give you easy access.

Think of the features you're most likely to change during your workout, such as the speed and incline. Find them on the console and try it out to see if you can reach them as you run. And the console should also include a variety of in-built training programs to keep your workouts interesting. Of course, the more programs, the better, and you can enjoy more variability while exercising. Because boredom kills treadmill workouts!

7. Warranty

Generally speaking, a treadmill with proper care, the average time-frame of the life is about 5 to 7 years, and some going for 10 years. Generally, the longer the warranty, the higher the treadmill's quality and price. Ideally, you should look for a warranty of 2 years for parts and 1 year for in-home labor

When you are buying a home-use treadmill, in most cases, a specialty dealer will have more flexibility on price than a mass market store. Just as mentioned above, a treadmill is a huge investment for most people, you have to choose dealer or manufacturer carefully. A brand new company may not be around in a few years. Parts can be very specific to machines, and spares may not be available if the factory isn't around. If you want to buy from a dealer, remember to choose the one with a reputation for high quality. Extended warranties can make sense if the manufacturer has a short warranty and if you get it from a reputable extended warranty company. Remember the dealer is typically not the warranty provider, a brand is.

The other consideration is the warranty of the motor. Since it's the most hard-working part of a treadmill, remember to ensure the motor has at least 2 year coverage. If you are not able to buy a treadmill from real stores, you can consider network dealers. Lots of network dealers provide better services than real stores, and probably you can get more than normal service you should expect from a local dealer.

8. Others

Other consideration could be:
(1) Space:
Make sure to consider where you will put the machine before you buy it. And please remember to check the size of the treadmill when folded and make sure it will fit into the storage space you want to use for it.
(2) Add-Ons:
A book rack, magazine holder, or water bottle holder-device are considered essential items for many people. Some models allow you to plug into MP3 player or even to the Internet while you are working out. Make sure that these options are available and suits you equipment, including the plugs and connections.
(3) Treadmill deck
Some people overlook the treadmill deck before buying. Deck construction influences how smooth or hard your treadmill feels to run on, and how well it absorbs shock. The average treadmill deck is 16mm, with better treadmills having 25mm decks.

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