Buying the best treadmill for your money

Buying your first treadmill can be difficult if you don’t do your research. It’s important to know what makes a good motor, what size you need, and which features are really worth your money. Here are some things to consider if you want the best treadmill for your budget.

The treadmill has always been the best-selling fitness equipment in the market, even with the introduction of stair steppers, elliptical machines, rowing machines, and other more advanced gear. It’s simply hard to match the cardiovascular workout you get in a treadmill. It works your large muscles and burns as much as 800 calories per hour—at least a hundred more than the average workout machine.

If you’ve shopped around, you’ll find that treadmills come in dozens of types, brands and prices. But what’s the difference? What really makes a treadmill worth $100, $300, or $5,000? If all the choices leave you confused, here’s a quick buying guide to help you out.

Space: Before even looking at treadmills, find out how much space you can allot for the machine. Be sure to leave at least a foot and a half on the sides, as well as some headroom if you want one that inclines. A foldable treadmill may be suitable for smaller spaces, but you may have to give up some motor power for size.

Motor: if you’re on a really tight budget, you can save a fair deal on a manual treadmill. However, you usually give up a lot more than the price is worth. For one thing, you need a lot of effort to get it running, and when you do, you can’t change inclines without stopping—and having to start up again. Look for a treadmill with a good sturdy motor. Generally, the heavier the motor, the longer it will last.

Walking deck and track: If your space allows, go for the thickest walking deck within your budget. Thick decks help your legs and feet stay comfortable as you work out, and will keep the machine in good shape even with everyday use. Look for one with at least a ¾-inch deck, or a one-inch deck if you want to walk and jog at the same time. Walking tracks should be at least 48 inches long and 17 inches wide.

Comfort and shock: Many manufacturers market shock absorption as their treadmills’ foremost feature. But note that effective shock absorption consists of ample cushioning, provided by an effective suspension right under the deck. The visible bouncing pads on some treadmills are just for show, so don’t be fooled by sellers calling them “shock absorbers.” Look for foam or rubber padding or the deck. Try the treadmill out yourself to see which one feels most comfortable.

Electronic features: These should be considered only after you’ve look at the physical construction. Most of the electronic features are optional, so you can scrimp on them if necessary in exchange for better functional quality. For most programs, you only need the basics such as speed adjustment, distance meter, timer, and calorie counter. Preset programs found in more expensive models simply combine various speeds, inclines and intensities. Ask yourself which features you really need and whether they’re worth the extra hundred dollars.

Noise: Some users don’t mind noisy treadmills, but it’s not just a matter of preference. Noise is a sign of cheap motor construction, so silent treadmills do tend to be more durable. A slight buzz or hiss is acceptable as there’s really no completely noiseless treadmill, but anything louder than a whisper should be taken as a bad sign.

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