Treadmills are the most popular form of home exercise equipment these days. A treadmill is a continuous moving belt, usually powered by a motor, on which you run or walk. You can adjust the intensity of the workout by altering the speed or the incline. Various surveys — including our own — have shown that compared with other equipment they’re more likely to be used regularly and for a long time.
Advantages: They're easy to use, versatile in that they can be used by people of varying levels of fitness, and can be combined with hand weights for an arm workout. Because you’re doing weight-bearing exercise, it can help prevent osteoporosis.
Disadvantages:They're relatively expensive, and lower-priced models may not be very well-constructed or suitable for running. Non-folding models take up a lot of space.
“Good variety of programs, which makes it less boring. Easy to use and not hard on my joints. Convenient to have at home and I can exercise in any weather.”
“Too noisy, takes up too much space, no automatic gradient [incline] control.”
What to look for
- While horsepower isn’t the be-all and end-all of treadmill performance, it’s often recommended you look for one with at least 2.0 hp continuous-duty (not peak) power.
- Get one with a belt width of at least 45 cm, especially if you plan to jog or run. As for length, the faster you run, the longer your stride. Make sure it’s long enough to accommodate the stride of all users at their top speeds. There should be enough room on side panels for you to easily stand on them — and perhaps quickly jump onto if you suddenly feel out of control.
- A motorised or power incline is most convenient, as you can adjust the incline while exercising. Manual incline means you have to set it before you start, or stop, get off and adjust it mid-workout.
- A 10% maximum incline is quite common, but for more serious hill work look for 12% or 15%. If you’re very unfit, note that some cheaper models won’t decline completely flat.
Speed adjustment — look for keypad controls, including up/down buttons, rather than a slide switch. Instant speed keys allow you to quickly change the speed to preset levels, and are useful if you want to chop and change speeds (interval training) or want a brief slowdown while you have a drink of water or take a phone call.
Check the maximum speed. For walkers and slow joggers a machine that goes up to 10 or 12 km/h may suffice. More serious joggers and runners should get one up to 16 km/h, or even 20 km/h.
- A safety key plugs into the console with the other end clipped to your clothing. The machine won’t operate unless it’s plugged in, so if you fall or can’t keep up, the key pulls out of the console and the belt stops. If you have small children, you can hide the key so they can’t start the machine.