What you need to know about Treadmills

When it come to decisions about buying something which could potentially change your life such as buying exercise equipment, it pays to find out a bit about the options. Treadmills are amongst the most popular exercise machines, so here is some basic information on what you should know before buying a treadmill.

If you do know and just want to find the best treadmill to buy, you can find out here.

why use a treadmill?What is a treadmill?

A treadmill is an exercise machine with a moving conveyor belt enabling the user to walk, jog or run whilst remaining more or less stationary by matching your speed with the speed of the belt, adjusted via controls on the machine.

Sometimes, depending on the sophistication and cost of the treadmill, the angle can also be adjusted for you to approximate the feeling of going uphill.

Why buy a treadmill?

One of the questions you will ask yourself when deciding to improve your fitness and/or lose some weight are:
Which mode of fitness should I choose?:

  • walking or running
  • using other equipment, such as bikes or rowers etc.

Walking or jogging is a natural cardio activity that is, at some level – from the slowest walking pace to the fastest runners – are suitable for whatever your current level of fitness happens to be. Medical advice is that many of us should walk more anyway.

According to the American Heart Association:
Research has shown that the benefits of walking and moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:

  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improve blood lipid profile
  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
  • Enhance mental well being
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes”

According to the British NHS website:
“Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers.”

Furthermore, while moderate exercise has health benefits over no exercise, more vigorous exercise has even more. Running will increase health benefits in several key areas, such as blood pressure and cholesterol balance. So, even if you are limited to walking at first, little by little as your fitness improves, you can up the pace,

Another advantage of choosing this mode of activity, of course, is that you don’t necessarily need any equipment and there are benefits in doing so.

There are also, however, some advantages in using a treadmill over doing it outside.

Pros and Cons of training on a treadmill


bad weather - a good reason to buy a treadmillWeather
In most places – and, depending on where you live, this can be ‘occasionally’ or ‘most of the time’ – there will be times when you know you should go for a run but just can’t face it, whether it means getting cold and wet, or the effort of jogging under the sun in excessive temperatures. Perhaps more importantly, if it’s icy outside, using a treadmill could save you from more than a little discomfort.

Impact on joints
One of the disadvantages of running is that it does involve some impact on the joints, but the surface of a treadmill is usually softer and has a more cushioning effect than running on concrete pavements. It is therefore kinder to your knees and lower back.

Better monitoring
The ability to see, at a glance, your heart rate and calories used etc. can be useful for some people. For those training for particular events, the ability to set a target speed and get used to that speed can be highly useful.

These advantages apply to using a treadmill whether it’s one you own or at a gym. In addition, though, one big benefit of using your own is…

Both going for a jog outdoors or going to a fitness centre require a certain commitment of time. From putting on the right clothing to, where necessary, getting to the gym, if you don’t have much time it may not seem worth it so, chances are, you’ll give it a miss.

With your own machine, you can jump on it during a spare 10 minutes wearing anything you like, or when watching tv.


It can be a little boring
If you live somewhere which makes jogging outdoors pleasurable and interesting, then indoor stationary jogging can admittedly seem rather dull in comparison,

On the other hand: the option is always there to go outside if you want to. Alternatively, you can do it while watching tv.

Some say it’s less effective
It is thought by some to be easier to jog on a treadmill, where the belt is doing part of the work. It may therefore result in a less effective workout.

On the other hand: it is generally considered that introducing a slight incline to the treadmill largely compensates for that advantage and running with even a 1% incline equates to a similar effort as running outdoors.

Surprisingly, given the point above, one study found that, left to run at their own pace, runners ran faster outside, implying that runners naturally train harder outdoors.

On the other hand: Runners tend not to run at their own pace on a treadmill but set a target pace, which you can gradually increase over time to ensure improvement.

Less Realistic
The jury seems to be out on whether using a treadmill is an effective way of training for actual events. While many runners, even competitive athletes, use treadmills to support their outdoor training, the lack of the pushing off the ground aspect (due to the belt spinning under your feet) is likely to reduce the reality of the simulation to some extent.

The evenness of the surface of the treadmill is, of course, less realistic than those outside – not only the variety of surfaces from concrete to grass or whatever – but the moment-to-moment differences of the individual surfaces.

In training for real outdoor events, therefore, the best advice is to train outdoors, supplementing it with treadmill training.

What to look for in a treadmill.

As you’ll be potentially running on it, you should be confident that your treadmill is sturdy enough to take your weight. Does it have a steel frame? There is a potential trade-off between sturdiness and weight.

Look for long warranties on frame, motor and parts, and look at the service and repair options.

N.B. One point to note about maintenance is that treadmills need lubricating under the running belt from time to time and a bottle of oil is sometimes supplied for this purpose.

Safety-wise, a cut-off clips useful for motorised machines. These attach to your clothes and automatically stop the machine if you step off the machine or fall.

Width and length
Linked to safety, the treadmill should also be wide enough for you not to feel cramped and long enough to accommodate your stride, especially if you’re tall.

LCD monitors usually display Time, Speed, Distance, and Calories burned. Some have a heart-rate monitor but this can mean either the ability to link to a chest strap, or hand pulse monitors built in to the handles. The latter are only practical when walking.

Speed range
This can vary from cheaper, non-motorised machines where you provide your own movement, to those which go up to 12mph? or faster. More expensive treadmills may also have smaller (0.1mph) increments between speeds.

Incline range
The ability to incline the machine is useful to compensate for the lower effort required to run on a treadmill compared to outdoors. The most basic may only have one incline setting which you have to move manually beforehand, while the most expensive machines at fitness centres have motorised platforms.

folding treadmill in folded position

Does it fold up?
If space is at a premium, the ability to fold up may be the difference between buying one and not buying one.

Cushioned deck for reduced impact to joints
This may be more important for people who are older or overweight.

Speakers, USB, mp3/iPod connectivity
Added convenience to make your workout a bit less tedious.



I hope this information helps you to make the decision as to whether to buy a treadmill for use at home. If you have decided to go for it, the next is which to choose.

If you want to find the best treadmill for home use, see this page.