Photo credit by Ed Yourdon
If you are thinking of making a treadmill purchase so you can exercise at home, keep in mind that cost typically reflects quality. Treadmills can range from $300 to $ 4,000 and there is a multitude of manufacturers and features.
Here are some tips to consider when shopping:
Look at motor size (measured in horsepower) to make sure the machine will last. Some makers measure horsepower at continuous duty (the motor's ability to function under a load for a longer time frame), others at peak duty. For those of us over 180 pounds, we need a minimum of 2.0 continuous horsepower.
Examine the belt and deck. The belt should be at least 2 ply, 17 inches wide and 49 inches long. The board thickness should be at least an inch. The deck is like a cushion for our joints, legs, back and feet. For size-friendly considerations, look for a low-impact deck that flexes under the foot plant to absorb the shock without rebounding to cause additional jarring. If you are prone to shin splints, foot and/or back problems, this feature is a must.
Note the frame. The frame supports the belt and deck. Typically, price will tell you what frames are made of certain substances. Standard steel frames run between $399 - $1900. A frame constructed from aircraft aluminum costs considerably higher ($1900 and up) but does not rust, is of lighter weight, easier to move and absorbs impact with greater flexibility.
Factor in features. Lower-priced machines offer basic programming for varying the speed, time, distance, and calories. Typically, they do not call for user information, and the calorie counters are not really reliable. As with most items, the more you pay the more features you get - such as programming that automatically varies your workout by inclines or speed changes via preset programs. Heart rate programming considers your age and weight and will help you achieve an exercise level to achieve maximum fat-burning or cardiovascular benefits. Any treadmill that allows you to factor in these features provides you with a more personalized workout. I recommend these features for those over 200 pounds who may be just beginning a workout regimen.
Check for warranties. Most cover manufacturer defects, not normal wear and tear. Be sure to read the fine print and check for various specifications - such as maximum weight - to avoid invalidating warranty. Many machines come with a lifetime warranty on the frame. The coverage on features and components may be different, ranging from 90 days to 3 years depending on the quality of the machine. Top-of-the-line treadmills usually come with a one-year in-home labor contract. You may be able to buy a renewable extended warranty that covers everything from parts to labor.
Be a common sense consumer. Is the treadmill noisy? Do you like the looks of it? Think about your actual needs and don't let the sales people sell you the most expensive machine if you do not want or need all the bells and whistles offered. Try it out and ask questions.
This new addition will provide you a healthy and safe workout for a long time - provided you don't regret your purchase. Keep your treadmill in a user-friendly place and enjoy the walk. Hook up your tunes (portable or stereo) and imagine a long beach walk, or read a good book while moving along. Remember the golden rule: If it hurts, don't do it - if you find you're having trouble with your knees or ankles or leg circulation, a better choice might be an indoor bike.