Thinking of buying a treadmill? - When shopping around look for a motor with a continuous-duty rating of at least 2.0 horsepower. When buying a treadmill this is the bare minimum; anything less, although cheaper in price will give you an inferior workout and is likely to break down and need repairs.
If you plan to run, not just walk, on your treadmill, or if you weigh more than 180 pounds, don't shop for a treadmill with less than 2.5 hp. A DC-driven motor (as opposed to AC) gobbles less power, and is less expensive to repair should trouble arise. Experts say you should avoid manual treadmills altogether.
The two-ply belt should be no less than 20 inches wide and 55 inches long. According to Prevention Magazine walking editor Maggie Spilner, a smaller belt forces the average walker to shorten his or her stride. If you have long legs, you must have a belt longer than 55 inches.
The deck should be at least a quarter-inch thick. The best decks are low-impact structures that absorb shock by flexing under your foot when it strikes the belt. If you have injuries like shin splints or recurring back/foot problems, this feature is a must.
The display panel should show all the necessary information at once, preferably in large, easy-to-read numbers. A scanning display, which rotates the readouts through one window, can produce a feeling of disorientation because you have to keep your eyes on the panel while you work out. Make sure the display shows speed, distance covered, incline and time elapsed.
Remember when shopping for a treadmill that push-button controls are better than dials or switches. Sliding switches can be imprecise and stubborn to move. You should be able to push control buttons while you're running.
Welded frames are sturdier than bolted frames. The less jarring and jiggling, the better. Although frames are generally made of steel, more expensive models are sometimes constructed of aircraft aluminum. These models absorb shock, are light and easy to move, and don't rust.
Some exercisers think handrails are a nuisance because they impede arm movement, but experts say they're necessary for safety. Rails should be long enough for you to reach without having to walk too close to the front of the treadmill. Note that some models don't have side handrails at all.
Beginners buying a treadmill should look for an incline of at least 10%. A treadmill's maximum incline should suit your fitness level. Beginners will do fine with an incline of up to 10%, but advanced exercisers may want a treadmill capable of 15%.
Walkers considering buying a treadmill need a speed capability of 5 mph, runners need 8 to 11mph. The starting speed should be slow (0.1 to 0.5 mph) to avoid injury. Look for a safety key if you have children. Children and pets should not be able to start the machine by accident.
When shopping for a treadmill go for a model with a panic button or automatic shutoff. If you slip or get into trouble, the power should cut off instantly by means of a button you push or a tether attached to your clothes.
Read the fine print on the warranty. If you're heavier than the warranty specifies, the contract may be void. The frame should have a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects; other components should come with a warranty of one to three years for parts and labor. Avoid 90-day warranties. Finally, when buying a treadmill make sure you can return the treadmill if it doesn't suit you.
Endeavor to gather as much information about the various models of treadmills that are available and what the various specifications and features mean and which you think that you will require.
Seek out information from as many different sources that you can find so that you can build up a consensus view regarding which models would suit both your budget and fitness requirements.