Treadmills buying guide

Popular cardiovascular exercise machines, treadmills are a great way of getting fit just from walking, or running, on the spot. Whether you want to go for a gentle stroll or train hard, these versatile machines can be adjusted and programmed to suit your needs. Treadmills are an ideal way of getting some exercise even on the rainiest of days; you can even exercise while watching the TV. Unlike a lot of gym equipment, most treadmills can be easily folded away, adding to their convenience.

Treadmill features

  • Manual or motorised

    There are two basic types of treadmill: manual and motorised. You operate the belt through the action of your feet with a manual treadmill, and stop your workout to change the incline yourself if you want to vary your workout. With a motorised treadmill you can set a constant speed automatically, making your exercise more efficient and the running more natural.

    Look for models that go up to at least 10mph, and have a low starting speed so you can ease into your workout. Higher spec models offer speeds up to 12.5mph.

    You should also consider the size of the motor; it can easily be missed when you're putting together your wish list, but the continuous horsepower rating (hp) is actually very important. The higher the horsepower, the longer the motor can support your weight. A 1hp motor is fine for walking, while 1.5hp should be enough for running at a moderate speed. However, if you're a particularly fast runner you should aim for at least 2hp.

  • Belt

    Choose a treadmill with a belt that's both long enough to take your strides and wide enough to allow you some movement. The more sophisticated models have belts that are designed to absorb shock in order to reduce joint damage.

  • Incline control

    Most treadmills have an adjustable incline level so you can intensify your workout to incorporate more resistance. Most treadmills with adjustable or motorised inclines can offer you a slope of up to 10-15%. Look for a treadmill with a choice of incremental inclines if you want the most flexibility.

  • Body fat measure

    Particularly handy if you're trying to lose a bit of weight, most treadmills will tell you how many calories you've burned up during a session and some even go as far as helping you measure the amount of fat in your body.

  • Heart rate monitors

    Selected treadmills are fitted with a device to measure your heart rate, which is especially useful if you're looking to improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Other treadmill features

There are many other features you might want to consider such as digital displays and built-in speakers so you can connect your MP3 player and enjoy some music while you run. Preset programmes allow you to match your workout to your fitness level, and then build up your routine as you progress to keep you motivated.