Sunday, 2 March 2008

If getting outside for a walk or run is easier said than done, you may be in the market for a personal treadmill. We take a look at these in-home exercise machines to find out if one stands out from the crowd.


The Basics

  • Treadmill prices vary from just under $1000 to several thousands. Anything under a $1000 likely won’t serve you well.

  • To ensure you stay within your budget, first decide which features you need and which ones are simply "nice to have." Consider the following:

    • Power: Only be concerned with the "continuous power” of the motor. Peak horsepower is irrelevant. If you plan to use your treadmill primarily for walking, look for a continuous-duty motor with at least 2 horsepower. Runners should rev things up to 3 horsepower.

    • Belt: a shorter narrower belt is fine for walking. For running, look for a firm and longer belt (e.g. 60 inches) that is well-cushioned for better shock absorption.

    • Warranty: The frame should be covered for the lifetime of the treadmill; the motor at least 10 years; the rest of the parts between 2 to 5 years; any labour is usually only covered for about 90 days. Depending on how much you spend, you may want to consider buying an extended warranty.

    • Extras: trays and stands to hold reading material, remote controls, water bottles and towels are up to personal taste.

    • Noise: Check out how noisy the motor is when it's running.

    • Deck: your treadmill has to stand up to the impact of running, so make sure it's at least ¾ of an inch thick.

    • Wide Foot Rails: you stand on these to get the treadmill belt started, so make sure that they are not tilted or wobbly.

    • Well-Designed Handrails: close enough to reach, but not in the way of your swinging arms. Look for cushioned ones if you plan to hold onto them while exercising.

    • Easy-To-Use Controls: Must be within reach, easy to set and clearly marked.

    • Dedicated Data Displays: a fancy way to say displays that show important data (speed & incline) immediately and all at once.

    • Programming: the ability to preset, recall and select programs keeps your workouts interesting and challenging, and usually monitor your progress through the program.

    • Pulse Monitor: helps you keep your heart rate at the right level. Chest wrap monitors are the most accurate. Some treadmills automatically adjust speed and incline to keep your pulse in the right range.

    • Unless you know for sure which treadmill you want, experts suggest shopping in your workout gear so you can give it a proper test-run.

Other Considerations

  • Ask about a deal on floor models, as well as affordable financing plans that can help spread the cost over several payments. However, always read the fine print.


We challenged some co-workers to a run/walk-off to see who could log 100 kilometres (62 miles) over a period of a few weeks testing these treadmills:

  • Bowflex: $1,698
  • Vision Fitness: $2,398
  • Nautilus: $3,498
  • Life Fitness: $4,298

Walk/Run Test

  • The Bowflex, a folding treadmill, didn’t seem as sturdy as the others. As the least expensive, the running bed didn’t have much cushion and we all felt it was too hard.

  • The Vision scored top marks for its softer, more comfortable running bed.

  • Life Fitness was the sturdiest of the treadmills and a good choice for multiple users of different body types. It also got points for the extra bells and whistles and the most responsive controls.

  • Nautilus was slightly smaller in size, a more reasonable fit in the home. The running bed wasn’t as soft as the Vision.


Make sure the treadmill you choose is built to last. Also consider the size in your home because you don’t want it to take up your whole living space, or become a dust collector. We had trouble choosing a favourite because all of us had different needs and likes. Choosing a treadmill is a personal thing.

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