A treadmill is an excellent choice for a piece of home equipment — and you’re already thinking about the right things regarding motor and weight capacity, which are essential for long-term performance. Some other things to consider are:
• Handrails and deck size. Select a model with rails positioned so your arms don’t bang against them when you let go. Make sure the deck is wide enough for comfort, and long enough so your feet don’t hit the back of the belt as you walk.
• Speed and incline. For walking, opt for a model with a speed range of at least 1.0-5.0mph, increasing by 0.5 mph increments. If you plan to run on it at some point, choose one with a higher speed range. Incline should go up to at least 10%.
• Safety. Make sure the treadmill has a safety feature designed to stop the belt immediately if you don’t feel well or fall. Most models have a red emergency button in the middle of the console or a breakaway key that you clip to your clothing.
• Bells and whistles. Higher-end models come with features like built-in screens for internet, TV, and video-based training programs; repairs can be very expensive for this type of feature. Do you really need to surf the web while you walk? Probably not; it’s distracting. (Note — please don’t read while walking on your treadmill, either; when books and magazines fall down they create a tripping hazard, and I’ve seen people get seriously injured this way.) Most treadmills come with a variety of preprogrammed workouts, such as hill courses, interval training, or 10K training. Keep in mind that all you really need is a manual speed and incline control; flashy programs may go unused if you can’t customize them to your specific needs and goals. Built-in fans can be nice, but often lack the power to cool you off well; you may wish to set up a full-size fan near your treadmill instead.
• Maintenance. Some models feature self-lubing belts; if yours doesn’t, you’ll need to get a lube kit and get on a schedule of doing this work yourself. It’s not a huge deal, but it can be cumbersome.
• Noise. Spend some time on the treadmill at the store to get a feel for how smoothly it operates and whether or not it makes a lot of noise. There’s nothing more annoying in the middle of a workout than rattles, squeaks, and clicks.
• Price. Because your treadmill will get a lot of use, buy the best one you can afford. Don’t buy it at your local one-stop sporting goods center or drugstore; the cheap ones are flimsy. Retail fitness equipment stores typically offer home versions of gym-quality machines; they often offer delivery, assembly, and maintenance, as well. Score a deal by shopping the sales, purchasing a demo model, and asking for a cash discount. A good treadmill will cost you, but will last longer and serve you better — think of it as a long-term investment in your health and quality of life.
Be sure to put your treadmill in a pleasant place in your home – preferably near a window, and where you’ll see it every day; not in a dark basement or a cluttered spare room. Make your workout experience as enjoyable as possible so you’ll look forward to your daily walk.