First things first, decide whether a treadmill is for you. Before you invest several thousand dollars in a treadmill only for it to end up being a clothes hanger, you have several things to consider. With so many people purchasing exercise equipment that they don't use, the market is full of used exercise equipment in excellent condition and some in not so excellent condition. We'll address this in later paragraphs. Where do you start? Try checking your local newspaper for individuals selling their equipment, yard sales, and estate sales. You can also find some real bargains via online sources such as online classifieds and eBay. Many areas also have second hand sporting goods stores that sell used fitness equipment. Why not pay them a visit and see what they have to offer? The savings can be significant.
Here are the some great reasons why to buy a treadmill:
1. The treadmill will save you time. You can set your workout schedule and you don't have to worry about getting to a gym early enough to find an open machine, yours is always available.
2. No excuses, it's in your house, get off your butt and use it.
3. The treadmill will create opportunities for your kids to be present while you are exercising. Your son or daughter can work on a homework assignment or coloring book and there's no daycare or babysitter to worry about.
4. No more gym fees. Investing in a treadmill at home means no more spending $25 to $30 a month on a gym membership just to use their equipment. Or even worst spending that money every month and NOT going.
First Things First: Treadmill History 101
Believe it or not, treadmills weren't always meant for human use. The first treadmills were invented in 1875. Called “level power” treadmills, they came in either large or small, the large ones were used by horses to power threshing machines, and the smaller variety were used by dogs and sheep to power butter churns. It wasn't until 1952 that cardiologist Robert Bruce, along with his colleague Wayne Quinton, developed a treadmill designed for humans to use. Quinton eventually sold his interest to Stairmaster and the rest was, well, history. You may have heard of Quinton treadmills. The world has proven that the human treadmill was a great idea, its longevity and popularity speak volumes. Sears alone is reported to retail over a billon dollars worth of treadmills a year. The Sporting Goods Manufacturers' Association maintains that consumers spend more money on treadmills than any other fitness equipment designed for home exercise. There has never been a single year since their first commercial production that treadmill sales have declined. If you require further proof, take a look in any gym. You won't find many of the pieces of equipment peddled by personal trainers on late-night infomercials. They may be surrounded by much hype, but aren't always as glorious as they claim to be. And usually cannot not take a real exercise regimen. Treadmills, on the other hand, have consistently proven their usefulness and solid construction over the years, which is why they're staples in every workout facility. Does not matter if it's a commercial gym or your local apartment building workout area, chances are you will find a treadmill.
According to a study conducted by the Medical College of Wisconsin and the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, a sixty-minute run on a treadmill will burn an average of 705 – 865 calories – more than other standard fitness equipment such as rowing machines (at 606 – 739 calories per hour), stationary bicycles (595 – 604 calories), cross-country ski machines (595 – 678 calories), and stair machines (637 – 746 calories). But that's only the beginning of the benefits offered by the treadmill.
The news is in, and medical experts agree that walking is great exercise. Whether it is a daily power walk around the neighborhood or just a stroll around the block, walking is a great way to lose weight and gain fitness. Unfortunately, however, the weather does not always cooperate when it comes to getting the exercise we need. When it is too rainy, too cold, or too hot outside, it can be quite difficult to keep up with even the most well intentioned exercise regimen. That is perhaps why a treadmill can be such a great purchase, and why treadmills are such popular pieces of exercise equipment. A quality treadmill has a number of important advantages over many other kinds of exercise equipment.
They're good for any fitness level. Whether you're just starting your exercise regime or are an old pro, you can find a speed setting that will give you a great cardiovascular challenge.
They're adjustable. Maybe you feel that you need only a light workout or two or three times a week with a treadmill, you can vary your intensity accordingly.
They're versatile. Technology has made it possible for today's treadmills to offer a variety of options. You can choose programs that focus on cardio or fat burning. You can work to improve your speed. You can simulate running uphill. There are pre-set programs, or you can combine varying levels of incline and speed. You may also want to program your own workout.
They're low-impact, but not impact free. You won't reach your goal of cardiovascular fitness if you can't exercise, and you can't exercise if you're injured. Running (or walking) on a treadmill is a safe bet. Their surfaces absorb impact and lessen pressure on critical joints much better than running on concrete or asphalt. The chances for injury are greatly lessened with low-impact exercise. Most treadmills have a safety key or safety shut down system just in case you should fall, they will turn off instantly.
They're convenient. Raining? Snowing? Blistering heat wave? No problem. Treadmills can be used under any weather condition, so you'll never have to get a rain jacket or sweater in order to use one. Plus, most treadmills available on the market today have places to keep your water bottle, towel and reading material. On some of the new treadmills you can plug your MP3 or iPod right into the treadmill console. Some have TV's and the internet on them. And, of course, a workout will always fit into any schedule. For example if you get home from work, it's already dark outside, and you don't feel comfortable walking alone, you can always hop on the treadmill. No excuses!
If you're in the market for a treadmill, you may be confused (and surprised!) by the different types and terms you'll encounter. There are residential home treadmills, light commercial and commercial treadmills. Folding ones, motorized and non-motorized it's enough to make a novice want to buy a pair of running shoes and hit the road. Let's break it down a bit and compare the ins and outs of each.
Motorized vs. non-motorized. On a non-motorized, or “manual,” treadmill, your feet do all the work. If you slow down or stop, so does the treadmill. Manual treadmills can be difficult to get started, and if you desire a change of incline during your workout, you have to stop the machine, get off, adjust the incline level, and get it started again. In a nutshell, there's really no advantage to buying a manual treadmill as opposed to a motorized one. The reason cited most often is the cost. Manual machines are much cheaper than their motorized counterparts, but it's important to remember that they're not usually constructed as well, either. If it's cost-effectiveness you're concerned with, it isn't hard to find slightly used motorized treadmills for a fraction of what they'd cost brand new. We'll discuss this at more length in a minute. Think of all the people who buy treadmills then never use them and are willing to part with them just to get them out of the way! My thought is if you are looking for a manual treadmill just walk outside or inside and save yourself some time and money.
Some other considerations that you must address before purchasing any exercise equipment would include number of users, maximum weight of the users, and frequency of use. Also know that all treadmills are rated for a maximum user weight. A user exceeding the maximum weight rating chances cracking the walking deck or at worse burning out the moving parts rather quickly. Lower end models generally are rated at a maximum of 250 pounds. It is also recommended that you purchase a treadmill with a CHP (Continuous Horsepower) motor as opposed to a THP (Total Horsepower) motor. Lower end treadmills will have a DC powered motor, while many commercial treadmills may have AC powered motors.
Also check the application of the treadmill, most residential treadmills are labeled for “In Home Use” only. The warranty will be void if used in a gym or other commercial type setting i.e.: condominium or apartment workout rooms. Most residential treadmills will use a regular 110 volt outlet, while most commercial treadmills may use 220 volt outlet. If you're confused about which type of motorized treadmill to buy, it pays to do a little research and comparison. Ideally, you'll want to purchase a machine that has 1.5 – 2.5 CHP motor.
OK, after all this you still want a treadmill?
1. Before You Head Off To Make A Purchase
Take into account how much space you have available. Obviously, if you live in a small apartment or have a limited amount of space, you're not going to want a large treadmill. You need to know how much space you have to store and use the equipment. Fortunately, there are pieces of fitness equipment available that you can fold and easily store. If you're pressed for space, these can be an excellent alternative to bulky equipment. You must realize that most full size treadmills will take up a foot print (floor space) of 3 feet wide by 6 feet long. Most ICON Fitness treadmills do fold, you will find these treadmills at your big box retailers like Sears, Costco and Wal Mart. Also at specialty retailers like Dick's Sporting Goods and The Sports Authority. They are sold under many of the following brand names, Nordic Track, Pro Form, Weslo, Weider, Epic, Healthrider, Gold's Gym, Free Motion, ICON, Reebok, Body Fit, IMAGE, iFit.com, Sears, Horizon, Ironman and Smooth, just to name a few. As a side note in 2007 some of the manufactures also starting making ellipticals that fold, but that is a totally different subject.
2. Consider The Expense Of The Appropriate Treadmill
This sounds like a no brainer right, the cheaper the better. But you need to consider how much would the treadmill you “need” cost new. When I say “need” I mean, “runner vs. walker”, “Usage vs. number of users”. Don't be penny wise and dollar foolish. Not every less expensive treadmill is a good deal. The phrase “you get what you pay for” most certainly applies to exercise equipment. If you are a serious exerciser or runner you will need to spend more money to get a model that will last and offers features that most runners expect. If you want a treadmill and you are a serious runner then a budget for a new treadmill might be in the $ 1500.00 to $ 3,500.00 dollar range. This would be considered a Light Commercial Treadmill. If you are a walker, a few times a week, for only 30 minutes at a time then your new treadmill budget might be in the $ 700.00 to $ 1,500.00 dollar area. This is considered a Residential Treadmill. So if you are a serious exerciser the new treadmill average would be $ 2,500.00 dollars. On the other hand a purchasing a used light commercial treadmill you might consider spending in the $ 800.00 to $ 1,500.00 dollar range.
If you are a walker your new average treadmill budget would be $ 1,000.00 dollars. Then you should consider spending $ 400.00 to $ 700.00 dollars for the used residential treadmill. No one says you have to have the fanciest equipment in order to meet your fitness goals. Even if you're on a tight budget, you have lots of available options. A few sets of dumbbells may be all you need to build and tone muscle and something as simple as a jump rope can give you an excellent cardiovascular work out. Don't underestimate these simple solutions! You may want to give them a try before investing in a treadmill that takes up space. After all, who wants to spend money an elaborate treadmill that may become a clothes hanger?
3. Establish Your Exercise Goals
This should always be a high priority. Exercise goals should be clearly thought out before considering the purchase of any type of fitness equipment. You don't know how many customers I ask, how often do you use the treadmill? They will tell me at great length the amount of usage the treadmill is getting and then I will check the “hours used” function on the treadmill, only to find out that after 5 years of ownership, the treadmill has less than 100 hours usage. Is your goal to achieve better cardiovascular health or is it to build and tone muscle? If cardiovascular health is your primary goal, a treadmill, stair climber, elliptical, upright bike or a recumbent bike might be the best option. If you want to tone or build muscle, choose a machine that allows you to do resistance training, preferably with weights. This could be a cable system, free weights or resistance bands.
4. Features, Features, Features
Decide what's important to you. What is the maximum speed? Does the treadmill incline? If so, how high of a percentage? Do you need programs? Do you want to make your own programs? How about items like fans, TV's, orthopedic walking belts, large console displays, book holder. Does the treadmill only have front rails or does it also have side rails? Heart monitors, did you need this feature for medical reasons? Do you want a model with a wireless heart rate detector? If so, is the treadmill capable of this feature and if it is, will this be an additional expense?
5. Ok, Ready Set Shop
Hit the used exercise equipment stores, if you need to feel and touch your purchase. Some areas have “Play It Again Sports” stores which specialize in used equipment. Check the Yellow Pages. But you may find better discounts on-line. Just like shopping for a new car, the best time for purchasing a used treadmill is when the new models start coming out for the Christmas shopping season. The Christmas to New Year's Eve time is the “season” for retailers of exercise equipment. This is due to the fact that most exercise equipment buyers find a need to get in shape for the holidays, with company parties on the horizon, and New Years resolutions right around the corner. They may want to trade up to a better model and you may get a great deal on a used one at this time. Purchasing a used or reconditioned treadmill from a dealer can definitely be a smarter purchase. The exercise equipment dealer will usually have done all the maintenance and replaced any needed parts. They will clean the treadmill and make sure it is safety ready for its new owner. The dealer will usually offer delivery, setup and some type of limited parts and labor warranty. You may have to pay a little more money to purchase from a reputable exercise equipment dealer, but the added expense may well be worth it. Especially if they include a warranty, delivery and setup all for one price. Can you purchase an extended warranty? I've always believed that extended warranties are money well spent, especially since treadmills can be expensive to repair.
Always be cautious on purchasing a used treadmill from a private party. Have you heard of “Buyer Beware”? Well if that saying ever was appropriate it is here and now. Do you know that most consumers when purchasing a treadmill whether new or used only “test” it for an average of 30 seconds? That's right; they walk on the treadmill for 30 seconds and make a major decision. Large manufactures have timed customers without them knowing and this is a proven fact, 30 seconds. Now, why do I mention this, because treadmills tend to take a beating, and one of the biggest technical problems a treadmill can have is that it will shut down after 30, 40 or 60 minutes. It's over heating, it may have a bad motor, worn walking belt or other electrical problems. So will your 30 second test run tell you that this “Great Deal” of a treadmill won't be such a great deal when you get it home and it shuts down during your first workout? Treadmills can be big and heavy, not for the average person to be lugging around.
You may have to pay a little more money to purchase from a reputable exercise equipment dealer, but think of the time and effort you may save. Are you shopping on eBay, Craig's List or some other internet sites? Check closely, many internet deals are for “Local Delivery Only”. Do you have to pick it up and set it back up once you get it home? How will you get it home? Do you know how to un-assemble the treadmill and re-assemble it without breaking it? You may have to un-assemble the treadmill just to get it through doorways. How old it the treadmill? Even though you may be hearing that it was only used once by my grandmother, beware, especially if it's over 10 years old. Personally, I wouldn't purchase a treadmill over 10 years old, so be careful. And of course no matter where you are buying the used treadmill from negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.
Bottom line, if you've decided that a treadmill is for you, you must remember that not every less expensive treadmill is for you and it may not necessarily be a good deal. It pays to be well educated with well defined fitness goals before making a purchase of an expensive piece of fitness equipment you may never use. After all, do you really want to look at that abandoned clothes hanger for a treadmill every time you go home? But you can get a “Great” deal with a little education and patience.