Truthful Talk On Treadmills

Are you tired of waiting in long lines for use of the treadmill at the gym? Or maybe it’s too much of a hassle to drive back and forth to the health club just to use the treadmill, so you decide to buy a treadmill of your own. You head to your local sports-equipment store or the big discount warehouse, try out the different machines, and buy the one that feels best to you. That simple?

How do you know whether it’ll hold up for several years? Will its electrical system and display go haywire? Will the motor burn out? Or will it end up as an extra clothes rack in the corner of your bedroom because it gave up instead of you?

In the September 1999 issue of “Cooking Light” magazine, it states that The American Council on Exercise (ACE), a nonprofit organization that describes itself as America’s “workout watchdog,” recently teamed up with Harris Black International, a leading market-research firm, to conduct a comprehensive home-treadmill survey designed to help you eliminate the lemons in the lineup.

In an Internet survey, more than 7,000 current treadmill owners rated their machines in overall satisfaction and in four specific categories: durability, safety, features and ease of use, and effectiveness of workout. Thirty-four brands were involved, but only seven brands made the A-list. Treadmills cited for overall satisfaction won at least one of the smaller categories–the exceptions are Trimline’s 1400.1 and 2200.1 models, which won solely for durability.

The winners for overall satisfaction, by price:

  • Less than $1200: ProForm swept the category with the following five models: the J8li, the 785EX, the 725EX, the CrossTrainer, and the CrossWalk LS.
  • $1200 to $2000: The PaceMaster Pro-Plus HR shared top honors with three Keys models: the Pro 1000, the Pro 2000, and the MS1200.
  • More than $2000: A triple tie at this price point: the Landice 8700 SST, the Precor M9.25I, and the True Fitness True 450.

Some details to consider when picking out a treadmill:

  • The thickness of the running belt. Two-ply belts are stronger and less likely to curl at the sides than are one-ply belts.
  • The length of the running surface. Longer decks provide more room for a comfortable stride.
  • The percentage of incline. It can range from a low of 2-4%, to a high of 15%. Commercial-grade treadmills often go as high as 25%.
  • Electronic feedback displays of speed, time, and distance are usually standard on most treadmills. Some also display the number of calories burned or heart rate. Most treadmills offer customizable programming capabilities.

Retail purchases of treadmills are up since the increased popularity of walking as an exercise. While running has been a favored American activity since the 1970’s, walking has come into the limelight in the 1990’s; in part because it’s a low-impact exercise that less-fit and older people can do easily.

Whether you walk or run on a treadmill, it’s an activity that has numerous health and physical benefits. “It has great cardiovascular value for the heart, lungs, and circulatory system,” notes Gregory Florez, president of First Fitness, Inc., a Chicago personal-training and consulting firm. “It’s a very efficient way to lose body fat, and since it’s a weight-bearing activity, it has musculoskeletal benefits as well.” If you run on a treadmill at 5.5 to 6.5 m.p.h. with no incline, you will work the quads, hamstrings, and calves. If you don’t watch TV or read, try to keep your arms bent 90 degrees and pumping hard. Or combine your treadmill workouts with a climbing machine for an excellent fat burner.

If you walk on a treadmill at a speed of 3.4 to 4.5 m.p.h. with a 5% incline, you will work the same muscles as above, plus the glutes. Beginners, as well as advanced exercisers, should walk heel-to-toe on the treadmill and keep high intensity throughout the workout.

Virtual technology may be coming to home treadmills. A company in Minneapolis, Minnesota is developing a virtual reality product for stationary bikes, steppers, ski machines, and treadmills. Called, “The Virtue Series,” these CD-ROM virtual “worlds” will enable treadmill users to pretend they’re walking on a desert at sunset or jogging on an alien planet.

Given the convenience of home-based fitness equipment, and the great physical benefits of a treadmill workout, the addition of a technology that can turn a walk into an exotic excursion might just convince you to run out (no pun intended) and buy a treadmill for your home.