Choosing Treadmills

One of the most popular choices for home gyms, the treadmill can give you a run for your money if you’re looking for high tech heaven.  What do you need in a treadmill for a good workout and how much can you expect to spend if you’re buying a treadmill?

For a decent budget treadmill for a walking program, expect to spend $600 to $1,200.  If you’re a serious athlete and performance and technology are necessities for your workout, you can easily run up to $3,500 for a good model.   Other considerations besides price….


Treadmills have two motors, one for the belt for speed and power, and the other raises and lowers the surface for inclines.  The belt motor must be measured by continuous-duty horsepower, which is the measure of sustained power during the workout.  Peak horsepower is the maximum possible for the motor, so consider the continuous duty horsepower as your guide.   Minimum horsepower requirements for continuous duty are:

  • Walking -  2.0
  • Jogging - 2.5
  • Running - 3.0

If you weigh over 200 pounds, consider adding .5 to these numbers for the best results.

Belt Surface

The width should be 18 inches, there are belts available in the 16 inch width, but unless you’re going to be a casual user and you’re only 5 feet tall, upgrade to the 18 inch width for a walking workout, 20 for jogging and 20 -22 inch widths for running.

Length is based not only on your workout, but your height:

  • Walking  - 50 to 52 inches is adequate, depending on your height.;
  • Jogging requires at least 54 inches; and
  • If you are tall or a runner with long strides, consider a belt with 58 inches or more.



Computer panel displays are either LCD or LED.  It’s more a matter of preference, but LED displays tend to be brighter, making them easier to read during workouts.   The more bells and whistles on the console display, the more motivating it can be to increase speed and inclines and set goals for your workout.

Consider speed, distance, heart rate, time, incline and calories burned for the display.  Calories burned is particularly motivating, since the next time you stuff that cheesecake in your mouth you’ll realize exactly how long your workout will need to be to burn off the calories - and it won't be pretty.


Raising the surface to an incline helps burn more calories faster and can intensify your workout without having to jog or run for those of us with joint issues.

The maximum incline should be 5% - 10%, and many runners prefer 15%.  The best type of incline mechanism tends to be an elevation assembly with a “worm-gear actuator driven electronic elevation motor”.


Treadmills have been known to stop working, particularly the electronics.  Make sure  the warranty covers the parts for more than one year, and has at least a one year service warranty.  A 90 day warranty is not enough.

Make sure you try out the treadmill in the store for at least 10 minutes to make sure it’s stable and comfortable for your workout.