Treadmills: How to use them and what to buy for the best results

September 25, 2013

Exercise, Health, Lifestyle, Weight issues

Begin by walking consistently for 30 minutes. Once you achieve 30 minutes, note the distance you walked and set a goal to beat that distance the next time.

Begin by walking consistently for 30 minutes. Once you achieve 30 minutes, note the distance you walked and set a goal to beat that distance the next time.

by Scott White — 

Treadmills are a great source of cardio exercise because they allow you to run indoors on a padded surface. As with any exercise program, when beginning a treadmill program, start slowly — you do not want to kill yourself.

Begin by walking consistently for 30 minutes. Once you achieve 30 minutes, note the distance you walked and set a goal to beat that distance the next time. As you continue to increase your distance, you will soon hit a point where you can’t really improve any further.

At that time, increase the incline to create an uphill workout; then improve on that distance. Once you feel accomplished there, begin jogging, and then running.

For the greatest effect, perform interval training on your treadmill. This means running very quickly for 60 seconds or less — when you stop, you will likely feel as though you are hyperventilating or gasping for air. Do not panic — this is exactly the effect you should expect with this type of high-intensity exercise. Walk for up to 60 seconds until you recover, and then repeat this process 10 to 20 times. Your goal should be to reduce the recovery time with each repetition.

This use of a treadmill will burn many calories and get fat to fly right off your body. Interval training allows you to achieve much more effective fat loss than the traditional training method of running for long durations at your target heart rate.

You must be structurally sound and in fairly good shape to handle this treadmill program, because it is quite intense and increases the heart rate very quickly. This is the regimen a sprinter (low body fat and lots of muscle) would follow.

Treadmills are a great way to get in your workout during the extreme heat of a desert summer or during long, cold winters in places where the low temps actually drop below 40 degrees.

What to look for in a treadmill

Before purchasing your treadmill, you must know how much and what type of training you will perform on it. Lower-cost treadmills tend to break down quickly if you weigh more than 180 pounds or use them for more than walking and light jogging. A heavier person requires a higher-end treadmill because of the force they produce and the high demands they place on the treadmill’s motor and belt. Lower-end treadmills simply can not handle that kind of abuse. For those who just want to perform some light walking, a lower quality, low-cost treadmill should be fine.

Treadmills range in price from a couple hundred bucks to a few thousand dollars. As with most things, you get what you pay for. If you want a higher level of conditioning, purchase a higher-end treadmill. In the long run, spending the extra thousand dollars will get you a treadmill that will last 10 to 20 years, compared with spending several hundred dollars and getting one that will last only a few years.

If your regular cardio schedule requires at least three sessions weekly, purchase a higher quality treadmill that will endure constant use. Before you buy, commit to putting in the time and doing the work, because this is the only way you are going to see results. If you do not make a commitment before you make your purchase, all you will gain is a bulky, expensive clothes rack.

Spend the extra money to purchase a machine with a 2 to 2.5 HP continuous motor and a heavy-duty belt. Make sure the treadmill you purchase has at least a 10 percent incline and a 10 mph speed setting. Professional athletes will want an even higher-end treadmill — one that will advance to at least 15 mph with an incline of 20 percent or higher.

The treadmill should come with plenty of programs. While not necessary to the functionality, they can make your workouts more fun by allowing you to alter your programs to create a different feel or change of pace. Your treadmill should have a minimum 10-year parts warranty, a minimum two-year labor warranty and a lifetime warranty on the deck.

Avoid purchasing a treadmill that folds up, as these tend to be less durable and generally experience more functional problems. This, of course, means you will need to commit some space for it in your home, office or wherever the treadmill will live.

Breakdowns by brand

BodyGuard treadmills are long-lasting and of great value. The strong base and solid suspension of the running surface offers excellent support and comfort.

Life Fitness treadmills have a patented deck surface that provides excellent stability and support for your joints. Most commercial gyms use Life Fitness treadmills. They have many different versions to fit your budget and health needs.

NordicTrack has many different versions of treadmills, including a commercial grade machine that can reach a 15 percent incline; it also comes with a 60-inch belt for that extra running room.

Precore treadmills have excellent suspension that reduces the stress to your joints and back; they also include many great programs, including a quick-start program to get you moving right away.

Star Trac treadmills have been around for many years and are quite reliable. They have many programs and a great running deck. Star Trac has a reputation for offering a higher quality treadmill.

Woodway offers a very high-tech treadmill with a state-of-the-art running surface; it is designed with rubber slats instead of a belt. The top speed setting is 10 to 12 mph and it has an incline of 10 to 15 percent. Woodway treadmills are like running on clouds.


Scott White is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist located in Scottsdale, Ariz., 480-628-1607 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 4, August/September 2005.

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