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Why Buy a Home Treadmill?
The top performers in our review of the best treadmills are the NordicTrack Commercial, the Gold Award Winner; the ProForm Pro, the Silver Award winner; and the Sole F80, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a treadmill to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the best 10 products.
Treadmills are a popular exercise machine that simulates the most basic and natural aerobic exercise, walking, with options to quicken or slow your pace depending on how you feel or the fitness goals you have set. Using a treadmill as part of your fitness program, you can experience better cardiovascular health, strengthen your leg muscles, build a healthier immune system and enhance your endurance level.
The best treadmills for home use offer everything a high-end gym treadmill can provide, including a healthy range of inclines, a variety of workout programs, heart rate monitoring, and a top speed that allows you to maximize your pace without feeling any lag or being forced to slow down. Extra features such as audio ports and cooling fans are also helpful in keeping you engaged and comfortable during your workout.
As you browse the treadmills in our review, including our top picks, know that we have tested and reviewed a variety of other exercise equipment and tools to help you achieve your overall fitness and exercise goals. For example, if you experience any knee or other joint pain, experts suggest using an elliptical machine rather than a treadmill to alleviate the stress to your joints. We have reviewed the industry's best elliptical machines in case you decide this is a machine you need. Additionally, if you are incorporating an incline treadmill into your fitness routine in order to build muscle mass, check out our picks for home gyms, weight machines that target your core muscle groups and are specifically designed for muscle building and toning.
If weight loss is your primary goal, check out an online diet service. These programs help you monitor your food intake, motivate you through online mentoring or connect you with a workout buddy in your area to encourage you as you work toward your weight loss goals.
Strengths of a Treadmill: What to Look For
When you're choosing a treadmill, three design areas are important to look at: how the machine performs, the workout features included, and any accessories or features of the treadmill. Performance focuses on key design features that maximize your workout experience for your fitness routine. Workout features include the treadmill console and the options available to break up the monotony of the exercise. Special inclusions make the overall workout experience much more enjoyable. Here are some of the standout details that we discovered while reviewing the best home treadmills.
All of the treadmills we reviewed offer the option to adjust the incline level of the walking area. This makes your workout more challenging, since you are moving “uphill.” This is a great option for losing weight, because the greater the incline, the more strenuous the workout and the more calories you burn. The big difference is in how steep the incline can go. Typically, most treadmills can incline about 12 percent. A few models, such as the Precor Energy, incline up to 15 percent, creating an even greater workout challenge.
One standout feature of both the NordicTrack Commercial and the ProForm Pro treadmills is the ability to decline by 3 percent. This simulates walking downhill, which works a different part of your leg. The rest of the treadmill machines on our review don’t decline, but stay flat at their lowest points.
Another important factor to look at is how fast the treadmill can go. While this isn’t a big deal if you are walking, it is if you want to run, especially if you are training for a marathon or other foot race. The average human runs at a pace between 6 and 9 mph. The top speed of the Spirit XT, and most other treadmills in our review, is 12 mph.
If you are taller than 6’5”, note the length of the running surface of the incline treadmill. People this tall typically have a long stride and need a longer surface to comfortably walk or run on. Treadmills with 60 inches of surface length accommodate tall individuals quite well. Along with our top three treadmill picks, the Vision Fitness TF has a surface length of 60 inches.
Almost as important as the performance of the treadmill are the workout features. Preprogramed workout features let the treadmill maintain consistency throughout the workout depending on the setting you choose. For example, for basic weight loss, a steady pace is sufficient, but other programs such as hill-climbing, cross-country and aerobic options offer more challenging routines with more resistance. The more presets you have, the more versatile your machine. Adding in more resistance or a steeper incline gives you even more workout options. The NordicTrack Commercial, our top pick, has 38 workout programs, double the amount a typical treadmill comes with, and the LifeSpan TR has 21 presets, which is also an impressive amount.
As part of your workout regime, it is important to keep track of your heart rate to ensure it is within healthy ranges. It is common for treadmills to include heart rate monitors on hand grips that you hold for a few seconds while the console tracks and records your heart rate, both while you are starting and throughout your workout. Most of the treadmills we reviewed are capable for monitoring your heart rate wirelessly using a chest strap. This method of tracking is especially helpful when you are running or in the midst of a more rigorous or fast-paced workout that would be interrupted by grasping the hand rails. The chest strap lets you continue your routine while still tracking your heart rate. Most of the incline treadmills include the chest strap, but a few require you to purchase the wireless monitor separately.
All treadmills come with water bottle holders and book rests to make your exercising time more comfortable. The best treadmills for home use include a few extra features that help them stand out above the basic machines. These features include touchscreen consoles, workout videos programmed to run on the console screen, and a web browser for tracking and sharing your results online. These extras are not very common, and many users find that using their own videos or a top-notch fitness tracker, such as the Fitbit that we have reviewed as part of our fitness tracker review, is sufficient and more cost-effective than these advanced accessories.
Folding treadmills, such as the Horizon Fitness T, allow you to pull the running surface up and lock it into place, making it easier to store the treadmill out of the way. This is also a great security feature, since exercise equipment can be fascinating to curious children and cause great harm if played with.
Our Final Thoughts & Recommendations
Treadmills are a staple of home gyms. The best treadmills offer diversity to accommodate multiple users with different fitness and exercise goals while still giving you the value and standard of a commercial gym.
The NordicTrack Commercial, which won our Gold Award, can accommodate someone who weighs 300 pounds, provides a 60-inch-long running surface, and both adjusts up to a 15 percent incline and lowers to a -3 percent decline. You can use its touchscreen to browse the web, choose one of its 38 prepared workouts or go to Google Maps to select training routes.
Our Silver Award winner, the ProForm Pro, gives you 34 preset programs, allows an unlimited number of users to track their progress over time and operates very quietly. This durable treadmill also features a video screen so you can pick prepared workouts or customize your own, and it has a shelf to hold a tablet at a level where you can read and access it.
The Sole F80, which earned our Bronze Award, gives you a 15 percent maximum incline so you can increase the intensity of your exercise session as you progress. This is a great choice if you live in a small home, as it is a folding treadmill, so you can store it easily after workouts. It comes with speakers so you can attach your iPod or MP3 player and zone out to some tunes while getting fit.
Whatever your fitness needs, a treadmill is a great machine to help you excel in your goals. Exercise equipment like this is an investment, but the best home treadmills are effective once you decide to take control of your health, boost your immune system, increase your self-confidence and improve your well-being.
Contributing Reviewer: Renee Shipley