Like clothing fads or home dÈcor trends, exercise equipment also has trends. But as exercise machines come and go, the treadmill has maintained its place in the home exercise equipment market. "The treadmill had been pretty steady through the years," says Jim McKillip, store manager of Big 5 Sporting Goods in Medford. "It's a good, simple workout." Many people appreciate the fact that with a treadmill their exercise routine isn't dependent on good weather, a gym schedule or a trip out of the house. And the cushioned decks are often more comfortable than walking on concrete or asphalt.
There are several things to consider, though, before purchasing a treadmill. "The most important thing I think is to make sure you have room for it," says McKillip. While many models can be folded up for storage, a good quality treadmill is still a substantial piece of equipment. Patrick Frey, in-home trainer and owner of TOPFIT Personal Training & Fitness Consulting, says the recommended floor space for a treadmill is approximately 30 square feet. Too small, he says, and "it doesn't take much of a misstep to go off the side." As a guideline, he recommends that a treadmill have a "deck" or walking area at least 17 inches wide by 49 inches long.
When shopping for a treadmill, you will quickly realize that there are plenty of features to choose from. "You're going to find lots of bells and whistles out there," says Patrick Frey of TOPFIT Personal Training & Fitness Consulting. "Some people love them" and find that the extra features keep them interested
and motivated to exercise. Treadmill prices in Medford range anywhere from $100 to $2,500, so how to decide?
"Four hundred dollars would get you a good solid treadmill," says Jim Killip of Big 5 Sporting Goods. Extra features include: a folding deck, preprogrammed workouts, cooling fan, heart rate monitors, cross-training handles, dual cup holders, TV monitors, dual speakers and more.
With treadmills, "you really do get what you pay for," says Frey and recommends that with any treadmill under $1,000, you also consider extended warranties to protect your investment and prolong the life of your machine. The more features on your treadmill, the more there is to malfunction.
And a last item to consider is an equipment mat for under your treadmill to protect your carpets or wood from any lubricant oil or scuffs caused by vibrations or other movement.
Treadmills also come with a variety of options. Some of the more beneficial features that McKillip recommends are a variable speed "with a gradual acceleration" and an adjustable incline. "Incline is very important," he adds. "It makes you work harder." By challenging different muscle groups, you increase the health benefits of your workout. Most treadmills have an electric incline adjustment so that you don't have to interrupt your workout.
To really get a long-term benefit from your treadmill both Frey and McKillip recommend making sure it has an adequate motor. For a person 180 pounds, the minimum recommended rating is two "continuous duty" horsepower. If the rating is given as a peak usage number, it may not be able to maintain the velocity you need as your workouts increase. "The less horsepower it has, the sooner it's going to wear out," says Frey.
Whether buying a new or a used treadmill, give it a test drive before you buy, say both McKillip and Frey. "Use it for 20 minutes or so," says McKillip. "Do a workout. We don't mind." Some things to watch for are stability, a smooth motion and transition during acceleration, and that you don't hear parts rubbing. And be aware of motor noise that may sound louder in your home than in the store, says McKillip. "You hear the motor and belts on some more."
Make sure you can comfortably take a full stride on the deck. "If you're doing a walking motion, you should be letting your arms swing free," reminds Frey. Try jogging on it, even if you don't plan to run. "Once you get started, you might decide to try a jog," says Frey or points out that if other people will be using it, you'll want to allow for their activities, too. Frey also reminds to check that you can maintain your pace at the lowest resistance "so you can last on it."
The last thing to consider? "You've got to know you'll use it," says Frey with a laugh. Choose your features (see sidebar) on what will keep you motivated as you walk your way to better health.