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A Discussion on Home Treadmills

By: Mark S. Cassidy, MS

Mark Cassidy - Certified Personal Trainer InstructorMost people want and enjoy working-out with others. This is why there are gyms! People can socialize, receive motivation, and learn new techniques by being involved with fitness facilities.

But that does not mean that people also like to have fitness equipment at their home, for those occasions where working-out with others is not an option.

As a Fitness Professional / Strength Coach I have had numerous students, clients and athletes ask me for recommendations when it comes to purchasing in-home fitness related devices. The goals of the specific user have the greatest influence on how I respond to the question. However, there is one piece of fitness equipment that usually comes up right from the jump, from every individual.

“Hey Coach, is there a treadmill you recommend?”

My reply to this is always the same – “You probably don’t want to do that.”

It’s not that I have anything against a treadmill – I use them myself. It’s because of the things that most people never consider when having one in their place of residence. Let me explain….

Treadmill Delivery

Treadmills are not small pieces of equipment. So, putting one to the roof or in the backseat of a car is out of the question. A truck of some sort is going to be required to transport it to your house. They also can be very heavy, which means you will need 2-4 other people to get it out of the truck, then into your house. A paid delivery service may be necessary for installation. Other things that have to be thought of is how big is the door / entrance way, how wide are the hall ways, and are there steps to navigate to get the treadmill to it required location.


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Treadmill Location

Due to a treadmills’ foot-print, you will need a decent size location to keep it. Figuring that a treadmill can be 6-feet by 3-feet (at that is a minimum), along with needing space to access it, you can figure on 28-30 square feet of space. Also, keep in mind that once its ‘there’ – its going to stay ‘there’, due to its size and weight. The type of floor that you place it on can also be of concern. If the flooring is a softer wood, the treadmill may damage the floor, so rubber matting may be necessary.

Treadmill Power Source

Although there are some treadmill models that are self-generated, which means the belts will move by the user themselves, they are not many. This means that you will have to have an electrical outlet to power the treadmill. Because a treadmill can draw quite a bit of electricity through a wall outlet, if too much electrical volume is drawn out of an outlet, that outlet can overheat and/or the circuit breaker in your home’s fuse box may trip, causing the treadmill to stop dead. This abrupt stoppage can be mechanically taxing on the treadmill and physically dangerous for the user. So, you will have to hire a certified electrical contractor to ensure the safety of any electrical outlet in your home, for your treadmill.

Treadmill Motor Strength

The strength of the treadmill motor is critical to the level of its success. Because if the motor is too ‘weak’ for how the user intends to work-out on it, it will break down.

A treadmill’s motor powers the belt. Treadmill motor power is described in terms of horsepower (HP), and you specifically want to know the treadmills’ continuous horsepower (CHP) capabilities. CHP is most useful measurement because it indicates how much power a motor can put out continuously, while in use, versus just when it is at its peak. Treadmill motors vary from a very low 1.5 CHP to full commercial machines with 5.0 CHP motors.

How much treadmill motor power do you need will depends on your type of exercise regimen and your body weight.

For people weighing up to 200 pounds, here are general recommendations:

  • Walking: Choose 2.0 CHP or higher
  • Jogging: Choose 2.5 CHP or higher
  • Running: Choose 3.0 CHP or higher
  • If you weigh more than 200 pounds, then add another 0.5 CHP

Understand that a treadmill which lists it has ‘4 HP’ does not necessarily mean it has ‘4 CHP’.

CHP means that the motor will run at that given horsepower indefinitely without burning up the motor. If you get a treadmill with a motor rated at 4 CHP, it will provide 4 HP for numerous years without a threat to damaging the motor.


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If a treadmill only lists HP of the treadmill, it is really only listing the highest generated horsepower that can be produced by the motor for a very limited amount of time, prior to the motor itself actually ‘burning-out’. You can find peak horsepower ratings listed on lower priced treadmills ranging from 2.5 to 4.0 HP. So, the actual continuous duty rating of these motors is in the 1.25 to 2.0 range, which is extremely low and will not maintain a belt speed that will be very effective. The more CHP the treadmill possesses, the faster and smother the belt will speed up and slow down during a workout.

Treadmill Price

Treadmills on average are the most expensive pieces of fitness equipment in any fitness facility. Although some can be found in the $1000 dollar range; the majority of the ones that have motors required for long term usage and reliability are well above that price. I tell everyone who ask about how much to expect to spend on a reliable treadmill for home use, to be prepared to take $2000 to $4000 dollars out of their wallet.

Conclusion

As I initially stated, I am not against anyone using or purchasing a treadmill. I just strongly feel that when it comes to buying one for your house, there are all the points in this article to consider. It’s the job of fitness professionals and strength coaches to be helpful and informative when we get any and all questions related to our profession. If all of the issues I stated are easily overcome, I would tell the student, client or athlete who asked about purchasing a treadmill – “Have fun and go shopping.”

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