The Best Treadmills of 2017

When the ground outside is slick with rain or snow, running on a treadmill becomes an excellent option. In the warmth of the indoors, athletes can run at fast paces or moms can walk for fitness. With different settings, runners can train at the proper pace and inclines for upcoming races. Anyone can walk on a treadmill for a variety of health benefits. Although many people head to the gym to use a treadmill, home versions are becoming more affordable. Safe from cars and other outdoor hazards, home treadmills can be an excellent choice for daily exercise.

Benefits of Owning a Treadmill

A treadmill at home makes exercising easy and accessible. The health benefits of regular exercise are numerous. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight. Burning calories while running or walking means that the calories consumed are used for energy instead of converted to fat. Over time, people can lose weight from daily exercise on a treadmill. Exercising can also improve mood. Walking and running stimulates brain chemicals that promote happiness and relaxation. Regular exercise also boosts energy by directing oxygen and nutrients to tissues. Falling asleep faster and into a deeper sleep is also a common result of regular exercise. With a home treadmill, daily exercise is available in the room next door. People can quickly start to reap the benefits of exercise.

There are also unseen benefits to daily exercise. A few minutes walking or running on the treadmill each day can combat heart disease. The activity promotes healthy cholesterol levels. Increased blood flow from exercising can also strengthen the heart and reduce the resting heart rate. These improvements make heart disease less likely. Treadmills provide an additional health benefit because walking is a weight-bearing exercise. Regular treadmill use can increase bone density. Denser, stronger bones decrease the risk of osteoporosis. Although all types of exercise provide a health benefit, treadmill use provides added value as a weight-bearing exercise.

Treadmills may mimic running outdoors, but there are advantages to running on the surface of a treadmill as opposed to dirt or asphalt. With a consistent and flat surface, treadmills provide a comfortable running surface. Running outdoors, in contrast, means contending with rocks and debris, hard asphalt and puddles. Even injured feet can sometimes walk on a treadmill because it is more forgiving than walking outdoors.

Best Treadmills

Another health benefit of exercising indoors is safety. Running or walking outdoors can be hazardous. Many people run on crowded city streets, where cars, bikes, and pedestrians pose obstacles. At night, running becomes even more dangerous. Reflective clothing can help cars to see runners, but it's still a gamble. Investing in headlamps and light-up armbands may be necessary for nighttime walks. It requires an investment in the proper clothing and gear to continually run outside. Treadmills, in contrast, are typically in a well-lit and warm environment.

Treadmills also provide a reprieve from the weather. Rain and snow conditions can create slippery spots on sidewalks and trails. Falling on ice two miles from home is no fun for anyone. In snow-bound areas, athletes can still train year-round on treadmills. People can also typically adjust the temperature and humidity of the room in which the treadmill is located. It can be comfortable at all times. Home treadmills provide a safe and dry space to exercise year-round.

Improved form is another potential health benefit of treadmills. Outdoors, runners cannot easily evaluate how their feet strike the ground or the angle of their knees. Inside, on a treadmill, runners can set up a nearby mirror and observe their form. Awkward feet placement or pinwheeling arms become more easily noticed when reflected back to the runner in a mirror. Runners and walkers can adjust their strides to improve their form. The advantage is that better form can lead to fewer injuries and more efficient running. Practicing form on treadmills can even improve form when running or walking outdoors.

Treadmills can also help walkers and runners be more consistent in their pacing. Outdoors, it is common to walk up hills and run flats. Even with a smart watch, it's difficult to keep a consistent pace. With a treadmill, athletes can simply set the pace and stay there. A steady pace is beneficial for racing and building endurance. Many training programs require that runners train at a particular pace to meet their goal times for the race. Treadmills make it easier to find and stick to the proper pace for each runner or walker.

Best Treadmills

Many treadmills also provide custom workouts, which is like having a digital trainer. The benefit of human trainers is that they can adjust the workout to specific needs. Some people want to build endurance. Others want to burn fat. Some treadmills have workouts optimized for each of these needs. A fat burning workout will adjust the pace and incline throughout the workout for maximum fat-burning. These settings add variety to workouts and allow people to use custom workouts for their specific needs.

More experienced runners and walkers also have the advantage of customizing their own treadmill workouts. People can adjust their speeds and inclines as needed. An athlete that is training for the Boston Marathon in a flat place like Kansas can mimic the incline of hills on the race course. Runners and walkers are not limited to the geography of their area. Many different inclines and speeds can be simulated on treadmills.

One of the greatest assets of the home treadmill is accessibility. If it's easy to walk into an adjacent room and exercise, it is more likely that people will run and walk. No matter the time of the year or weather, anyone can receive the benefits of exercise from treadmill use. A good night's sleep and a healthy body weight are just a few reasons to consider purchasing a home treadmill.

Different Kinds of Treadmills

Although there are many varieties of accessories, the two major types of treadmills are motorized and non-motorized. Motorized treadmills are typically powered by an electric motor. Non-motorized or “manual” treadmills are powered by the user. The user has to use her feet to push the belt backward to start and maintain the turning. Each type has its benefits and disadvantages.

Manual treadmills are typically a better option for walkers than for runners. Since users must maintain the speed of the belt using their feet, it's difficult to get it going fast enough for consistent running. However, manual treadmills are often cheaper than the motorized type. They are also typically lighter, foldable and smaller to store. Some newer versions even come with magnetic resistance, which can be used to make walking more strenuous. Manual treadmills are a simple option for people that want to walk more.

Motorized treadmills are what most people think of when they visualize a treadmill. A small electrical motor spins the belt for the runner or walker. There are many sub-sets of motorized treadmills. Some are better for walking than running. The models optimized for walking are shorter in length, typically less than 50" along the belt. Walkers take shorter strides than sprinting runners. Additionally, walking treadmills often have less powerful motors.

For example, a motor for a walking treadmill might only reach 4mph. In contrast, more powerful motors can reach 12mph. Motorized treadmills intended for running will have the more powerful motor and have a length greater than 50". Almost all motorized treadmills have an incline function, which raises the incline of the treadmill. However, some incline adjustments are manual while others are digital. Manual adjustments require getting off of the treadmill. Digital incline adjustments can be performed while the treadmill is in use. Motorized treadmills come in many different models; the best one depends on the user's needs for length, speed, and incline.

Best Treadmills

Another key difference between treadmills that users ought to consider is whether they can be folded for storage. A treadmill can take up more than 5 feet in a room. If it folds up, it can be stored out of the way when it is not in use. Most manual treadmills can be folded. Motorized treadmills come in both foldable and not foldable versions. Some more expensive motorized treadmills will even fold themselves up electrically. For those with limited storage space, a foldable treadmill may be a better choice.

You can also differentiate Treadmills by their features. A manually inclined treadmill is different from a digitally inclined treadmill. One common feature in motorized treadmills is a heart rate monitor. This device takes the user's pulse. The heart rate can be a valuable piece of data. Users can monitor their heart rate to make sure it doesn't go too high when exercising. Other users may be interested in a phone charging or phone connectivity feature. Some motorized treadmills can even sync data to apps through Bluetooth. Choosing a motorized treadmill allows users to select these features if desired.

Manual treadmills, though inexpensive and simple, are not as commonly purchased as motorized treadmills. Motorized treadmills offer a variety of different features, like incline, heart rate monitoring and phone connectivity. Choosing the right type depends on the features desired.

NordicTrack T 6.5 S Treadmill

A familiar brand name, the NordicTrack T 6.5 S motorized treadmill comes loaded with features for runners. With a longer 55” length and speeds up to 12mph, runners can sprint fast and with full strides. Hill workouts become easier too because the T 6.5 D has a digital incline adjustment. Users can adjust the incline between 1% and 10%. 

Best Treadmills

With 20 workouts preloaded onto the machine, there are plenty of options to choose. Runners and walkers can also plug their phones into the built-in sound system to enjoy workout music. Although full of features, the NordicTrack is not foldable and the longer belt length may take up more of your living room than the less expensive models.

PROS

  • Program Variety
  • Folding Design
  • FlexSelect Cushioning
  • Inexpensive

CONS

  • Minimalistic Console
  • Noisy Motor

AFG Sport 5.5AT Electric Folding Treadmill

Like many models over $500, the ARF Sport 5.5AT comes with digital incline adjustment and a built-in audio system for connected phones. The specifications are similar to the NordicTrack, but AFG Sport only reaches 10mph. It also comes with nine preloaded workouts instead of 20. However, it still has the longer 55" length for runners. It also features a fan to blow cool air into the faces of runners, along with a heart rate monitor. 

Best Treadmills

Unlike the NordicTrack, the AFG Sport does fold for easier storage. However, users should keep in mind that the models with digital incline adjustments tend to be heavier. The AFG Sport weighs 212 pounds, as compared to the 52 lb Trac Pro 735W.

PROS

  • Quiet Motor
  • Easy Storage
  • Built-In Speakers
  • Built-in Fan

CONS

  • Narrow Track
  • Short Support Arms

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7515 Smart Treadmill

For those that like climbing hills, the SF-T7515 offers an extra digital incline adjustment, reaching 12%, or 7 degrees. Climbing hills can be rough, so the SF-T7515 only reaches a top speed of 8 mph. However, walkers can benefit from slower speeds and significant incline, which can bump up heart rates without need to run fast. 

Best Treadmills

The treadmill will display the heart rate as walkers climb up the hills. This model does offer a couple of other unique features, like an estimated BMI calculator and Bluetooth phone pairing to the built-in audio system. These fun features make the SF-T7515 a good option for runners and walkers alike. Space-conscious exercisers should note that this model is not foldable, though.

PROS

  • Sturdy
  • Easy Assembly
  • Compact

CONS

  • Narrow Track

LifeSpan TR2000e Electric Folding Treadmill

A unique feature of this motorized treadmill is that it can fold itself electrically. A push of the button will adjust the treadmill from flat to folded. When laid flat, it has many of the features of similar models. The top speed is 11mph, second only to the NordicTrack on this list. The TR2000e also has digital incline adjustments, 15 levels in total. 17 workouts will get new users burning calories right away. 

Best Treadmills

The USB connectivity links users to a free club account that saves the results of the exercise. A paid upgrade to Bluetooth connectivity allows users to connect to any app to save results. For those that like tracking their data automatically, the free app or paid Bluetooth upgrade makes this treadmill appealing.

PROS

  • Ease of Use
  • Easy to Move
  • Quiet

CONS

  • Short and Narrow Track
  • No Fan
  • Low Horsepower Motor

Body Solid T50 Endurance Cardio Walking Treadmill

This specialized treadmill is intended for active seniors. It is one of the few options with an orthopedic walking belt. Another unique feature is the wide rear entry ramp for stepping onto the orthopedic belt. A long padded handle nearly the length of the treadmill provides a secure grip for entering the treadmill. The top speed is only 5mph, but that is plenty for most walkers. 

Best Treadmills

Other senior-friendly features include large buttons and easy-to-read displays of time, speed, distance, heart rate and calories. With the unique features of this treadmill, seniors too can reap the benefits of walking daily.

PROS

  • Full-length Hand Rails
  • Easy Access Ramp
  • Perfect for Seniors

CONS

  • No Mp3 Player Functionality
  • Does Not Fold

Weslo Cadence G 5.9 Treadmill

The Cadence G 5.9 treadmill is a motorized foldable treadmill. It comes with two positions of incline, which can be set manually. Like many motorized treadmills, the Cadence G 5.9 comes with a heart rate monitoring system. The speed can be adjusted from 0 to 10mph. One nice feature is the six trainer designed workouts. Users won't find any phone charging ports on this model though, which is typical for models under $500.

Best Treadmills

In all, the treadmill is good for both walking and running, though, with a length of 50 inches, taller runners might find the length a little short. However, the shorter length makes the treadmill easy to fold and store. For more information on this machine, check my full review here.

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Special Programs
  • Compact, Foldable

CONS

  • Small Track
  • Short Warranty

Exerpeutic TF1000 Ultra High Capacity Walk to Fitness Electric Treadmill

Designed specifically for walking beginners, the Exerpeutic TF1000 is a motorized foldable treadmill. The 1.5 horsepower engine is quieter than more robust models. However, the maximum speed of the treadmill is only four mph. This is a great speed for walkers, but runners might find it slow. The TF1000 can be a great option for those just starting to use a treadmill. 

Best Treadmills

Unlike most models of its class, the TF1000 supports up to 400 lbs, has an extra-wide treadmill belt and boasts long safety handles. The TF1000 has a variety of features, including heart rate monitoring and two angle manual incline adjustment.

PROS

  • High Capacity
  • Good Value
  • Safety Rails and Key
  • Compact
  • Good Warranty

CONS

  • Short Track
  • Poor Impact Absorbtion
  • No Incline
  • No Programs

Confidence Power Trac Pro 735W Motorized Electric Folding Treadmill

Another foldable motorized treadmill option, the Trac Pro 735W is particularly compact and light (52 lbs). At only 47” in length, it takes up less space than many similar models, even when ready to use. With the shorter length, taller users might find this model better for walking than running. The 600W motor can boost speeds to 6.2 mph. This top speed is more suited to jogging than running for many. 

Best Treadmills

Walkers can manually adjust the incline to three different settings. The Trac Pro has twelve built-in fitness programs. However, this is one of the few models that doesn't have heart rate monitoring available.

PROS

  • Great Incline
  • 12 Fitness Programs

CONS

  • Weak Motor
  • No Warranty

Confidence Fitness Magnetic Manual Treadmill

This manually foldable treadmill offers eight different resistances for walking. Users can manually push the belt on the treadmill and increase the difficulty by using the magnetic resistance. The incline is fixed at a gentle angle. At 62 lbs and 47” in length, the Magnetic Manual treadmill is one of the smaller and lighter options. It can even be wheeled around when folded. 

Best Treadmills

As a manual treadmill, this one is designed for walkers, with a shorter length and nonadjustable incline. It requires no electricity to run, which makes it easy to set out and use. However, users might miss the distance and calories burned data that most motorized treadmills provide. No heart rate monitoring is available either.

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Doesn't Require Electricity

CONS

  • No Incline Adjustment

ZAAP TX2000 1100W Pro Motorized Electric Treadmill

Loaded with more features than similar models, the TX2000 has a tablet stand that works with most tablet models. Users can watch programs on their tablet while working out. It comes with a heart rate monitor, as well as the typical data like speed, distance and time. There are twelve built-in fitness programs. The treadmill can reach a speed of 7.5mph, which is pretty fast for an under $500 model that can support users up to 300 lbs. 

Best Treadmills

There are three incline settings available, which must be set manually. It's not quite as fast as the Cadence G 5.9 model, which reaches ten mph, but it could be a good option for runners with a shorter stride.

PROS

  • Tablet Stand
  • 12 Fitness Programs

CONS

  • Manual Incline

Conclusion

Complete with every useful feature, including the ability to fold, the winner is the AFG Sport 5.5AT. The treadmill has everything a typical runner or walker needs, including digital incline adjustment, phone speaker connectivity and a high top speed. It is slightly slower than the NordicTrack and has fewer workouts, but most users won't notice the differences. The ability to fold, which the NordicTrack does not have, makes a bigger difference than a few more workout choices. The AFG Sport 5.5AT does everything that you'd expect a motorized treadmill to do and for a reasonable price.​

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