If you’re concerned about your health and want to exercise regularly but don’t want to spend money on a gym membership, you may be considering a treadmill for at-home use.

When you own a treadmill, you can exercise whenever you wish. You can plant your treadmill directly in front of the TV or store it in the basement where your workouts won’t be disturbed. Today’s at-home treadmills offer a bounty of features and controls to make your workout fun and fulfilling.

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Are you thinking of putting your new treadmill in the basement? Check the ceiling height before you do so to make sure you’ll have enough headroom.
If you were to own a treadmill, what would you use it for? If you just want to get some extra walking in, you might be fine with a basic, less-expensive treadmill that gets your legs moving. If you’re interested in running on a treadmill, you’ll want a sturdy machine with a quality motor. And if you want a treadmill that allows you to train for a marathon, it’s a good idea to choose the highest-quality treadmill you can afford.

When shopping, it’s also important to consider the number of people who will use the treadmill. The more users there are, the tougher and more durable the treadmill should be. The reason: putting too much strain on a treadmill motor will cause it to break down sooner than it otherwise would.

Here are the most important product features to evaluate when you’re shopping for a treadmill.

Control panel & interface
Every treadmill has some sort of control panel. It’s up to you to decide which type of control panel suits you best. Some treadmills have built-in color screens that allow you to view your progress in real time. Other treadmills feature simple displays that give basic stats such as distance traveled and pace.

Decide what kinds of controls feel most natural to you, and make sure they are easy to press. Unresponsive buttons could spell trouble when you’re running fast and need to slow down.

Noise output
All treadmills produce some kind of sound. The sturdier the machine, the less rattling there will be. But regardless of which treadmill you buy, be prepared to accept some degree of noisiness from your treadmill. If noise output is one of your top concerns, it’s a good idea to physically test a treadmill so you can hear for yourself how loud it is.

Impact protection
Training on a treadmill puts less stress on your body than outdoor running. The surface is softer than pavement, and it’s more forgiving on the joints. If you’re concerned about protecting your joints from impact, test out a treadmill before you buy it. Most treadmills should provide plenty of shock absorption, but the best way to gauge this is by feel.

Simulating running outside
To simulate running or walking outside, set the treadmill incline to 1% since it will provide a more accurate “outdoor” running or walking experience. If the goal is to compare indoor miles to outdoor miles, this setting is very effective.
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For most at-home treadmill users, a 2.0 continuous-horsepower motor should suffice. Walkers don’t need to worry too much about the motor, but avid runners and those who intend to share the treadmill with multiple people should opt for the most powerful motor they can afford.

It’s also important to take note of the treadmill’s warranty. Make sure there is a warranty for the motor and that it lasts longer than a few years. Along with the electronics, the motor is often one of the first components to fail on a treadmill.

How big or small should your treadmill be? There are compact treadmills available, but they’re not suitable for all people.

For example, taller runners may find that a compact treadmill limits their stride. The length of the belt should accommodate a walker or runner’s stride.

The width of the belt is important, too. You may be tempted to buy whatever treadmill would fit into your intended workout space, but it’s very important that you feel comfortable walking or running on your new equipment.

If space is an issue, there are also great folding treadmill options available. These types of treadmills are ideal for users with limited space.

Man running on treadmill
Don’t underestimate the benefits of moving air to cool the body and simulate an outdoor workout. Fans will keep your core temperature at a manageable level and help you experience the best workout. After all, slowing down because the room’s temperature is too hot can prevent you from reaching your optimum exercise output.
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Safety features
Your treadmill should come equipped with some kind of emergency stop function. If, for any reason, you need to stop immediately, a safety key can be pulled and the belt will come to an immediate halt.

We advise potential buyers to choose a treadmill with an emergency stop function and handrails for balance.

Furthermore, customers should make sure the belt of the treadmill is long enough and that they can reach the controls, even when running fast.

Person using treadmill to run indoors
Make sure there’s an outlet in the area you intend to place your new treadmill. Many treadmills should not be used with extension cords.
Incline capability
If you’re interested in serious training and have a goal in mind (such as a race or event), you’ll likely appreciate the ability to change the treadmill’s incline. Some treadmills even allow users to run or walk downhill.

If you’re looking for a treadmill for hill training, find out whether the incline of a potential purchase can be fine-tuned and what the maximum angle is.

Most treadmills are capable of producing at least a 5% incline. Serious athletes and users looking to lose weight may want a treadmill that can create an incline of up to 15%.

Selecting running program on treadmill
If you stick to easy, mindless runs on the treadmill, you will likely get bored, which can lead to burnout. Many treadmills offer great programs and even customized settings that simulate running on a track or beautiful trails. Have a program in mind before you begin your treadmill workout.

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We’ve discussed the main features you should look for in a treadmill, but what about all the extras? Here are a few add-ons you may wish to consider when shopping for a treadmill.

Water bottle holder
Most treadmills have a place to put your water bottle or sports drink. The size and placement of these holders will vary; we advise you to go with the option that makes the most sense for you.

Tablet holder
Having a spot to set your iPad for easy Netflix viewing can make a long run feel much shorter.

Built-in workout programs
Some treadmills come equipped with pre-loaded workout programs. Users can select training options such as “hill training” or “fat burn” to mix things up.

Budget treadmill options are available for as little as $400.

These cheaper treadmills often have less-powerful motors and are quite noisy, but they’re smaller in size, and some fold for storage. Inexpensive treadmills are best for exercisers who prefer walking over running.

Running on treadmill
Don’t ever underestimate the benefits of walking and running backward on a treadmill. Studies have shown that walking or running backward burns more than 30% more calories than going forward. It also provides a different experience, improves balance and agility, and works different lower-body muscles than a forward motion.
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In the range of $500 to $1,000, you should be able to find a good-quality treadmill with essential features and a decent motor.

Treadmills in this price range aren’t the type you’d typically see in a gym, but for most home exercisers, they are adequate.

If you venture above and beyond the $1,000 mark, you’ll find gym-quality treadmills with extra bells and whistles.

These types of machines are appropriate for heavy training and/or households with multiple treadmill users.

If you need to get off the treadmill at any point, stop the belt first, then step off.

Stay focused on what your body is doing, especially when running at high speeds. Don’t stare at your feet, and keep your eyes ahead. This makes it easier to maintain your balance.

If you have children, remove the safety key when the treadmill is not in use.

Use proper footwear when walking or running on a treadmill.

Make sure your treadmill is stationed on a stable surface; it shouldn’t wobble.

You might be tempted to ramp up your workout as soon as you install your new treadmill. However, to avoid injuries and burnout, it’s a good idea to increase your training load gradually.

Always check in with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

It’s important to think about how you will fit on the treadmill based on your height, weight, and stride. If you’re relatively tall, consider a larger treadmill.