Loading... Please wait...
  • My Account
  • Order Status
  • Wish Lists
  • Gift Certificates

Treadmill Buyer's Guide for Australians

We've got 2 versions of our treadmill buyer’s guide.

You can read our text version, below, or watch our video version to the right.

When you're done, browse our range of treadmills for sale online.

 

1. Why do you want a treadmill?

  • What will you use it for?
  • Who will use it (even occasionally)?
  • Will your use vary over time?
  • Do you have a budget?
 
Ask these questions before you even start to look so you’ve got a good idea on which attributes will resonate most with you.

 

2. Key Treadmill Attributes

 
These are the key attributes for any treadmill. Understanding them is key to identifying which treadmill is best for you.
 

a.    Speed: (Treadmills roughly vary from 10kph to 22kph)

 
Broadly speaking, 10k is a light jog, 12 a jog, 14 a light run, 16 a fast run, and 18-20 a very fast run.

However (and this is a key tip) don’t judge your needs based on what you want to average - it’s your top speed which counts.

For example, most personal trainers recommend a mix of hard and easy sessions, and even within sessions, they suggest a lot of “interval training” (hard for a minute, slow for a minute, uphill for a minute, and so on). So within this framework, and thinking where your fitness is likely to get to (not what it is now!), what speed will you need?

Broadly, I recommend to customers to go at least 16kph, and preferably 18kph. While this sounds fast for most people, they will probably use that speed, even if only for short spurts. And it really doesn’t cost much more to get that extra speed.


b.    Horsepower:

 
Horse-power (or “HP”) is a measure of the strength of any motor. And no, it doesn’t really refer to the number of horses needed to match the motor – it’s now a scientifically calculated measure used in most industries.

The HP you need in a treadmill is directly related to the size of the heaviest user, and the speed at which they want to exercise.

So for example, even if you are a heavy user, you don’t need much HP if you’re just going to walk on it. Conversely, if you’re well within the user rating, but plan to sprint flat-out for extended periods, you’d be best to get a bit of extra power.

My father was a farmer (a long way from any mechanic) and his advice was “over-spec every machine you buy”, and that’s very true of treadmills. Even if you think you squeeze into the stated specs, you really don’t want this new motor running for extended periods at nearly 100% capacity – it’s a guaranteed way to reduce its life.

Firstly, be sceptical of the promises of no-name brands. Not only is there no independent government body to oversee the rating of motors in Australia (which means those less-scrupulous internet-only/auction-site brands can pretty-much say whatever they want), but they often just give you a single HP rating instead of the continuous rating.

All motors have a continuous rating (what the motor can comfortably run at for an extended period of time) and a peak rating (what power it can pull for a short period if needed, such as when your foot falls on the mat for each stride). It’s standard practice in the fitness industry to quote continuous horse-power (the more conservative one).

So if you’re looking at a machine which promises a really big HP rating for a low price, odds are it’s quoting peak HP, and even then, that rating has not been verified by any independent body.

Secondly, take the “user rating” of a treadmill with a grain of salt. While HP of the credible brands is set by an independent tester, the “user weight rating” is usually set by the internal sales department! This possibly explains why one 2HP treadmill has a 120kg user rating, while another 2HP model has a 150kg rating. They’re actually the same motor, but one sales department has been more ambitious than the other.

But now to confuse you, there are some motors which are classed as “high torque”. This means the motor is more efficient at converting energy than another. It’s a bit like two 100kg men – one can lift much more than the other, even though they look just the same.

So it’s feasible, especially in a brand like York Fitness or BodyWorx, that a higher user rating is because the treadmill has a “high torque motor”.

But let me conclude by saying something again – “get more than you think you will need”!


BTW, we'd encourage you to watch this video about treadmill sizes. It illustrates our point about "you get what you pay for"...
 

 

c.    Incline (ie. change from being flat, to being up-hill).


The really cheap models are “manual incline”, which means you have to hop off the treadmill and move a lever to change the incline. Avoid these. Sure they’re cheap, but you’re honestly not going to do that during a run!

The better models are “automatic incline” (also called “electric incline”). This means they have an additional small motor to lift it up and down while you run.

Firstly, check how many ways you have to adjust the incline. There will be at least one “up and down button” on the console. But there may also be a button on the handlebars (this is so you can more easily access them while you’re running). Additionally, there may be “quick incline” keys, which means, rather than tap “up” ten times, you just hit the “12” button to take you to 12kph.

Secondly, you may get incline adjustment built into the programs (see below).

Finally, don’t worry about how much of an incline you get. Some say “10%”, some say “12 levels” etc., but really, you’ll know about it when you’re running!


d.    Programs:

 
All treadmills allow you to adjust the settings manually (sometimes cheekily called 1 “manual program”). But they also come with other programs, which allow the computer in the treadmill to adjust the speed (and sometimes also the incline) automatically, without your intervention.

Now this is a great thing. If you’ve done much running on a treadmill you’ll know two things – it’s harder than it looks to hit those little sucker buttons while you’re in full flight, and as you get more tired you get more distracted and less interested in changing things yourself.

Enter the domain of programs.

So watch out for a few things with the programs;
1.    How many do you get? (But don’t give this too much weight – the most useful and popular programs are usually in the first 3-4)
2.    Are they just speed programs, or speed-and-incline programs?
3.    Do you get “user programs” (ones you can make up and save for yourself, rather than stick with what they preset at the factory)
4.    Do you get “heart-rate control” programs (see below)

e.    Mat size:

 
The mat is the rotating flexible surface your feet actually hit each time you run. And size does matter.

Obviously, the taller you are, the longer you want it to be.

But in my experience, longer and wider is good, because you get pretty tired after a long treadmill run, and your body starts to waver around a bit. If the mat is too short, or too narrow, you stand the chance of going across the edge or over the back, which can be, at best, embarrassing, and at worst, dangerous.

I would suggest at least 45cm wide. Length is a bit more variable, depending on how tall you are.

Also, some models mention the mat thickness (roughly from 1mm to 3mm). Sometimes the thicker mats are called "orthopaedic" mats. There are two claims to thicker mats;
 
Firstly, it claims to be better cushioning. I’m sceptical about this, as most of the cushioning comes from the deck (plus the joints that hold the deck to the frame) and your shoes.
 
Secondly, it claims to make the mat last longer. Absolutely true. You don’t want to have to change the mat on a treadmill any earlier than you have to.

f.     Heart-Rate Control:

 
This is my absolute favourite feature (as I’ve written elsewhere).

HRC stands for “heart-rate control” and means the treadmill changes speed (and sometimes also incline) to keep your heart-rate in a pre-determined range.

We all exercise to keep our heart healthy, and there’s also a great deal of science behind the optimal heart-rate to achieve weight loss, so having the machine do this for you in real-time is an awesome feature.

But just be careful, it’s not much good without a wireless chest strap on. The cheaper treadmills don’t have a receiver built in, which means you have to grab onto the hand-pulse units which are less accurate, and obviously don’t work unless you have your hands on them.


f.     Cushioning:

 
A major benefit of running on a treadmill is that is reduces the shock on your knees and joints. Different treadmills have different cushioning technology, which is best explained in a video...
 
 
 
 
There are a heap more attributes to a treadmill, but they start to get more specific and gimmicky after this, so you decide what’s best for you.
 

3. Treadmill Brands

 
It is really important to stick with the big brands.
 
There are some many reasons, we’ve done up a whole blog on it.
 
 

4. Online Stores

 
There are heaps of online fitness stores. Of course we think fitonline is best, but maybe we're biased?
 
But one thing’s for sure, you should stick to a site run by a real Australian company with bricks-and-mortar outlets.
 
Firstly, because this gives you somewhere to go if you really need to. Or a door for Fair Trading to knock on if it gets that bad. If you buy from an auction site, a dedicated online store, or an overseas site, what’s going to happen when you need support or parts?
 
Secondly, because this gives them strength. Buying-power strength with the big brands to give you a good deal up-front, and financial strength to ensure they last into next year to help you when you need it.
 
 

Conclusion

 
Sadly, I'm not going to recommend a particular treadmill or brand for you. And that's because it all depends on what you want.
 
Flick through all the points above, jot down what you want, and wade through the list of available treadmills to decide which ones best suit your fitness needs.
 

Why buy from us?