Treadmill Features

1. Folding deck

Some treadmills have a hinged deck that you can raise and lock in place vertically for storage. A non-folding treadmill takes up as much floor space as a small couch; a folded model, about half that when folded. Non-folding treadmills tend to feel more stable. But where space is tight, every square foot counts.

2. Electronic programming

This useful feature, found on most of the treadmills we tested, automatically varies the intensity of the workout, the way running up and down hills does outdoors. You can also make adjustments manually. Exercise programs can be an antidote to boredom and may encourage you to work out more often.

3. Heart-rate monitor

You'll generally find a chest-strap heart-rate monitor on treadmills that cost $1,500 and up.
Less expensive treadmills may have a handgrip monitor. A heart-rate monitor helps you to exercise up to your potential while avoiding dangerous overexertion. A chest-strap monitor is the most convenient. It allows you to continually monitor your heart rate without having to hold the hand grip sensors.

4. Controls

Look for well-labeled, intuitive controls: up/down buttons, quick one-touch speed and incline buttons, and large, easy-to-read displays that show multiple functions (time, speed, heart rate, incline) at once. Poorly designed controls and displays are a constant annoyance.

5. Foot rails

Look for wide and flat foot rails alongside the moving belt. Ample foot rails make getting on and off the treadmill easier.

6. Handles or handrails

Most treadmills have them in front and on the sides. Padding is a plus. While they're useful for those who need added security, they shouldn't get in the way of your arms while you exercise.

7. Motor housing

It should be set forward far enough and relatively flush with the front of the belt or concave. It shouldn't get in the way of your feet when using the treadmill.

8. Tethered safety key

On most models, you need to insert a key on the console to start the treadmill. The key comes on a long cord, with a clip at the other end that attaches to your clothing. The cord will pull the key out and stop the treadmill if you slip and fall. It also keeps unsupervised children from starting the machine.

9. Console gadgets

A growing number of treadmills load the console with gadgets such as a CD player, a fan, and even an LCD TV. You might be able to buy these items separately for less. And if they need repair, having them serviced can be a problem.


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