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The truth about treadmills, advice from a personal trainer
Apr 04 '02

The Bottom Line

I would recomend a specialty retailer as your provider of treadmills. In general, the staff are more qualified as exercise specialists and service techs. DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ!

I have been a personal trainer for about 10 years and also been working for a large fitness specialty retailer for over three. I would like to offer my advice for those of you trying to decide on a treadmill.

This can be one of the most confusing purchases you will ever make, but only if you let it be. The facts are simple, you get what you pay for. As long as you keep the respective treadmills in their own level quality, you should be talking apples, to apples. Try not to compare a department store treadmill to a commercial quality, it will be simple to difficult.

Levels of quality:

I break treadmills into three levels of quality;
1. Department store (lowest)
2. Crossover or hybrids (mid quality)
3. Fitness grade or commercial (highest)

Department store treadmills are generally manufactured and designed one company, ICON FITNESS. Some of the brands they make are: Proform, Reebok, Weslo, Image, Nordic Trac, and Healthrider. You will usually find these treadmills in departments stores, sporting good stores, whole sale clubs and sometimes the internet. They will range in price from $300 to over $2000. Traditionally these treadmills will last the average user 1 to 5 years. The over all quality and design will be generic and motor quality is poor.

Crossover/hybrids can be found at some department stores, some specialty retailers and other fitness type stores like bicycle, hot tub and patio furniture stores. Some names I would consider for this level of quality are Athlon, Schwinn, Trimline, True 350 (model #), Keys, Spirit, Vision Fitness 9200, 9300, 9400 Sports Art and a few others. Traditional prices range from $800 to $2500. Life expectancy would be 5-10 yrs. You can expect to see average quality over all with a generic motor usually imported from China or other asian country.

Commercial or fitness grade quality are primarily sold in fitness specialty retail stores. Some name brands you will see here include; Bodyguard, Cybex/Trotter, Landice, Life Fitness, Precor, Pacemaster, True (450 and up) and Vision Fitness (9400 and up). Prices can range from $1800 and go as high as $5000. The motor and frame are designed for heavy usage and will last upwards of 10-20 years. The motors are designed by american companies like Baldor and Pacific Scienetic. These are motor manufacturers that put their products in commercial treadmills.
*Life Fitness recently switced to a generic motor made by Magnatec (just like the one in a True 350). I had a hard time determining if this were a hybrid or commercial quality. Magnatec simply does not have the track record or other commercially made and used motors, but you be the judge.
*Landice and True (500 series and up) now offer a lifetime warranty against wear and tear. Make sure you read the fine print and details of the warranty. Since True requires waxing, this might put a twist into the warranty. There is much question if a lifetime warranty is valuable or not, once again, you be the judge.

Make sure you GET ON THE PRODUCT, ask lots of questions about the company and the services they provide. (delivery and service (in house, sub contract etc.) Some companies provide an in home trial period, but make sure and ask if there is a re-stocking fee.

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