Treadmill Types and Configurations
Treadmills come in the various sizes, forms, types and configurations. Their features and characteristics often overlap, so before buying one, it is very important to know what one actually needs from the treadmill, especially having in mind that treadmills are often rather pricey and should function properly for many years to come.
Folding treadmills have an option of folding running belt/deck toward console or vice versa, console can be folded toward running deck.
This way these treadmills reduce their footprint and are easier to store away vertically or horizontally. Small and space saver treadmills are often so small that they are portable and often carried on trips by people who don't want to miss their cardio workout, not even when traveling.
Note: out of your sight, out your mind. Position your treadmill on permanent location and fold running deck upwards to reduce treadmill's footprint.
For home use, folding treadmills are the way to go. For commercial use, large and sturdy treadmills are designed to operate for hours every day and they rarely have folding option. If you have area to spare, money to spend, and you need commercial treadmill, go for it.
Manual vs Powered Treadmills
Manual treadmills are lighter and cheaper than powered treadmills. When folded, manual treadmills are easily stored away, they don't require mains power for operation, their construction is simpler since they don't have main electric motor and transmission to move the belt and they are generally more durable - unless it is some a really cheap treadmill model.
However, manual treadmills are used only for walking, especially if the belt is in the horizontal position - a trainee must hold the handles with hands in order to create enough force to push the belt backwards. When treadmill is in inclined position, one can find balance between the force required to push the belt backwards and the gravity.
Powered treadmills require mains power to operate, but they are good for both walking and running (if designed that way) and trainee don't have to hold the hands on the handles during workout.
When trainee stops to walk or even falls down on the manual treadmill, belt stops quickly. If the trainee falls down on powered treadmill, without using the safety pin, motor will continue to drive the belt - YouTube is full of 'Gym accidents' videos involving treadmills - be sure not to end up on such videos :)
Treadmill Incline - Manual or Automatic
Changing treadmill incline can have great effect on the running and walking exercise. Incline running/walking helps burns calories and helps increase stamina due to increased stress on the body - incline running and walking simulates running and walking uphill.
Cheaper treadmills that have option of variable incline usually have manual incline change - one has to step down from the treadmill, change incline and then continue with exercise.
Treadmills with automatic/motorized incline change cost more. Using treadmill's incline buttons, a trainee can change incline without interrupting the workout.
Also, many treadmills that have motorized incline change, change incline and speed automatically depending on the running/walking workout program. Heart rate programs, for example, change speed and incline to achieve desired heart rate and stress on the trainee.
When trail runners and runners on the long distances prepare themselves for the actual running event, they can simulate uphills and downhills on the treadmill and even better prepare them for the race.
Walking vs Running Treadmills
One of the treadmills specifications is belt speed. If the speed of the belt is below certain speed, for example 5 mph (8 km/h), then that treadmill can be used only for walking and perhaps slow jogging. Being designed for slower speeds, treadmill can be stronger, more sturdier and can have larger maximum user weight - unless it is cheap model. Output power of electric motor can be relatively low and with good cooling, such motors can have almost lifetime warranties.
Running treadmills can be used for both walking and running and they must use rather strong electric motors to achieve higher belt speeds. When used only for walking, running treadmills' motors are actually overdimensioned and can last for a long time.
Running treadmills are generally more expensive than walking treadmill, although good walking treadmill with many advanced features and good maximum user weight can be quite costly, too.
Unless you are really heavy person requiring big and sturdy treadmill for walking only, consider running treadmills. If you are elderly person, or you need treadmill for kids, good walking treadmill with moderate user weight can be found at great price, even with many great features.
Treadmill desks are combinations of walking/running treadmills and office desks. Basic idea is to use treadmill for walking and do (simpler) office jobs while walking.
Idea is great since one can burn tremendous amount of calories when walking several hours per day, without over-stressing joints and muscles.
Personally, I have tried this and it is very good for simpler office jobs, but I have tendency to sweat easily and I really don't like to work and to be sweaty.
There are many people that treadmill desks have changed their lives, since now they can exercise and do their jobs at the same time.
Treadmills vs Treadclimbers
Treadmills have single running belt and they are used for walking and running.
Treadclimbers have two treadlets and can be used as ordinary treadmills, as a stair climber (two independent treadles that move up and down) and as an elliptical trainer - they practically combine three exercise machines in one.
Treadclimbers are also very costly exercise machines - for the price of the good treadclimber, one can buy one good treadmill and one good elliptical, with some money left on the side.
If you do need such specific exercise machine, feel free to check Bowflex Treadclimbers article.
Commercial Treadmills - Are They Worth It?
If you have a commercial gym, you simply must have treadmills which are designed for commercial use, which have commercial warranty and service support.
But, are commercial treadmills good for home gyms and are they worth the money they cost?
Long story short - commercial treadmills are, in most cases, worth every cent they cost. But really question is, are they actually needed for home use or they are overkill?
If you do need a treadmill which is going to be used every day for several hours, if you do need treadmill with various walking/running programs, with automatic incline change, with heart rate programs, with high belt speed, etc. then YES, you do need a large and sturdy treadmill designed and built for commercial use. And if you do buy such treadmill and you don't use it regularly, it is, sorry to say, waste of money.
Choosing a right treadmill can be confusing thing to do, but when you decide on what kind of treadmill you need, and how much you plan on spending, things can get much simpler...