Are Treadmill Speeds Universal? (Choosing mph or kph)
By Simon Gould
Treadmills come in 2 speeds. Those being mph (miles per hour) and kph (kilometers per hour). These speeds are different because the length of the distance between miles and kilometers is different. When you buy a treadmill it's usually preset for the country it's being sold in. For the US it will be mph and other metric countries it will be kph.
Sometimes kph is referred to as km/h (they're the same thing).
Differences between the speeds
I'll give you a little table displaying the differences between the speeds. As you can see, because the distance is shorter, kilometers per hour is a higher number than miles per hour and yet is the same intensity. It won't be any harder to cover the distance as long as other intensity effects on the treadmill are the same, such as incline.
How to choose mph or kph on a treadmill
Depending on where you bought your treadmill. The speed will be mph in the USA, and km/h if you're in the UK. So which ever is normally used in your country, you'll normally see being used on your treadmill. If you've just bought it the owners manual will tell you how it can be changed. It's usually just a few buttons on the console.
If you can't find the answer, you could always contact the manufacturer and they can help you. If you're used to exercising at a certain speed, use the chart above to match your pace. When transferring between mph and kph, take care because you may notice a different speed but the same number on the console. The same number in mph is faster than kph.
New treadmills are calibrated
New treadmills have their speeds calibrated at manufacture. They do this using the belt and measuring the distance covered divided by a certain time. This gives the speed. Sometimes as treadmills age or are not as good quality. Then the speed may be slightly off especially when you start covering long distances. You probably wouldn't even notice it.
This is not something for 95% of treadmill users to worry about. Elite runners may need to worry that their treadmill levels are not accurate. Professional runners will run on treadmills using speed workouts. They'll use fartlek or interval workouts which help increase your normal running speed. These are perfect for the treadmill and, while speed accuracy is important, they train using the feeling of intensity more so.
All treadmills will show your speed and if they only show mph or kph and then simply do a conversion to see what the speed you'd like to go at using a speed conversion site. The site can also calculate the time it would take to run a certain distance at the speed you're going or want to go. This could be useful if you wanted to know your mile running time or another distance.
If you're a beginner or just trying to lose weight don't worry about the speed you're going. To benefit you most run slow and long for the best results as long as your doctor allows. Speed is universal but not something to be concerned with, don't compare yourself to other people, just try and beat yourself week after week if that's what you want.
If you're training for your first race or you're at that stage where you want to run faster, then I will say the same. Don't worry about the accuracy of speed specifically, just that you're getting faster in your normal runs. This should be the aim. In summary, treadmill speeds are universal but they're not that important for most runners unless you want to win your next race.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here's my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*