Are Treadmills Worth It? (Yes, They Are)

Treadmill vs exercising outside

By Simon Gould

Treadmills can be a big purchase so you want to make sure you’re doing the right thing if you’re considering one for your home. Maybe you’re using a gym or exercising outside. Perhaps you don’t exercise at all and want to start. Here I’ll look at their benefits, compare them to exercising outside, and using a treadmill at a gym. I’ll debunk 3 myths about treadmills and what to look for before you buy.

Benefits of a treadmillHome treadmill vs gym treadmill
Treadmill vs exercising outside
3 Myths that make treadmills seem poor value
4 Things to look for when buying a treadmill
Final thoughts

Benefits of a treadmill

1. Health and weight loss benefits

No other fitness equipment burns more calories during exercise than a treadmill. It’s a very efficient way of working out as makes the most of your time. If you need to lose weight, walking or running on a treadmill is the perfect way to do it. You’ll burn around 350 calories every 30 minutes. Do it 3 times per week and you’ll start seeing results within a few weeks.

There is conclusive research worldwide about the health benefits of exercising and you get these on a treadmill. One doctor said if exercise were a pill, it would be the most valuable medication in the world. Exercise is life extending, prevents diseases and helps maintain your mobility. It makes you feel good, look good, and gives you energy.

2. Easy to use

Treadmills are easier to use than a bike, and you quickly get used to them. They come with many features that make them more appealing than exercising outside, like workout programs, for example. They often have entertainment built into screens and speakers. You can even stream workout classes on some of them. The display gives you detailed workout stats like calories burned and distance.

Home treadmill vs a gym treadmill

3. Saves time

There’s no such thing as traveling to your home treadmill. You don’t have to park your car, get changed and hope there’s a treadmill free. You don’t have to take a gym bag with you. Having a treadmill at home is convenient, there’s no hassle, it’s just there in the next room. Time is money and most of us are willing to pay to have more of it.

4. Cheaper than a gym

Research of gyms in the US show an average annual cost of $572. The cheapest treadmill I recommend is $649. Therefore, you save money after 14 months, when you consider a treadmill will usually last around 10 years if it’s well maintained, that’s a pretty good return on investment. This makes it a money saving as well as a time saving.

5. Better entertainment

Treadmills in gyms are usually limited in the entertainment they offer. You may get a screen but it won’t have all the shows you want to watch. You may have a gym that plays loud dance music all day. Some home treadmills can stream Netflix and other streaming services. These are touchscreens that come with all kinds of features.

You could mount a TV in front of the treadmill and select anything you want to watch or listen to. These are connected to the internet these days so every kind of entertainment is there in front of you as you workout. You could only use your treadmill time to watch a season of a show you’ve been meaning to see. This is great for motivation to get you working out regularly.

6. Available 24/7

Apart from Anytime Fitness, gyms have opening and closing times, you have to workout at their convenience and not your own. With a home treadmill you can choose to exercise late at night. You can even workout on Christmas day if you wanted, you couldn’t do that in a gym. At home there are no busy periods to avoid, no one in the way, your favorite treadmill is always available.

7. Private

Privacy is important. Maybe you’re embarrassed to workout in front of others. You may be overweight and don’t want anyone to see. Maybe you feel nervous about attending a gym where everyone is an expert, and you know very little. There are some stories of gym goer’s making fun of new starters, it doesn’t happen very often but has been known. You get none of this at home.

8. Quieter

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, gyms are very noisy. Whether it’s people weight training causing them to make grunting noises. These are usually very obnoxious and loud, they’re not very pleasant to hear. The sound of many treadmills being used at the same time is a noise onslaught. You can’t stop and take a phone call or delivery sometimes like you could at home.

9. Wear what you like

It doesn’t matter what you wear when working out, no one is going to judge you at home. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing the same gear every time because no one else will know. You don’t need to spend any money on the latest fashions. Some of the designers can cost a lot so get the cheaper stuff, it’s just as good. I run on my treadmill in my underwear (true).

10. Accurate stats

With many home treadmills you can create personal profiles in the console. You would input your weight and other vital stats. These can be used to give you accurate calorie burning metrics. Commercial treadmills in gyms don’t have this feature, they don’t have anything personal you can store in the console. This is just one of the advantages home treadmills have over commercial ones.

11. Treadmill apps & streaming classes

Technology is now catching up with the treadmill. Now it’s more than just a running machine, they’re interactive devices capable of giving you an exercise experience. With the advent of the internet, Bluetooth and HD TV screens, you can take a live class or run with thousands of others using a special app. This technology is now in easy reach of the fitness conscious consumer.

The prices have come down and you can get one of these treadmills for a thousand dollars. You may need an addition of a tablet, but most of us have those anyway. With these treadmills you become part of a community of like minded users who encourage each other by communicating through these apps. It makes every time you exercise feel worthwhile because you’re not alone.

Treadmill vs exercising outside

12. No weather problems

There are distinct advantages treadmills have over exercising outside. Depending on your location, the weather can be very changeable. Perhaps you have cold winters and the ground gets icy, this makes exercising unsuitable. Maybe you live in a hotter climate and you can’t go out during the afternoon because it’s too hot. None of these problems affect a treadmill user.

13. Incline settings

One incredibly popular way of using a treadmill these days is power walking on the incline. It’s a great way to lose weight because it burns more calories. Nature doesn’t have a stable hill or incline that you can change within a second to make it steeper or flatter. An incline is great for shaping and toning the legs and buttocks.

14. Safer

Accidents do happen on a treadmill, of course. But the proportion compared to the amount of people who use them is incredibly low. The hazards you have from exercising outside are far greater. If you live in a populated area, you have to contend with motor vehicles as you cross the street. You may feel unsafe going out after dark. You’re much safer exercising on a treadmill at home.

15. Less injuries

Outside, the surface is hard and unpredictable. A treadmill deck is stable and cushioned. There are many lower leg injuries that can occur from running and walking outside. The most common are runner’s knee and shin splints. You can get shin splints from running or walking and these are less likely on a treadmill.

16. Your family are at home

Not many people think about this benefit to a home treadmill. Your family and all your comforts are there in the home with you. If a family member wants a chat or tell you something, they know where to find you. If you have an important delivery or phone call you’re waiting for, you can still workout while you wait. You can’t do any of this outside or in a gym.

3 Myths that make treadmills seem poor value

1. They use lots of electricity

When you think of a treadmill, it’s a big appliance so it must draw a lot of power. The truth is the power is usually coming from a regular electrical outlet that other appliances use. A treadmill is only on for around 30 minutes per day. It’s primary function isn’t to generate heat (this draws the most electrical power). All this means it doesn’t use a lot of electricity. The cost is around $2 per month (yes, that low).

2. They’re boring

Some people call it the “dreadmill”, they’re often looked down on by some runners. But due to the new technology, many runners are now coming round to what a treadmill can now do. The app called Zwift, which enables you to exercise with thousands of people around the world, is attracting those who never considered using one before. Professional sports people will often have a treadmill in their home gyms.

3. They don’t last

Treadmills can last 10+ years, and if you’re lucky, you may have one that goes for much longer. The thing is they need some light maintainance to ensure they keep working well. These include vacuuming around it, wiping it down after each use, lubricating the belt, and other tasks to follow at certain intervals. I always recommend an annual service by a fitness equipment technician too.

4 Things to look for when buying a treadmill

1. Price

As with most items you can buy, you get what you pay for. If you go for a cheap treadmill, you’ll get sub standard equipment that will let you down. There’s no getting around it, good treadmills cost money. But you don’t have to go overboard. The treadmills I recommend most are the Sole F63 and the Horizon 7.0 AT, they’re both only $999. That’s the minimum amount for a good machine.

2. Motor size

Motor size is very important. They come in horse power and you’ll see between 1.5 CHP and 4.0 CHP. For walking you should go for at least 1.5 CHP. For jogging 2.5 CHP, and for running 3.0 CHP and more if multiple people will be using it. A powerful motor is needed to cope with the demand you’re putting on it. That’s why for running, the higher the better.

3. Warranty

Cheap treadmills have labor warranties of less than a year. Always go for one with one year or more for labor cover. It will come with motor, frame and electronics warranties as well. But the length of the labor one is the most important. Two years is what you’ll see on $1,599+ treadmills. A good warranty means the manufacturer doesn’t expect it to go wrong and they’ve used quality parts.

4. Maximum user weight

A high weight capacity is a sign of the durability and sturdiness of the treadmill. You should look for 300 lbs or more. If steel has been used to make the frame, then it should be able to take that weight. It means the treadmill may be quite heavy, but once it’s in it’s place, I’m sure you won’t be moving it very often. The folding mechanisms are assisted to make them easy to lift.

Final thoughts

Treadmills are the most popular fitness equipment in the world. Fifty million Americans use one every year. People clearly think they’re worth it and with their prices coming down, there’s no reason not to get one. The health benefits of regular exercise are overwhelming. These begin at any age, it’s never too late to get on a treadmill and start an exercise routine.

Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.

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