By Simon Gould
One of the most important things we want to know when we exercise on a treadmill is our distance. Depending on how fast you go and for what length of time, will give you the distance you’ve covered. This could be in miles or kilometers (km) depending on your treadmill. It should tell you clearly which it is when you start exercising. If your speed is in mph, then your distance will be in miles. Same with km.
They can show either measurement on the console, it’s just a case of choosing which one you prefer.
Where did you buy your treadmill?
Depending on where you bought your treadmill, will decide which distance measurement is the default you’re shown. Certain countries use the imperial measurement which is miles and other metrics which is kilometers (km). The USA show their distances in miles and Europe km. The exception is the UK. Although the UK typically uses the metric system, they still like distance and speed in miles and miles per hour.
These measurements will be shown on the treadmill console in front of you. A mile is further than a km and will generally take longer to reach. The treadmill will be calibrated to measure these distances when they’re manufactured. When you get on your treadmill, think about how far you want to go and how long it will take you.
Changing the distance type on your treadmill
When you use a treadmill for the first time, it may ask you whether you want the distance to show in miles or km. It might not though, it may have either one as the default. In this case, you’d need to go into the settings on the console to change it over to whichever distance measurement you prefer. It should be relatively straightforward.
Check with the owner’s manual to see how you access the settings for your particular treadmill. It usually takes a few buttons to be pressed. Sometimes you have to hold the power key down to access this and other times there is a special button underneath the console. It changes for most brands so keep the manual and it will tell you there.
Are treadmill distances accurate?
Each treadmill is calibrated when it’s built. I wouldn’t rely on it for pinpoint accuracy, but if it says you’ve run a mile, then you’ve covered very close to that distance. Slightly more or less. It measures the distance by calculating the length of the belt and the number of revolutions the belt has done.
So a typical treadmill belt is around 50 inches. The console will know how many times it’s been around while you’ve been on it. It uses this number to tell you your distance. If you’re concerned about its accuracy after you’ve had it for some time, you can recalibrate it. Most people who use a treadmill will not need to worry.
This is the advantage of exercising on a treadmill rather than outside. You’re told the exact distance you’ve covered. Outside is guesswork. If you want to walk or run for 3 miles, then the control panel or console will tell you when you’ve done it. This is great if you have a race or fun run you’re working towards.
Miles and km distance comparison chart: how many km in a mile?
The chart below gives you a good idea of how many km in a mile. Km are divided into 1,000 meters so if we look at the chart below, we can see that 1 mile is 1,600 meters. It’s actually slightly more but we’ll keep it simple here.
Unless you’re training for a race or are very experienced in running. On your treadmill, you’ll unlikely be covering distances longer than 5 km or 3.1 miles. The longest you may exercise on a treadmill to improve your health and fitness will likely be 30 minutes at a time.
Running 10 minutes per mile for 30 minutes is 3 miles. Thirty minutes per day, 5 days per week is recommended by the World Health Organization for adults to get good health benefits.
Notable distances in miles and km on a treadmill
When walking or running a race, we’re often given the choice of quite standard distances. This goes for training on a treadmill too. These distances are used widely all over the world and in competitions like the Olympics. We’ll typically see a 1-mile race. 5 km is very common which is 3.1 miles. 10 km is common too and is 6.2 miles. Then you have the half marathon and marathon distances.
- 5 km – This is 3.1 miles and you often see this on a couch to 5k treadmill plan for people new to exercise. It’s the distance they’ll cover at the end of their training routine. You can do this on a treadmill, although the routine calls for time spent exercising rather than distance covered.
- Half marathon – This is 13.1 miles or 21.1 km. This is a grueling distance and one you’ll often see for races and fun runs outside. It is possible to train for a half marathon on a treadmill. Depending on how fast you go, this could be from 1 to 3 hours.
- Marathon – This is the maximum distance you often see people exercising on a treadmill or outside. It’s 26.2 miles or 42.195 km. This is 2 to 4 hours of running or more for someone who’s not experienced. You can train for a marathon on a treadmill too.
If you’re training for a certain distance, it’s important to know how far you’ve gone. If the race is 5 km, then it makes sense to train in km. You don’t want to train to run for 5 miles when your race is 5 km. You need to allow for the difference.
Certain exercise programs on a treadmill console will have you going until you reach a certain distance. You choose it before you start and the number will count down until you’ve reached it. Nearly all brands of treadmills have this feature and you just need to choose between miles and km. Once you’ve had your treadmill for a while, you’ll get used to it.
Choose miles or km and stick to it
Choose the one you prefer and stick to it. Do your exercising using that measurement. The last thing you should do is change your mind after you’ve been using it for a few months. You may have done all your exercise routines of walking for 2 miles. Changing it to km will cause all kinds of confusion. Not only does the distance measurement change, but the speed will also.
You’ll change your number from 5 mph to 5 km/h. Miles per hour is faster than km/h. You could walk 5 km/h but 5 mph is jogging. I’ve experienced this with a different treadmill in a gym. It ruins the progress you’ve made if you can’t keep track of what you’ve done. So don’t make the same mistake!
It’s only a small thing, the distance and the measurement type you use. But it’s an important one, and one you don’t want to get wrong. You may think you’re walking for 5 miles on your treadmill when you’re only doing 5 km. You’ll get to know how far these distances feel the more you do them.
So make sure you have the right setting on your treadmill. If you can’t find out how to do it, then call or email the manufacturer and they’ll help you. It’s just one thing to get right when you buy the machine. Then you can use it to get you fit and healthy, confident in the knowledge you know how far you’re going.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*