By Simon Gould
Yes, the distance and speed shown on the console of a treadmill is accurate, it’s calibrated during manufacture. The distance is one of the most important stats you want about your exercise. It’s easy on the road because you can use an app to measure the distance. But on a treadmill you rely totally on the console giving you the right number.
Distance accuracy is something you want to be confident is right. You need it accurate to the meter or yard. If you are doing some interval training by distance you need to know when that half mile or 500 meters is up and you can do a recovery again. If you’re training for a race on a treadmill, you need to know how far you’ve gone.
How a treadmill distance is measured
The treadmill knows how long the belt is, every time it passes a sensor near the motor it measures one revolution. This way it knows how far you’ve walked or run. Treadmills are quite sophisticated and you can usually choose between kilometers and miles. Remember that a mile is longer than a kilometer. You can trust that the distance on treadmills is accurate.
Measuring the distance is not difficult for the treadmill and is quite obvious when you think about it. That’s what makes it so accurate is because all it does measure the actual distance you’re covering by knowing the length of the belt. Other measurements especially the calories burned may not be very accurate at all. The speed is calibrated and therefore accurate.
The good thing is the accuracy of the speed and distance indicators on a treadmill doesn’t fade over time. An old treadmill still accurately counts the revolutions of the deck. Even in an old treadmill that may not be working too well. You can depend on the accuracy of their numbers. I trained for a marathon on my treadmill so I needed to know the distance.
Older treadmills may lose some accuracy
While you can depend on the distance reading when the treadmill is new, as it ages, some of the accuracy is lost. The belt will stretch as someone continues using it. This may give a slightly inaccurate reading which increases over time. The belt will need to be lubricated regularly and the loosening and tightening of the bolts that needs to occur during this, affects the accuracy.
Older treadmills may have if it’s software or sensors less sensitive as they were. This means some revolutions of the belt may not be counted, or the length of the belt. These minor faults don’t stop a treadmill from working, they just make the readings less accurate. As you may see some distance discrepancies on a GPS, the same can be said of a treadmill.
Using the treadmill distance effectively
If you’re following a training routine or preparing for a race. Make sure you know whether the treadmill’s read out is in miles or kilometers. It’s usually the same for whatever your country uses. So for the US it should be in miles. It doesn’t matter if the routine or race doesn’t match the metric used on your treadmill. There are plenty of conversion sites you can use. The chart below may help.
Of the readouts on a treadmill console. The speed and distance you can trust. The calorie counters, you can not. It’s difficult to get a true measurement of how many calories someone has burned on a treadmill. As I’ve discussed in this article. So when you use your treadmill, go by minutes or distance covered to get a good metric for your workouts.
This way you can be confident in training on a treadmill if it’s for a race while the weather is bad or to do your speed work. The time is obviously accurate as there are very little inaccuracies in modern electronics when it comes to time. If you’re running for 3 miles you will actually be running for 3 miles on a treadmill. It’s more accurate than running outside.
In order to keep the accuracy, it’s important to maintain your treadmill. This is especially the case for the belt as this is what the distance is measured from. You need to lubricate the belt every 3 months and is quite easy to do. If you’re worried about the speed then that can be calibrated as well. So walk or run in confidence on your treadmill, knowing how far you’ve gone.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*