Pros: Very Affordable and Reliable, Ten-Year Motor Warranty, Quiet and Smooth, Easy To Use
Cons: No Heart Rate Monitor On This Particular Model
The roads in Northern Virginia are becoming more and more congested every day. Housing developments no longer have nice, quiet streets on which people can walk or run. Instead, we have thousands of cars racing back and forth as if were smack in the middle of the Indy 500.
Walking or running while dodging cars and inhaling huge amounts of exhaust fumes isnt my idea of healthy. So I began researching treadmills.
I thought treadmills were pretty much just a walking surface and a motor. Boy was I in for a surprise. There were so many things to take into consideration that my head was swimming within an hour. There were different ratings for the motor, different walking surfaces and lengths, various electronic displays and monitors arrrgghh!
So before I actually get into the details of the machine that I finally chose, I thought Id spare you the sanity-losing experience that I went through, and outline the most important things to check out when buying a treadmill:
Consider These Things First, Before Buying:
1.) Weight Capacity.
This is really important. Not all treadmills can bear the same amount of weight. You may need to purchase a more expensive unit if your weight exceeds the manufacturers recommendations, so look at that carefully. Greater weight capacity in a treadmill means it needs a heavier duty platform and motor, which cost more. Most treadmills offer capacities up to 250 pounds. Many go up to 300 pounds. But dont cut if short, here! If you weigh 249 pounds, don't just buy the one that will accommodate 250 pounds. Go for the machine that will take up to 300 pounds.
Many treadmill advertisements claim that there are two different types of motors; "Continuous Duty" and "Peak." But this is not true! Its just a gimmick to get you to buy their particular machine. Continuous Duty and Peak are simply ratings. ALL motors have a Continuous Duty rating and a Peak rating! This is how it works:
Continuous Duty tells you how much minimum horsepower can be delivered at all times, no matter what the weight of the person on the machine. Peak is the highest amount of horsepower that can be delivered under the least amount of stress. You want a motor with at least a rating of 1.50 in Continuous Duty. If it doesnt say Continuous Duty, the rating is Peak. There is a way, however, to figure out what the Peak would be if only a Continuous Duty rating is given. Just multiply the Continuous Duty rating number by 2. If a treadmill has a 2.0 continuous duty rating, its Peak will be close to 4. And conversely, if a motor has a Peak rating of 2.75, the Continuous Duty rating is about 1.3. (But remember--you dont want a treadmill with a Continuous Duty rating of anything less than 1.50.)
I found it rather surprising, also, that Horsepower (HP) ratings on motors are not standardized! Many companies claim that their motors are 2.5 or 3.0 HP. But there are no regulations governing the stated Horse Power rating on a motor. So whether or not youre purchasing a treadmill that delivers the rated HP is anyones guess. The more expensive treadmills usually meet their HP ratings. And quiet motors are usually a good sign of quality.
The motor warranty is of utmost importance. You dont want to have to replace the most expensive part to the treadmill. I was amazed that some units only have a 90-day motor warranty! Others have a one or three-year motor warranty. The best (including mine) have a ten-year motor warranty.
The frame warranty is next. Some have a five or ten-year frame warranty. A Lifetime frame warranty is the best.
Parts and Labor warranties vary; a good machine will have at least one year on parts and 90 days on labor.
3.) Safety Issues
A smooth, slow "startup" speed is always best. Some treadmill belts start so fast that youre off the belt and into your neighbors back yard in two seconds flat. This obviously is not only a major concern for your neighbor, but a potential hazard to yourself. Another thing to look for is a key which is required to start the machine. Without the key, unwanted persons will not be able to turn on the motor, thus preventing your little ones from becoming missiles (and again aggravating your neighbor). Also--make sure your treadmill has an emergency shutoff option.
4.) The Running Deck (the surface under the belt)
I myself normally only use my treadmill for brisk walking, but if youre going to run on it, you should have a deck thats close to 60" long. The longer the deck, the more room your legs have while running. If youre tall, your stride will be long and require a long deck. Walking requires decks of at least 50".
Also, most decks give a little, but theyre not going to provide much shock absorption. So if you have trouble with your knees and joints, look for a treadmill that provides adjustable shock absorption. Youll pay more for this feature, however. Almost all treadmills have some kind of deck cushioning, though. Underneath the running deck are rubber grommets at 4 to 6 points. Some have softer rubber or have strips along the whole length of the deck. The less expensive treadmills usually have a harder feel to them.
5.) Frame Style:
Check to see if the frame style is fold-up or not. If you cant fold up the machine, its going to be really difficult to maneuver and store!
So after several days of researching, I finally emerged from my computer room very hungry, but happy for having found what I considered to be the best machine for my particular needs.
First off, I wasnt looking for a machine that could drive me to work and cook my dinner. I still havent figured out how to use my VCR, let alone try to use the console of a treadmill that looks similar to the cockpit of a Boeing 777. All I wanted was something to walk on so that I didnt have to worry about losing an arm or foot in traffic, or developing some lung disease from exhaust fumes. But I did want a reliable machine that would last, and one that could tell me at least how fast I was walking and how far (so I could brag to my friends about the ninety miles I walked this week and if you believe that one, Ive got a lovely bridge in Brooklyn that Id like to sell you ). Many of the treadmills I researched seemed to be high in gadgetry, but low in warranty. To me, the motor was the most important part of the whole thing (you can do without a digital display if you have to, but try using a treadmill without the motor). So first, I narrowed the search down to only those treadmills which had a ten-year motor warranty. Then I considered the other items that Ive listed above. And lastly, I had a price range; Im not Bill Gates. I didnt want to have to take out a second mortgage to buy a treadmill. My budget said I had to find something under 700 dollars. So after all this, I finally zoomed in on one great machine.
Ok, so now on to the treadmill that I finally purchased, the Keys Fitness Health Trainer 2.0:
Peak Rating: 3.25 HP
Continuous Duty rating: 1.50 HP
Frame Style: Fold-Up
Electronics: 5 Windows of Display Information (LCD)
Number of Pre-Set Programs: 3
Number of Custom Programs: 6
Toggle Switches: 2, one on each handlebar
Roller Diameter: 1.9 Inches
Cushioned Deck: Yes
Speed Range: 0.6 MPH to 10.0 MPH
Incline Range: 0 to 12 Percent Incline
Belt/Deck Size: 18 Wide by 51 Long
Weight Capacity: 250 Lbs
Motor Warranty: 10 Years
Frame Warranty: Lifetime
Parts Warranty: 1 Year
Labor Warranty: 90 Days
(Does Not Have: Heart Rate Monitor or EKG Pulse Grip)
Unpacking From the Box:
The machine comes fully assembled (a huge plus for all of us who are tool-impaired). You simply pull it out of the box and lay it on the floor, then pull up on the handlebars until the safety latch engages. Super simple, and surprisingly not extremely heavy!
Moving The Unit Around:
Theres nothing worse than a large piece of equipment thats difficult to move. Thankfully, the Keys Health Trainer treadmill has rollers (wheels) at the base, and is very easily moved anywhere. You simply fold up the deck, and tilt the machine back on its wheels, using the handlebars to push it around.
The console display area of the machine has several sections to it:
1.) The Power Button, Start/Stop Button, and Pause Button
2.) The Calories Burned and Distance Traveled Display
3.) The Speed Display
4.) The Visual Track Display (shows you an oval track which is one mile around, and at what point along that track you are)
5.) The Time Display
6.) The Incline Display
7.) The Program Section Has Four Buttons: Fat Burn, Cardio, Warm Up, and User-Entered Programs.
8.) An Up and Down Button For Speed Increase or Decrease
9.) An Up and Down Button For Incline Increase or Decrease
9.) The key / emergency shut off is a plastic-covered magnet that sits in a section of the lower center display panel. The machine will not start without the key placed in its station. The key has a cord with a clip built into it. You place the key into its station and then clip the other end to your clothing for safety. If for some reason you fall off the treadmill belt, the magnetic key will be pulled off the console, thereby stopping the treadmill belt immediately.
Programs and Usage:
When you first power up the treadmill, the machine will automatically go into manual mode. It will wait for you to enter what you want to do. You can either manually set the speed and incline by using the toggle switches on the handlebars, or the console buttons, or use one of the pre-set programs. If you want to use the pre-sets, simply push the Fat Burn, Cardio, or Warm-Up buttons. You can also use one of six user-defined programs that you create yourself. In all cases, the belt starts up very slowly, which is great. (My neighbor thanks me, Im sure.)
A Little Info On The Pre-Set Programs:
Fat Burn: This program will vary the treadmills elevation while keeping a steady walking belt speed.
Its similar to walking up and down hills. The speed and incline can be changed and saved to memory if you like.
Cardio: With this program, the speed goes up and down while keeping a constant incline level (the opposite of the fat burn program). The speed and incline levels can be changed and saved here, as well.
Warm-Up: During the warm-up program, both the speed and the incline will increase during the first segment (the warm-up segment) and then decrease in a cool-down segment. As with the other two programs, the speed and incline levels can be customized and saved to memory.
And as I mentioned earlier, you may customize and save up to six separate personalized programs using the enter program button on the console.
Each handlebar is covered with a soft material and has hand grips underneath. On the top are the toggle switches. The left bar has the incline toggle, and right bar has the speed toggle. Its great not to have to always press buttons on the console face to change speed and/or incline.
The treadmill also comes with a handy walking belt adjustment tool, in case the belt shifts to the left or right. You simply plug the hex key tool into the roller adjustment bolt and turn slightly to the left or right, depending on which way the belt is shifting. The tool can be stored on the side of the treadmills console, with the supplied holder.
The machine is maintenance-free, except for the need of an occasional walking board lubrication. Youll need a can of silicone lubricant spray that has the usual slim, straw-like sprayer attachment in order to spray under the walking belt.
In addition to the usual operating instructions, the users manual contains some good exercise guidelines (stretches and other info), as well as a troubleshooting guide to help out if something goes wrong. There is also a toll-free helpline if you need assistance, which is very handy.
Keys treadmills have won several awards over the years for being best buys, best in quality, and best in many other categories. This was also important to me. I didnt want to purchase an item from a fly-by-night company that might not be around next month!
I am really enjoying my treadmill; its very simple to use, has been completely problem-free from day one (Ive had the machine for over a year now), is very quiet, smooth-running, and provides more than enough challenges. I personally cant see spending huge amounts of money for nothing more than a few more bells and whistles. This unit is one terrific value for the money!