The Treadmill Option
for Cardiovascular Exercise

The Treadmill is the most popular exercise device for cardiovascular training. In fact, more Americans regularly train on one than any other type of exercise machine, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

An interesting historical side-note is that treadmill-like machines were used in British prisons during the Victorian period as punishment. The poor devils probably didn't realize at the time how concerned the government was with their cardiovascular fitness.

But I digress.

If you’ve never used a treadmill, go to a store or health club and try one out before buying. If you decide to buy one for your home gym, here are some important things to think about . . .

•How much floor space can you devote to it? Non-folding models take up about the same amount of space as a sofa. And the good ones are pretty heavy, so you will not be moving it around much. It's a good idea to draw up a floor plan so you can see where each piece of exercise equipment will go.

•Will you be walking or running on it? Generally, the more it is used for running the sturdier it should be (yes, it will cost more). It doesn’t take as much of a pounding if you plan on using it only for walking. Price is always a consideration, of course. But regardless of which way it will be used, don’t skimp and buy the cheapest model. You get what you pay for. A really cheap price means sub-standard construction.

•What features will you require? Many machines have electronic programming that automatically increases or decreases intensity. Many have heart rate monitors. Some allow CD and MP3 player plug-ins. (It has been proven that music helps with pacing.) You will also discover some add-ons on some machines that serve no real purpose. Why pay extra for them? After trying out a few models, make a list of the features that are important to you.

•What is the company’s return policy? Suppose you get it home and, even after doing your pre-purchase homework, you find that you don’t like it? Will you be able to return it? Some companies offer trial periods.

•When you do get it home, set it up right away and try it out. In the unlikely event your machine has a factory defect, find out immediately. If you wait and find out later that it arrived with something wrong, there could be some question about who is responsible.

•Examine the warranty. The people at Consumer Reports say that exercise machines are among those rare products where it may be smart to consider an extended warranty. In general, however, the higher priced machines have warranties that are adequate without extension. Consider an extended warranty for a treadmill with less than a year of parts and labor coverage.

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