Treadmills are among the most popular forms of cardiovascular fitness equipment, according to the American Council on Exercise. While motorized treadmills are most commonly used in both the health club and home gym settings, manual treadmills are cheaper and offer a low-impact alternative to walking or jogging outside. Manual treadmills have no motor, but rather are powered by your own steps turning the belt on a series of rollers.
The tread deck of a manual treadmill is very important to how comfortable you feel while exercising on it. The more cushioning springs and shock absorbers a tread deck has, the easier it will be on your joints. One aspect of manual treadmills that can be hard on your joints is getting the belt turning initially, so a well-cushioned deck is important for your comfort. The rollers under the belt should be large and turn easily when you step forward on it.
The walking area on a manual treadmill is typically smaller than that of a motorized treadmill. While a slightly smaller belt size is acceptable because you will be walking or lightly jogging instead of running full speed on the manual treadmill, you must ensure that there is enough space for your stride length on the belt. If the belt is too short or narrow, exercising may be uncomfortable and you will be prone to tripping or stepping off of the belt.
Manual treadmills are much lighter in weight than their motorized counterparts, making it easier for them to wobble during intense walking or light jogging. If the treadmill shakes while you use it, you are more likely to hold the handrail while exercising. This can limit your speed, put excessive strain on your muscles and raise your blood pressure, according the American College of Sports Medicine. Treadmills with aluminum frames are more stable and durable than those with steel frames because they absorb shock better. The treadmill will also be more stable if it does not fold in half for storage, as the folding joint on treadmills creates a weak point in the frame.
Higher quality manual treadmills may have comfort and workout features that can improve your experience on the machine when compared to base models. A water bottle, magazine or MP3 player holder can help to boost your motivation level while you are burning calories. A heart rate monitor is another good feature to have on a manual treadmill. Heart rate monitors allow you to keep an even pace while working out, which is highly beneficial on a manual treadmill where it can be easy to slow your pace because a motorized belt is not propelling you forward.
The quality of the warranty on the treadmill can be indicative of the machine's overall quality. A treadmill with an extensive warranty on the frame and parts is likely to last for a number of years if used properly. However, you should pay close attention to the maximum user weight limit of the machine. If you weigh more than the limit, it may void your warranty even if the treadmill has a manufacturing defect.