Treadmill features and benefits have made significant leaps since they were first used by humans in 1952, according to Treadmill Life. They gained widespread notoriety as a home exercise tool in the 1960s, with brand names like Tunturi and Aerobics dominating the market. In 2011, the top-performing treadmills according to Treadmill Doctor and Consumer Reports carry names like Lifespan, NordicTrack, True and Precor.
Lifespan Fitness' 2011 line of treadmills ranges from its folding TR100 compact treadmill -- featuring a 17-inch wide belt that folds upward to 11 inches thick and is powered by a 1.5 hp motor -- to the PRO5, which features 3 hp motor with a cooling system and a 22-inch belt. Seven models in the line earned awards from fitness websites including Treadmill Doctor, Fitness Professor Review and Health magazine.
NordicTrack emerged in the 1980s as the first company to market cross-country skiing machines for home use. By the late 1990s, the company had expanded into nearly all types of indoor fitness equipment, including treadmills. Its line of 14 treadmills is highlighted by the Commercial 1500 model, which Treadmill Doctor cited as a best buy in the $1,000 to $1,299 range. The machine features a 20-inch wide belt and online tools, including a Google Maps feature that simulates the inclines and declines of various roadways, as well as online fitness tracking and wireless pulse and heart tracking tools.
Precor's line of five treadmills is led by its 9.31 model, which earned a Treadmill Doctor Best Buy award and was the top-rated non-folding machine by "Consumer Reports" in February 2011. The Precor 9.31 uses two of the company's trademark advancements. The Ground Effects Impact Control System uses shock absorbers built into the deck to cushion the foot and minimize the impact felt by the body. Its Integrated Footplant Technology varies the belt speed to accommodate for when the foot pushes off and lands, allowing you to run naturally and not with the pulling and dragging that happens with other treadmills.
St. Louis-based True Fitness manufactures equipment for both residential and commercial use. Its line of eight treadmills is led by the PS300, which was among the top ten machines ranked by Consumer Reports and a Treadmill Doctor Best Buy. The PS300 claims to have one of the largest running surfaces available with a 21-inch wide belt. Its patented HRC Cruise Control adjusts the speed and intensity of the workout to maintain your target heart rate for the duration of the workout.