Treadmill Buyers Guide

Elite Fitness has been educating and providing advice to customers on purchasing treadmills for home use for over 20 years. We have a huge range and selection of in-store treadmills or online treadmills to meet your budget requirements, whether you are a first time fitness equipment purchaser or serious treadmill user. This treadmill buyers-guide will help you decide what features to consider when buying a treadmill from Elite Fitness. When it comes to investing in a treadmill for your Health & Fitness needs, there are many factors to take into consideration in selecting the right treadmill for you and your family. The treadmill is one of the most versatile pieces of fitness equipment that will cater for all fitness levels, whether you choose to walk, jog or run.  We cannot emphasise the importance of trying or testing the treadmill enough as the feel of the machine can be crucial in your buying decision.

Walking Machine or Running Machine?

Just like human beings, treadmills come in many shapes and sizes, so defining the treadmill and matching it to an individual’s physical characteristics/fitness goals are important. Treadmills are constructed with both mechanical and electrical components on a steel frame that need to work well together to provide a realistic outdoor experience indoors, however there are some differences in treadmills designed for walking and running. A walking machine will generally have a smaller deck surface and lighter frame construction, powered by a smaller sized motor, as the level of impact and stress on the walking machine is considerably less than a running machine, however considerations of the following factors should be observed:

  • Number of household users
  • Duration & frequency of use per week
  • Heaviest user weight
  • Pre-existing Injuries
  • Long term fitness goal

It is important to answer these questions as they influence the suitability of the type of treadmill you should consider.  All too often we find people under buying treadmills that are not designed to meet the demand or expectation of the individual or household use.

Although all walking machines can be different depending on manufacturer, they will generally feature a 110-120cm long deck surface to cater for brisk walking speeds of 6-8 kph with a motor size of 1.25CHP – 1.75CHP and support maximum user weights up to 120kg. Heavier and taller users may need to move up to a larger running machine due to weight restrictions or stride length limitations.  If the walking treadmill usage is expected to be greater than 5 hours per week, then a larger, better quality treadmill motor is advisable.

A running machine will be constructed with a heavier more stable framework, larger running deck and belt surface (130-150cm) and powered with a larger motor (2.0CHP – 4.0CHP motor) to cater for greater running speeds (over 20kph)  and longer usage. The larger deck and belt surfaces are important in providing the user confidence and support to stride out under jogging or running conditions whilst the superior cushioning systems reduce joint impact up to 20% over running on the road.

If your long term fitness goals involve progressing to jogging or running in the future, then look to purchase a running machine from the outset.

Once you have decided on the type of treadmill you need, here are some other features, advantages and benefits that may influence your buying decision.


In recent years the treadmill market in New Zealand has been inundated with cheap and inferior Chinese imports.  Many of these treadmills are kitset built and manufactured from a large range and source of components supplied by different factories. These treadmill factories predominantly specialise in assembly and distributing the product, not developing and testing new innovations that optimise power efficiency, reliability, durability and ultimately your workout experience.

Purchasing a treadmill manufactured from a well recognised brand i.e. Proform, NordicTrack, will give you assurance that the development, innovation and testing of these treadmills is at the highest possible standards.  Often manufacturing warranties from leading brands are superior and reflect the highest grade and standard of componentry incorporated with their products as they are required to meet strict European Standards i.e. CE, GS, TUV.





The treadmill motor is the heart, life and soul of the machine, making it an important feature of the machine. There are 2 types of treadmill motors commonly found, DC (Direct Current) and AC (Alternating Current). Home-use treadmills most commonly use a DC (Direct Current) type motor whereas AC (Alternating Current) motors are more often found in Commercial Gym Treadmills.

It can be confusing understanding what size of motor is required when purchasing a treadmill.  Most treadmill motors are rated in horsepower by the manufacturer.  This measurement gives some assessment as to how much power the motor will provide, however it is important to understand what rating to look for.  Motors can be rated in Peak Horsepower (PHP) or Continuous Duty Horsepower (CHP). The Peak horsepower (PHP) rating is the measurement of maximum HP (Horsepower) generated without load applied to it (free revving).  This figure will always be greater than the continuous rating.  The Continuous Duty Horsepower (CHP) rating is the measurement of HP (Horsepower) generated when tested under load.  This figure represents a more accurate assessment of the motors true capability.  
E.g. A treadmill motor may have a PHP rating of 2.5HP, however it’s CHP rating may only be 2.0HP.

The following is a guide of (CHP) Horsepower ratings for various treadmills.

Walking Treadmill  – 1.25 – 1.75CHP
Jogging Treadmill   – 1.75 – 2.25CHP
Running Treadmill  – 2.25 – 4.0CHP

The quality of the motor is important in providing a realistic walking/running experience that is smooth under foot and gives you the confidence to enjoy a better workout.
Horsepower of the motor does not necessarily represent the quality of the motor.  Like everything in life “Big is not always Best” The internal components of the motor, windings, bearings and insulation are crucial in ensuring reliability and durability for many years to come.  Along with this the Motor Drive system – MCB (Motor Control Board) & front roller system must be developed to work seamlessly as one unit with the treadmill motor.

Cushioning (Suspension)

Undoubtedly the treadmills cushioning is a feature that cannot be overlooked.  Like suspension in a car, the ride and feel of your treadmill will provide you with the most comfort to keep you motivated towards achieving your fitness goals.  If you suffer from joint injury, back pain or shin splints then this feature will interest you.  Whilst running on the road, your joints are exposed to large amounts of impact, upwards of 5 x your bodyweight.  This impact must be absorbed by the body, through joints and muscles with some relief coming from your footwear and running technique.   As we get older and our bodies natural ability to replenish and restore cartilage and joint function becomes more demanding it is important to look after our joints to continue exercising.

This is where the treadmill can have a distinct advantage over road running.  Treadmills have flexible suspension inserts, positioned between the running deck and framework.  These are designed to compress and flex during foot-strike to absorb and take away a large percentage of joint impact.  All treadmills will have their own unique design or setup that will offer the user a choice in individual preference, so testing and trying the treadmill is hugely important in getting the right feel for you and your family. Manufacturers for Proform, Healthrider and NordicTrack (Icon Health & Fitness ) are constantly developing better cushioning systems that provide 15%-30% impact reduction as well as adjustable cushioning settings that accommodate a variety of users in the family.

Space Saver

Space in the home is always at a premium, so most Home-Use treadmills will have the ability to fold and be moved via transport wheels.  Soft-Drop and lift assisted decks, allow the treadmills to be unfolded easily and safely

Deck Size

The treadmill running deck can vary in size and have a laminated surface to reduce friction from the running belt when in use.  Just like tyres on your car, the running belt and deck surface wear and over time will require replacement.  They should also be regularly lubricated to ensure the longest possible life. Depending on your fitness goals the running deck surface needs to provide enough area to accommodate your height, stride length and running speed, allowing for a fluid, safe and comfortable workout on your treadmill.

The following is a guide on suitable treadmill deck sizes:
Walking  – 110 -120cm
Jogging    – 120 -140cm
Running  – 140  -152cm

Incline – Elevation Motor

Incline or elevation adjustment on your treadmill is a great workout feature, whether it is manual or a powered system.  The Incline elevation motor is an important component to consider.  Most treadmills come with Power incline, which allows the treadmill deck surface to be raised from 0% - 10%, with some treadmills going as high as 40%.  This simulates the addition of a hill climb during the workout, raising your working heart rate and potentially burning up to 5x more energy than walking/running on a normal flat surface.  This also allows variation in your treadmill workout and can be controlled through inbuilt workout programmes on the console to give important motivation to your training routine.

Workout Programmes

When motivation is lacking or we just want a convenient programme that controls the workouts for us, pre-programmed workouts in the console are fantastic.  Whether you enjoy a brisk stroll or a challenging run, workout programmes can make exercising more enjoyable and satisfying. Workout programmes can be pre-programmed inside the console to be goal or terrain specific, controlling both speed and incline elevation or customised to suit your own needs.  Treadmill innovation specialists Icon Health & Fitness now incorporate University tested workout programmes designed at the University of Utah in the U.S by Personal Trainers in all their Golds Gym, Proform, Healthrider and Nordic Track treadmills.  This technology has also developed interactive training programmes through SD Card technology (Ifit SD) with Personal Trainers such as Jillian Michaels or the new Ifit Live Wireless system powered by Google Maps, which allows you to design and map your own workouts online.


Additional Features

Other features that you may consider in your treadmill may include:

  •  iPod/MP3 Compatible interface with inbuilt acoustic speakers
  •  Cool-Air fan system 
  • Heart Rate Sensors  or Wireless Heart Rate Compatibility (Polar) 
  •  Android console interface with Hi-Res Graphics and detailed workout information
  •  University tested workout programmes
  •  iFit Live /SD Card workout technology



Just like test driving a new car, it is important to come and try the range of treadmills available.  We invite you to pop into your nearest Elite Fitness Store to experience them for yourself and have any questions answered by our knowledgeable and friendly staff.