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Cheap Treadmill Buying Guide

A serious runner might be disappointed in the performance of a cheap treadmill. If you fall into that category, commenters at Runner's World suggest hitting up Craigslist for used gym equipment.

The experts at Treadmill Doctor say if you have a history of consistent exercise, you are likely to continue it at home, which could make a more expensive treadmill worth it. They also suggest looking outside the budget price range if more than one person will be using the equipment, if any user weighs more than 250 pounds, or if the treadmill will be used for more than an hour per day. On the other hand, if you are a novice runner, or intend to primarily walk or jog, a cheap treadmill could be all you need.

The intensity of exercise a treadmill can handle has to do with the power of its motor, as measured in continuous-duty horsepower, or CHP. Look for a motor with a CHP of 1.5 for walking and higher for interval training or jogging. The motor should run quietly; experts say noise indicates friction, which will wear down the components eventually. Also make sure a cheap treadmill's belt is long enough to accommodate your stride. Take note of the weight capacity, which needs to be high enough to accommodate anyone using the machine and can indicate how sturdy it is. Most cheap treadmills have a maximum weight of 250 pounds, although some weight limits are significantly higher. Even cheap treadmills come with a variety of attractive bonus features such as fans and iPod docks. Most discount treadmills have several preset workout programs, although an extensive variety of presets is one thing budget shoppers often have to sacrifice.

Some of the top cheap treadmills are produced by multinational manufacturers Icon Health and Fitness, which owns brands such as ProForm, Gold's Gym, Reebok, and Weslo, and Johnson Tech, the parent company of Horizon Fitness and Merit Fitness. The best budget treadmills we found are the Horizon Fitness T101 (starting at $599) and the ProForm Performance 400 (starting at $599). The Horizon treadmill wins raves for its sturdy build, long deck, and easily changed speeds and inclines. Users like the added features as well, in particular the built-in fan that cools you off as you work out. The ProForm Performance 400 has a solid bed for walkers or light joggers and plenty of extra features.

The Merit Fitness 725T Plus (starting at $400) is also sturdy enough for both walkers and joggers, with preset workouts to vary the routine. The Gold's Gym GG480 (starting at $377) is a solid choice for walkers. It comes with a set of hand weights for exercising the upper body as well. Buyers of the Weslo Cadence G-40 (starting at $350) don't have high expectations at this price and recommend this cheap treadmill for those who are unsure of their commitment to exercise. Users warn that the belt tends to move and is fairly loud.

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