RW Treadmill Test

Some people love gritting their teeth and running outside in the elements, be it gales, rain, hail or snow. There really is no need. They could avoid the inclemency for a small investment in a home treadmill. Domestic machines now offer you just as much as those in the gym, and you don’t have to wipe other people’s sweat off first.

If you’re investing in your first home treadmill, concentrate on the basics. Look for a motor that’s at least 2 Horse Power continuous duty, speed that goes up to at least 10mph (even if you’re not a fast runner, you’ll need this for sprint intervals), and a decent warranty length.

Home models have certainly come on since the last time RW looked at them, two years ago. For a reasonable outlay of £1,000- £2,500 (treadmills can cost anything from £500 to £5,000) you’ll have a sturdy but supported ride, a good speed range and even added extras such as TVs and heart-rate monitors. Six RW staffers invited a treadmill into their beautiful homes for a week, and no-one was disappointed – at least not until they had to give them back.

Bowflex 5 Series, £1,299
Running area 51cm x 153cm
Motor 2.5HP Continuous Duty Top speed 12mph
Contact www.nautilus.com
The Bowflex 5 was really easy to use and quick to start, with big, well-spaced buttons that are easy to press on the run. There were five preset programmes, plus you could record two of your own, set calories or distance goals, or run a 5K time trial. It seemed huge even when folded (it was very easy to fold) and the console was a bit high for smaller runners. The upside of this was it felt incredibly smooth and sturdy to run on, with relatively low noise level and no wobbling. In fact it looked and felt more like a gym model than a home model. One snag; the built-in fan on the console didn’t make much difference.

LifeFitness T7-0, £3,295
Running area 51cm x 153cm
Motor 3HP Top speed 12mph
Contact www.lifefitness.com
The T7-0 has a generous range of programmes: there are 18 presets, plus four users can create seven custom-built workouts each (their details are also stored separately, so everyone can track their progress). It also has adjustable shock-absorption, so you can change it to replicate different running surfaces, or to suit different surfaces in your house. The graphics are clear and the buttons are easy to understand and very sensitive. It’s compatible with a Polar heart-rate monitor, and has programmes you can use with this. It has a big running area and feels really sturdy. It doesn’t fold though (LifeFitness are introducing a folding range in March).

NordicTrack EX3600, £2,499
Running area 51 x 152cm
Motor 3HP Top speed 12mph
Contact www.ICONeurope.com
It was very easy to use the basic functions on the EX3600, with one set of number buttons for speed and one for incline. The treadmill has 20 programmes, which are less intuitive to use – for example, to find the distance programmes you have to press “Calories” repeatedly – though once found, they’re easy to use. You can also record two of your own programmes, which was useful. The TV, which was easy to hook up, and two fans were great. The heart-rate function didn’t work reliably with the strap provided, and wasn’t compatible with a Polar heart-rate monitor, which was slightly annoying. Broadly speaking, though, it was a pleasure to use: it felt solid and was very responsive.

ProForm 585V Perspective, £995
Running area 50cm x 140cm
Motor 2.25HP Top speed 12mph
Contact www.ICONeurope.com
This is a really impressive home treadmill, especially for the price. It was very stable with a good-sized running area, and when folded was fairly inconspicuous. The controls were very simple, just up and down buttons for speed and incline, start and stop, and controls for the built-in TV screen (this has to be wired up to an external TV or DVD player). As well as 20 presets and four heart-rate programmes, you can create presets of your own. There’s also a feature called iFit, which enables you to download training programmes from the internet using an SD card. It comes with a heart-rate strap, though it was difficult to get a signal with this. It has a fan, although this was not very effective.

Tunturi T60F, £1,500
Running area 51cm x 138cm
Motor 2.5HP Top speed 12.5mph
Contact www.tunturi.co.uk
This was easy to get going, and comes with eight preset programmes. A useful feature was that you could store four different user profiles and track your sessions. Also impressive was the Position Speed Control mode – the speed of the belt changes in relation to where you are, so speeds up if you’re running near the front (you need to wear the heart rate strap and attach the safety key for this). The included heart-rate strap didn’t fit well, though a Garmin heart-rate transmitter was compatible. The belt felt a little slippery, especially when walking, but overall it was smooth and sturdy. Overall, this would be a solid investment for a home treadmill.

Vision Fitness T9450, £1,500
Running area 51cm x 137cm
Motor 2.5HP Top speed 12mph
Contact www.visionfitness.co.uk
This has a good quick-start option so you can start running straight away, but it can also remember your profile so you don’t have to keep inputting your weight and other details. It has 16 programmes, including a nice 10K run with elevation changes. The LCD display was clear and showed your progress (you can “race” the treadmill if you like), and you can alternate easily between different readings. The buttons were really simple, with several quick keys so it was easy to find programmes. It was solid to run on and although it has the shortest belt on test, it certainly felt big enough. It was easy to fold up and move around, and is compact when folded.