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Manual Vs. Motorized Treadmills

When people go to purchase a treadmill, one of the first questions they ask is "Do I want a manual or motorized treadmill?"

What's the difference between the two?

The Basic Difference:

With a manual (or non-motorized) treadmill, you push the belt with your feet. The action of your feet against the treadmill moves the belt.

With a motorized treadmill you keep pace as the treadmill motor moves the belt for you at a pace you set electronically.

Advantages & Disadvantages:

Manual treadmills:

Tend to be cheaper (since you're not paying for the motor) and can range from $200 to $600.

They also tend to be smaller, take up less space and are easier to move (since they aren't as heavy as a motorized treadmill).

Some people have theorized that manual treadmills burn more calories than motorized treadmill since you supply the power to move the belt.

This is unfortunately NOT TRUE.

Because you supply the power, unless you are in top athletic shape, you will tend to move slower and get tired more easily. This results in LESS calories burned on a manual treadmill.

Plus, the action of getting the belt to move initially and keep it moving can cause a strain on your joints.

It's also difficult to run on a manual treadmill so if you want to start a jogging program or train as a runner, a manual treadmill would not meet your needs.

Motorized treadmills:

Tend to be more expensive and can range from $800 up to $8000. However, they tend to last longer and are built to take more of a beating.

Also, because the belt moves for you at varying speeds, this motivates you to keep up and actually results in more calories burned (vs. a manual treadmill).

You can easily adjust the speed and incline on most motorized treadmills, usually while still on the machine. This makes it much more convenient and saves the strain on your joints.

A final advantage to the motorized treadmills is that they tend to have more options and features (iFit compatibility, numerous built-in workout programs, scrolling information consoles). This makes your workout more interesting and possibly even enjoyable as you can watch your progress.

This means that you will probably USE the treadmill more often which again results in more calories burned and a better body achieved.

The Final Conclusion:

Unless you're in extremely good physical shape, a manual treadmill is not recommended. Choose a motorized treadmill for maximum calorie burning and exercise convenience.

The biggest motivation to choose a manual treadmill is the low cost. However, you can find a quality motorized treadmill for a relatively low cost if you know where to look.

Regardless of what you choose remember to have fun and commit yourself to a better, healthier you!

Kathryn O'Neill is the chief editor for Treadmill Review

For more buying tips, treadmill brand reviews, and best buys visit


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