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Treadmills simulate walking, jogging or running indoors without the need for a track or other large space. This allows you to get an aerobic workout at home or at the gym regardless of the weather outside. Both manual and electric treadmills have benefits and drawbacks. Comparing the two types lets you choose the treadmill that's best for your workout, living space and available funds.
Manual and electric treadmills are available in a range of sizes, though manual treadmills tend to be smaller and lighter than their electric counterparts. The increased size and weight of electric treadmills are due at least in part to the motor and other electrical components included in the treadmill; there are electric treadmills that are designed with a smaller overall size and weight in mind. The average treadmill is 3-feet wide by 7-feet long, though manual treadmills and electric treadmills designed for smaller spaces may be shorter and thinner.
Portability and Storage
Electric treadmills tend to be more difficult to move or store due to their weight and size. Manual treadmills are more likely to be light enough to move easily, and in many cases, feature folding handles or other components to make storage easier; some manual treadmills even collapse to the point that they can be stored in a closet or under a bed.
Both manual and electric treadmills provide you with exercise options. The design of the treadmill and whether it is manual or electric may affect how it is used. Smaller treadmills or those designed to fold down for storage have shorter running decks and tend to be shaky at higher speeds; they are typically suited for use at 10 mph or less. Larger treadmills allow for higher speeds and often let you adjust the angle of the running deck as well, increasing the intensity of your workout by making the surface you're running on steeper.
With manual treadmills, the speed of the running deck's conveyor is set by you as you run. This gives you a great amount of control over your speed; it also allows your speed to gradually decrease as you become tired. Electric treadmills offer a set speed, with most allowing you to adjust the speed as necessary so the treadmill's conveyor goes faster or slower. Though electric treadmills offer speed consistency, it may be difficult to match them to your preferred running speed.
Though manual treadmills are not driven by an electric motor, they may have some battery-powered features such as clocks, odometers and heart rate monitors. Electric treadmills commonly offer these features as well, plus other features such as programmable routines that change the angle and speed of the treadmill and plugins for mp3 players or other media devices.
The safety of manual and electric treadmills varies, depending on how the specific treadmills are designed. Most treadmills offer hand grips or rails to help you hold on while using the machine, and electric treadmills often make use of a safety key that clips onto your clothes and shuts down the machine if you drift too far back on the running deck. Optional safety features may also slow or shut down the treadmill in certain situations, such as if your heart rate exceeds a specified level.
Cost and Availability
Due to the lack of an electric motor or similar components, manual treadmills typically cost less than their electric counterparts. The number of features offered by electric treadmills greatly affects the price of different models, with more fully featured options costing significantly more than basic models. Electric treadmills are much more common than manual treadmills, making it more difficult to purchase a manual model without ordering it online or from a specialty store.
Choosing a Treadmill
When comparing manual and electric treadmills in hopes of making a purchase, there are several things you should consider. Think about where the treadmill will be located, both in terms of how much room is available for it and whether there are electrical outlets located nearby. Remember that larger electric treadmills can't be stored easily and take up more room than manual treadmills or lightweight electrics. If you want a treadmill that has programmable features, keep in mind that these treadmills typically cost more than manual or basic electric varieties. You should also take into consideration how you plan to use the treadmill; smaller treadmills are good for walking, but if you want to run, you need a larger treadmill with a longer running deck. If possible, try a demo version of a specific treadmill before buying to make sure that it meets your needs.