Manual or Electric? It’s the big question facing anyone who is looking at buying a treadmill. Each option has its own pros and cons and so you’ll need to think carefully before choosing the one that is right for you. There is a lot of debate and online materiel on the subject To help you weigh up between the two choices here is a list of factors to consider:
Manual treadmills, being simpler in features and construction (there is a whole lot of electro-mechanical gear not present) tend to cost less than powered treadmills. Sometimes the price difference can be quite significant.
The flip side of this is that you usually get something for your money. While not completely bereft of features, manual treadmills tend to have simpler consoles and lack the very nice to have ability to adjust the incline while you’re on the machine. Electric treadmills, meanwhile, can offer more workout programmes and tend to have things like clocks, odometers and heart rate monitors as standard. You need to ask yourself what features you need.
Ease of use
This can be quite subjective. How easy is it to use a treadmill powered entirely by you? Some people think it is harder than it should be, and that powered treadmills offer a better experience. Depending on the mechanism, manual treadmills can take some effort to build up the right momentum and speed. Learning how to get going can take a while for some treadmills. However they naturally adjust to your speed and so will slow down as you do.
Electric treadmills start up without any effort from you. And can keep you going at a steady pace, rather than let you drop off as you tire. This leads to a more intense workout.
Size and Portability
Electric treadmills tend to be larger for the simple reason there is more of them (as we discussed before). And they add a whole lot of weight. There are many fold up and even portable treadmills that have electric motors, but decent motors add bulk and smaller treadmills, such as powered portable models, sacrifice power/capacity for portability, meaning things like incline adjustments are not available.
Manual treadmills simple tend to fold up better and be lighter. That lightness does have a side-effect however. The lighter the treadmill the more unstable it is. If you are a taller or heavier jogger then the force you generate can cause some rocking on the wrong treadmills. This doesn’t mean all manuals are out, but it is something to take into consideration.
Still, for portability manuals tend to be ahead of electric treadmills, without sacrificing as much.
So what’s right for you?
Well, that’s hard to say. It comes down to weighing up the factors. In short, if you need portability or compactness, or are after something cheaper then lean towards the manual treadmills. If you’re after a particular set of functions, or just like as many cool extras as possible then electric treadmills are more likely to satisfy you. As to what’s easier to use that is up to you. If you need more help, check out my treadmill buying guide, which looks at all these factors and more.