Which treadmills for seniors are best?
While many seniors consider their leisure years to be a time for relaxation after a lifetime of work, exercise and cardiovascular activities are just as important as they are for younger age groups. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most older adults should participate in at least three and a half hours of aerobic activity per week.
Walking is one of the best, low-impact exercises to help seniors stay fit, and a treadmill is an excellent option for achieving fitness goals. If you are looking for a treadmill designed for the senior walker, the NordicTrack Commercial 1750 Treadmill is a top choice.
What to know before you buy a treadmill
Exercise priorities for seniors differ from those of young people, many of whom seek an intense workout that burns calories and builds stamina. Seniors should be concerned with staying in form without risking injury and therefore look for treadmill features suited to their goals.
If you are a senior, consider these treadmill factors.
Safety and stability
Although the treadmill is an exceptional piece of equipment for getting exercise indoors, it is inherently unstable and presents a risk of injury to a user if some important precautions are not taken.
Safety features are an essential part of any treadmill for anyone but even more so for seniors. If you have difficulty with balance, you need a treadmill with long handrails for support and a stop button that automatically shuts off the machine in an emergency.
Belt cushioning determines the comfort level for walking or running on a treadmill and reduces the chance of injury. For the senior, it can also help compensate for the natural loss of joint cushioning that occurs with age.
Treadmill cushioning varies from 15-40 percent softer than the road. Less cushioning is suitable for users training for road running while softer is better for walkers.
High-end treadmills like the NordicTrack T Series and XTERRA Fitness TR150 feature excellent shock deflection. Some mid-priced treadmills offer orthopedic cushioning, while the cushioning on cheap treadmills is usually poor quality.
Treadmill motor horsepower
Purchasing a treadmill with the appropriate motor size is essential to ensuring your machine will perform well and last for years.
Treadmills built for residential use typically use motors ranging from 2-4 horsepower. A 2-horsepower motor is sufficient for walkers, 2.5-3 horsepower models work well for joggers and 3-4 horsepower treadmills are ideal for runners or homes where the treadmill gets heavy use.
Track length and width
The industry standard track lengths are 58-60 inches for running treadmills and 55 inches for treadmills designed for walking. The typical track width is 20 inches, but extra-wide treadmill tracks, usually 22 inches, built for larger users are becoming more common. A senior planning to use a treadmill for walking only can still get good performance from a standard-sized track.
What to look for in a quality treadmill
Some treadmill features may be more important to seniors than to younger users.
Built-in and customizable fitness test programs
Before purchasing a treadmill, consider your fitness goals and select one that includes suitable training programs. The right exercise program can keep you interested and encourage you to achieve your objectives, like improving your heart’s health.
Seniors should look for walking workouts that become more challenging over time by increasing the rate, duration or incline.
Heart rate monitor
Some treadmills offer heart rate monitoring by reading your heart rate using a pulse sensor on side rails while others use a chest strap fitted with sensors. More advanced heart rate control systems will use input from a grip or chest band to vary the treadmill’s speed and incline.
Easy-to-use control panel
For many seniors, simpler is better, and an easy-to-use control panel will encourage them to follow their exercise program. An adjustable panel with a large screen size and good visibility is easy to follow by seniors with eyesight impairments.
A folding treadmill has a small footprint when not in use, making it easy to store and ideal for an apartment or other small space.
A 10 percent max incline is usually available on many low-budget treadmills, while more expensive models offer more challenging inclines up to 40 percent. A typical treadmill user burns 173.1 calories in 20 minutes at a 10 percent incline, but the same user burns an impressive 304.7 calories at a 40 percent incline.
Look for a tread belt with a 2-ply thickness or more. The highest-quality treadmills include belts that are pre-lubricated or waxed with high-pressure synthetic compounds for extra cushioning and long wear.
Other treadmill features
Features that may be useful for seniors include a quiet treadmill motor, cooling fans and built-in speakers with Bluetooth connectivity.
How much you can expect to spend on a treadmill
Residential treadmill prices range from $150 to over $3,000 with an average price of about $575. Commercial-quality treadmills are more expensive.
What is the primary reason why people buy a treadmill?
A. While most treadmill owners use it for running and others for walking, the majority purchase treadmills to avoid going outside for exercise.
How smart are treadmills?
A. As early as 2007, NordicTrack iFit and Google Maps partnered to bring street view to treadmills. The system automatically adjusted incline, decline and speed based on the natural terrain of the selected route.
Why do you feel hotter running or walking indoors on a treadmill than outside?
A. On the treadmill indoors you are stationary relative to the surrounding air and no breeze flows past your body. You sweat more than outside and need more water to adequately hydrate.
What are the best treadmills for seniors to buy?
What you need to know: The comfort and safety features of the NordicTrack, including Runners Flex™ cushioning and side/front handrails make it the best choice for seniors.
What you’ll love: The 10-inch HD touchscreen displays clear and concise videos. A Bluetooth connection allows listening to the iFIT trainer and workout music without interruptions. The Fit mobile app provided access to iFIT’s interactive personal training including about 50 workout apps with varying programs.
What you should consider: The machine is heavy, making it difficult to move, and customer service for the model 1750 is inferior to support provided for some of Nordictrack’s other products.
Top treadmill for the money
What you need to know: The TR150 is an excellent choice if you are on a budget, it is your first treadmill or you need a folding model to save space.
What you’ll love: A large 16 by 50-inch running/walking surface and 235-pound support capacity accommodates users of different sizes. The TR150 uses EKG heart rate grips instead of the less expensive thumb plate option. The 2.25 horsepower motor provides more than sufficient power for walking.
What you should consider: The machine has only a minimum incline, just barely above walking on a flat surface. It lacks an automatic power off and turning it off requires hitting a switch on the back.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: The SF-T7857 design is ideal for seniors with its low step-up height and shock absorption technology in the deck that reduces the impact on joints when walking or jogging.
What you’ll love: The 2.5 horsepower motor drives the belt between 0.6-5 miles per hour and a wide deck measuring 58 by 29 by 53 inches is suitable for large users up to 295 pounds. The multi-grip handrails help maintain balance.
What you should consider: The assembly may be challenging, and the 123-pound treadmill weight is too heavy for some seniors to move.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Jeff Harper writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.