Let’s start with a little history to set the scene…the first manual treadmills were built in the 1820s; they used to be like a treadwheel with a strong rubber belt wrapped around a wide wooden axle and used rope as a handle. These treadmills were made to make prisoner’s life challenging, so understandably they were manual treadmills…
Manual treadmill vs Motorised treadmill
…now fast forward to 2021 and today, the treadmills have changed entirely; the wheel is replaced with a flat surface that uses high-quality PVC rubber as a belt. For the motorized treadmills, the track is powered by a motor that helps in setting a consistent speed without impacting your knees or joints.
Most users are confused when they go out to purchase their treadmills. There are tons of options for both manual treadmills and motorized ones. It is often hard to decide which one can help bring the best results or would be most suited to them.
There are so many benefits of getting a manual treadmill like a foldable belt, but they are some drawbacks too, including a worse impact on your joints. On the other hand, a motorized treadmill may look like a fancier choice with extensive options, but it too has its limitations.
Treadmills offer great workouts to improve your calories burn and weight loss. A study suggests that with 30 minutes of treadmill workout five days a week, you can lose up to 4 kg within a month. Not to forget, the treadmill isn’t only for burning calories, but it can also help you train your body to build endurance and improve cardiovascular health.
In this blog, I aim to help you identify the advantages and disadvantages of a manual treadmill and a motorized treadmill. By the end of it, you hopefully be clear in your decision, and if not, we will provide a conclusive ending that would lead you to make an easier choice.
Manual Treadmill Review
Manual treadmills refer to treadmills that don’t have a powered motor attached to the track, which means that the belt will only move once you start exerting force against the deck. Flat manual treadmills are generally a thing of the past, mainly because they aren’t the best for running purposes, and even if you need to walk, it gets hard to maintain your speed because the belt would slow down as you lower your pace.
However, these treadmills being less trendy doesn’t mean that you should count them out in your pursuit of increasing calories burned.
A recent study suggests that manual treadmills can help burn 30% more calories compared to a motorized treadmill or running at the same speed. The extra calories burned are mainly because of the extensive efforts required to push the belt and maintain the pace.
A newer addition to manual treadmills is that of curved belt manual treadmill; these treadmills generate power using their own dynamo and are effective for runners. A study suggests that the impact on runners using the treadmill can be higher by up to 60% compared to running on a flat motorized treadmill.
Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of a manual treadmill and why (why not) you should prefer them.
One reason that puts the manual treadmill above all its alternatives is affordability. Flat manual treadmills are still one of the cheapest treadmills that you can get. A survey suggests that the price of a manual treadmill can be about 40% lesser than a motorized treadmill from the same brand.
The price of a curved manual treadmill may be a little higher than the usual ones, but it is still in line with the motorized treadmills. A general manual treadmill would cost around £225, and the maintenance is infrequent and cheap. So, if you are looking to build a complete home gym with a limited budget, then getting affordable manual treadmills is a no brainer.
High-intensity interval training
If you want to buy a treadmill that can get you extensive calorie burn in little time, then purchasing a curved manual treadmill should be ideal. Most personal trainers recommend curved treadmills for their clients that are looking to build strength or endurance. As the treadmill doesn’t run on its own, you’d need to keep your efforts consistent for longer intervals to ensure that the speed remains constant.
When your body exerts consistent efforts, it increases your heart rate at a comfortably high level, boosting metabolism and improving calorie burn. Similarly, the curved manual treadmills are a good choice if you are looking to speed up your sprinting speed.
Lower body muscles
Manual treadmills would require varying stride levels at different stages of your workouts. Longer strides would be needed at the start of your exercise or when you wish to improve your speed, while shorter ones can help stabilize your pace to your desired level.
These changes in stride lengths accompanied by constant strain on your thighs and hamstrings would build your lower body muscle better than any other running practice. Similarly, trainers also regard manual treadmills as an additional factor in building your posture and spine strength.
Do expensive electricity charges freak you? Well, if they do, not using your motorized treadmill to save electricity can be a valid excuse to skip on a workout.
These excuses won’t get you anywhere though, so let’s fix that thought before it occurs.
Manual treadmills don’t require electricity to function, true, so there is a saving to be made on them not requiring electricity having already out-layed the initial buying cost.
Nevertheless, no power doesn’t necessarily mean that statistic monitors won’t work; the machine could generate its own power as the belt revolves; hence you can have accurate heart rate and calorie measures at all times (Be sure to check the spec of each individual machine).
I still remember the first time I was running on a motorized treadmill, my hands got caught with the safety cord, thus, the pin got displaced, and the machine stopped. I hit the front deck and just escaped a terrible fall.
A manual treadmill runs at the speed you want it to, and it just stops when you can’t put in more effort, so all the tension of an accident doesn’t exist. Hence, you have one less excuse to give up on your workout.
Although the benefits of a manual treadmill might be tempting to make a decision right away, you could possibly end up cursing us and regretting diving straight in; and we don’t want that to happen so, make sure you read the later section of the disadvantages, so you are well aware when making a decision.
Manual treadmills are mechanical, which mean that you can’t use programmed features on the machine. For flat manual treadmills, you can’t change the incline level while you are on the run. It would require you to stop first, and only then, incline can be adjusted.
It disrupts the flow of exercises, which may shorten your overall training or reduce the number of burned calories. However, for a curved treadmill, you don’t need to change incline level; you can just run in the middle of the belt or further on the track for a higher incline.
Another problem associated with manual treadmills is the joint stress resulting from the force exerted to move the running belt. The newer treadmills don’t usually need much power up front, but as they get older, the walking surface may wear with time, causing friction with the track; thus, more effort would be required to start running.
Runners with hip arthritis or hamstring injuries can have trouble running on a manual treadmill. A solution to the problem can be setting a high incline that lets the belt move quickly; however, a high incline would mean you are walking up a hill, which might not be your desired workout.
If you walk into a gym today, you’d probably see motorized treadmills only; the reason behind their success is the ease and comfort they have added to daily workouts. Motorized treadmills refer to treadmills that have an electric belt connected to a motor; once the machine is provided power, it would maintain a consistent pace regardless of any force from the runner. Today, most treadmills can go up to a speed of 16mph, while the more expensive ones have a top limit of 20.
The motorized treadmill was first bought into the limelight in the 1990s and was popularly known as the ‘electric treadmill’. Since their launch, they have gained rapid popularity and are now widely produced.
Unlike a manual treadmill, an electric treadmill allows you to change incline levels during your workout, so you don’t have to stop or compromise on the routine. Let’s talk about some of its popular features.
Speed and incline adjustment during the workout
While discussing the manual treadmill, we mentioned that its belt would move at the pace your body could exert. If you slow down, the belt’s speed will lower too. The additional force required to keep the belt moving can shorten the overall workout time, meaning that your overall calories burned would be dampened.
In the case of a motorized treadmill, you can adjust the speed in the middle of the run to suit your workout routine. Similarly, motorized treadmill running lets you practice different high-intensity interval training workouts. These treadmills let you change your incline level during the run so you can follow your workout plan without any problem.
No joint strain
Motorized treadmills are commercially popular mainly because they are a good fit for anyone willing to run. Non-motorized treadmill running isn’t always a good fit for older people with a hamstring problem or any other lower body issues. The force required to move the belt can sometimes get annoying, which might make your workouts too strenuous and less fun.
To avoid missing your workout goals, it may be better to have a motorized treadmill; it can run at a speed by itself, so you won’t need to put that extra force to keep the belt moving. Hence, you will be able to work out longer without getting tired.
More workout features
A motorized treadmill has several workout modes coded into the console; you can also add some more custom settings for the machine to follow. These additional features can add to the effectiveness of your workout and make it more fun. Although a standard treadmill would have about three modes which are still more than that in a non-motorized treadmill, a commercial treadmill can have up to 15 different modes that allow you to practice several different workouts for varying purposes.
Similarly, a motorized treadmill has additional features such as the iFit workouts app that can help you track your progress and make the most of your workout.
Perfect for longer exercise sessions
While a manual treadmill can be good for sprinting sessions, it requires excessive strength, thus shortening your workout. Whereas a motorized treadmill allows you to run at a pace exerting 30% less effort, which means you can run at a constant speed without giving up early. Treadmill running is all about building strength and burning calories; both goals require you to work out for longer spans.
Your heart generally functions at a high rate when you are working out; the longer the rate remains at its maximum, the better the results. A motorized treadmill can help you work out for longer sessions that would help maximize your heart rate that would burn more calories, thus bringing better results.
With all of these advantages, buying a motorized treadmill feels like the safest decision. Still, there are some disadvantages that come with an electric treadmill. Let’s discuss them…
Requires more space
Motorized treadmills are generally wider to ensure they are usable for an increased range of workouts. However, their width makes them unsuitable for tight spaces in your home gyms.
On the other hand, a folding manual treadmill can come in handy during such situations. They can easily be folded when not in use, and they won’t interfere with any of your other workouts.
Unlike the manual treadmill, a motorized treadmill generally has electrical components that make its cost several times higher than its non-motorized counterparts. According to a survey, a low-end motorized treadmill would cost about £750, over three times the price of a folding manual treadmill.
Not only are electric treadmills expensive to buy, but they can also be costly to maintain. As all the components are specifically programmed to suit the machine, all of them are costlier and can cost an arm and a leg to get fixed (unless of course under warranty).
Short Workout Sessions
Motorized treadmill running requires less effort than that on a manual treadmill. Although the overall calorie-burning may be higher when working out for longer intervals on an electric treadmill, a shorter interval would be more fruitful on a manual treadmill.
The high efforts required for a manual treadmill means that if you are in a hurry, you can go for some minutes of high-intensity training, and your calorie goal for the day will be achieved. The same isn’t true for even the best-motorized treadmills.
We have finally come to the end of the blog which I have tried to ensure I didn’t miss any critical factors about the two treadmill types. I am pretty certain that you will have made your decision by now, but if you are still unsure, let me help you out with three, final, highlighted points.
01) A person should go for a manual treadmill when low on finances, as they can be great in weight loss while being cost-effective.
02) However, if you have no problems with your budget, then a motorized treadmill would be a better choice for you. A motorized treadmill offers the luxury of achieving your desired physical shape without putting your body under stress.
03) If budget is no object and you want the very best in treadmill design, then perhaps the curved treadmills are the best option to go for. With stats suggesting they can impact a runner’s gains by up to 60% is too good an opportunity to miss out on.
How to identify the best manual treadmills?
To be honest, it is difficult to regard any treadmill as the best because all of them have their advantages and flaws. However, our goal should be to choose a treadmill that has the most negligible disadvantages.
Top Tip: When choosing a manual treadmill, pay special attention to the cushioning of the belt. If the belt is made of high-quality PVC, then it would wear slowly, reducing your foot strike and joint strain.
How to maintain a speed that is constant on non-motorized treadmills?
It isn’t easy to maintain a consistent pace on a manual treadmill. The speed is dependent on the force you apply to the belt, so if you can keep your efforts consistent, the speed should stay the same.
However, keeping consistent speed on your manual treadmill doesn’t guarantee the greatest benefits; your workout should consist of sessions of varying speeds to ensure that your heart rate keeps changing. Click here for more advice and education on treadmills