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What you need and what you don't in a home treadmill: prices and features vary greatly with this popular home exercise equipment, but a top-of-the-line model isn't necessary to get a good workout.

As the weather gets cooler and winters single-digit temperatures await, you may be already thinking about bringing your daily walking routine indoors. Or you might already belong to a health club with rows of treadmills and be wondering if it might be easier if you could just get the same heart-healthy workout at home.

"A home treadmill is a great alternative to outdoor exercise in bad weather, and it's just very convenient," says Mike Crawford, manager of Cleveland Clinics Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.

He adds that for people who have never owned home exercise equipment, but walk outdoors regularly, a treadmill is an obvious first choice. "You're already familiar with walking, so this is a natural piece of exercise equipment," he says.

So where do you start?

The first step in purchasing a treadmill actually begins at home. You'll need to know how much space you have to work with, as well as how much you're willing to spend. Crawford suggests that you buy an average, but solid treadmill for between $500 and $1,250.

"If you need a treadmill with more speed or incline range, you're looking at the $1,250 to $2,500 range," he says.

But you can easily spend $3,000 or more, depending on what features you want. Some treadmills are integrated with the internet, and can actually help simulate real-world running trails using Google Maps, for example. Another common feature is a set of preset profiles designed to help you lose weight or get an especially good cardio workout. Other high-end treadmills have programmable profiles for custom-designed workouts. Some even have built-in fans. Crawford says such "bells and whistles" aren't as important as other basic features.

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Make sure it has the essentials

If you're buying a treadmill just for a simple daily workout, then there are only a few key features to look for.

"You should have the ability to set constant pace and have to change the incline, Crawford says. "It's also best if there is a large range of speeds to start with, including very slow speeds if necessary and a way to increase speed as exercise ability improves."

When you're buying a treadmill, look at several different types. Give them a tryout and talk with a knowledgeable sales associate who can explain how to use the equipment.

"You want an easy-to-use control panel and an emergency stop safety device," Crawford says.

Using your treadmill

Once you get your treadmill home, take some time to become familiar with the equipment. In 2014, there were more than 24,000 treadmill-related injuries that led to emergency room visits. So "safety first" is a good motto.

For example, straddle the treadmill belt before you start walking. Even at a slow speed, you can still lose your balance if you're already on the belt when it starts moving. Once you are walking, keep your head up, looking at the console or another focal point in the room, rather than at your feet.

"Read the user manual to be sure you understand how to use the control panel correctly," Crawford says. "For your first use, make sure someone is home with you. Use the handrails for balance when starting out. Once you feel comfortable, try not to hold on while walking. This will simulate outdoor exercise and increase your effort."

Your first treadmill workouts

For your initial workouts, Crawford suggests starting with a slow speed to get the feel for walking on the belt as it moves under your feet. Also, focus on your exercise, not on television or something else, especially when starting out.

"Start with just 10 to 20 minutes per day, and then keep adding time every few weeks until you work up to 30 to 40 minutes. Start with every other day so you are getting three to four times per week of exercise. If it's going well, increase to five days per week."

If you experience hip or muscle pain, it may be a sign your first treadmill sessions were too intense or went on for too long. Crawford recommends you ease off a little next time, and always remember to warm up and cool down with each workout.
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Title Annotation:FITNESS
Publication:Heart Advisor
Date:Oct 1, 2015
Words:698
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