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4 Different Types of Treadmills

A collage of the various types of treadmill.

The treadmill did not start out as a fitness equipment that it’s widely known for today. The first version, known as “tread mill” or “tread wheel,” was used as cranes by the ancient Romans during the late first century for lifting heavier weights. Then British engineer Sir William Cubitt invented the “everlasting staircase” in 1818 as a torture device for prisoners.

Prisoners were forced to climb this large 24-spoke paddlewheel for endless hours every day. Aside from hard labor, the treadmill was used to crush the spirit of the convicts and irreparably damage their health. This was abolished through The Prisons Act of 1889.

1. Manual

Woman exercises on a manual treadmill at home.

Design Elements

The main difference between manual and electronic treadmills is the fact that manual treadmills require no electricity, and it is the action of walking or running across the bottom of the machine that causes the treadmill to move. The best part about their design is that you have fewer chances of getting hurt because the running belt doesn’t start until you begin walking or running on it.

Since the belt doesn’t start on its own like in electronic treadmills, there is no chance of falling off it after it is operational, because it doesn’t start operating until you make it do so. These treadmills are also designed for comfort, with cushioned handles and a durable running belt, and if you’ve never before run or walked on a treadmill, choosing a manual one is probably your best option.


Manual treadmills can have numerous features and range in price from under $100 to more than $300, and naturally, the ones that are lower in price have the fewest features. Most manual treadmills have limited features, meaning these are not the type with monitors to measure heartbeat, speed, distance, or other types of activities.

In fact, most manual treadmills are sans any type of LED attachments, although some do have the ability to change the incline position so that you can get a more aggressive workout. As with most other exercise products, it is best to check them out thoroughly so that you know exactly what you are getting for the price you’re paying, especially if you are looking for something particular.

With most manual treadmills, its features include a fold-up design because since it has no electronic parts, this means it is easier to collapse and make it a lot smaller, meaning storage of the treadmill is a lot easier.

In fact, this is one of the main advantages of choosing a manual treadmill, especially the smaller ones, because it means that storing the machine and getting it out of the way when you’re not using it is a lot simpler.


Manual treadmills are designed to give you an excellent workout regardless of your fitness level, and in many ways these treadmills make you feel like you’re getting a better workout than the electronic ones because quite simply, you are doing all of the work – not the machine.

Once your workout is complete, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something big, so if you’re interested in getting healthier and into great shape but you’re on a limited budget, manual treadmills are perfect for you.


The overall sizes of manual treadmills vary as much as their features and designs, with the smallest being approximately 39 inches long, 20 inches wide, and 43 inches in height, and the largest ones being approximately 50 inches long, 24 inches wide, and 47 inches high.

Naturally, their sizes will vary depending on where you purchase them, since each brick-and-mortar store and online store will have a different inventory, but when you purchase them online it is very easy to determine their exact size, because online stores do a great job of spelling everything out and making sure you know what you’re buying.

If you have limited space in your home, or you’re wondering which room to place your manual treadmill in, the exact size of the treadmill is very important. In addition, many treadmills have a size that is convenient for home use only and not commercial use, so when researching the different sizes of manual treadmills, it is good to keep this in mind.

You may also want to compare the sizes of the running platforms, since each manual treadmill will be a little different. If you’re tall or large, or simply want to enjoy a little extra room while you’re walking or running so that it feels more like you’re outdoors, you might need a bigger platform, which is another good reason to compare platform sizes.

In any case, it is good to know that both physical and online stores give you exact measurements so that you don’t get your manual treadmill home and find that it won’t suit your needs. The size of your treadmill is important, but fortunately it is simple to find the right one for you if you pay attention and do your due diligence.


All manual treadmills are made out of high-quality, durable materials, including PVC running belts, comfortable foam handrails, and frames made of heavy-duty steel. If they do have panels that measure speed or distance, they are usually LED-operated, which requires batteries and not electricity.

Moreover, just because you’ve chosen a less-expensive manual treadmill doesn’t mean you’re not getting a high-quality piece of exercise equipment, because most of these products are made by top brands that have a great reputation when it comes to the quality and dependability of their exercise equipment, meaning you can count on yours to work the way it is supposed to and last for a very long time.

2. Electronic/Motorized

Woman exercises on an electronic treadmill.

Design Elements

The biggest difference in the electronic or motorized treadmills and the manual ones is that the electronic ones are generally designed to be a little sturdier and larger in size. Their designs are not meant to be portable or storable, but instead require a permanent place in your home, since they also tend to be heavier than the manual types and therefore are more difficult to move.

They are also most commonly designed for commercial use because individuals who work out at health clubs demand dependable, sturdy, and heavy-duty designs for the treadmills they use. In fact, when it comes to professional health clubs and fitness centers, you rarely see manual treadmills for use, but only electronic models.


To say there are dozens of features and styles when it comes to electronic treadmills is an understatement, because since they are electronic in nature, the companies that make them can add the most sophisticated features available if that’s their design goal. Some of the many features available include:

  • Inclines that usually range from 6% to 40%, which can add some extra oomph to your workout
  • Screens that can show you videos to enhance your workout and make it easier to get through
  • Screens that can be quite large, up to 22 inches in size
  • Electronic measurements for speed, distance, heart-rate, calories burned, and many other characteristics
  • Speeds of up to 12 miles per hour for the most experienced runners
  • High-quality materials for the running platform to make the treadmill last longer
  • Customized video workouts, including personal trainer assistance and automatic adjustments to keep you challenging yourself on a daily basis
  • Easy touchscreen design to make changing up your workout midstream a lot easier
  • Self-cooling motors
  • Fans that come in various speeds to keep you more comfortable while you’re exercising
  • Auxiliary ports for MP3 players, cell phones, and television-watching headphones
  • Foot platforms with noise-reducing technology
  • Foot platforms with high-tech cushioning for extra comfort
  • Bluetooth chest straps for convenience
  • Digitally amplified speakers for clear, crisp sound
  • Dozens of workouts to participate in, with some models having up to 40 separate workouts available

Most often, electronic treadmills are separated into two main types – those for home use and those for commercial use. All of them, however, come with excellent features, including labor warranties of up to three years, parts and electronics warranties of up to six years, and warranties on the frame, deck, and motor that are usually lifetime warranties.

In addition, electronic treadmills can usually accommodate individuals weighing up to 300 pounds, which means they can accommodate nearly everyone.


Electronic treadmills are made to give you the absolute best workout possible whether you use yours at home or in the gym. Their accessories and amenities help make your workout less painful both physically and mentally, and their number-one purpose is to make sure you come back again and again so that you can enjoy optimum health for a lifetime.

You can adjust numerous features to make your workout as easy or as challenging as you want it to be, and in the meantime you can enjoy some music or an episode of your favorite television show, a personal trainer who challenges you to do better every step along the way, or simply enjoy the peace and quiet of your surroundings while you exercise.

Whatever you decide to do, you are guaranteed to enjoy your workout a lot more with an electronic treadmill, because this is one piece of equipment that is perfect for both beginners and experienced exercisers alike.


The sizes of motorized treadmills are as unique and numerous as the companies that sell them, but in most cases the collapsed size is approximately 70 inches in length, 40 inches in width, and 72 inches in height. There are smaller ones, of course, and the foot platform size can be as large as 22 inches by 60 inches, making for quite a comfortable jog. Their sizes also accommodate joggers of all sizes and heights, so if you are tall or a little overweight, you should be able to easily find one that feels right when you’re exercising.

Another advantage that motorized treadmills offer is their lightweight characteristic, with some of the smaller ones weighing barely 50 pounds. This means that when you’d like to move the treadmill from one area or room to another, you can do so easily and with very little effort.

When it comes to sizes for electronic treadmills, the sky is the limit, so regardless of the scale you’re looking for or where you intend to store your equipment, you shouldn’t have any problems finding something to accommodate you.


Naturally, the materials they use to construct motorized treadmills vary but are always strong and long-lasting, especially because so many of them are used in commercial locations such as various spas, gyms, and fitness centers.

From heavy stainless-steel frames to cushioned running platforms to padded handles that allow you to enjoy a strong grip should you choose to utilize this option, motorized treadmills are made to last a very long time and are, in fact, made for a lot of use on a regular basis.

They are also built out of materials that are made to be treated rather roughly, aimed at places where hundreds of people might possibly use these treadmills on any given day. Because of this, only the very best and strongest materials are used to manufacture motorized treadmills, so you can trust them to last for many years to come.

3. Hybrid Treadmills

People doing cardio workout in gym.

Design Elements

The design of these treadmills varies according to what you’re looking for, but hybrids can be designed with a treadmill and elliptical, treadmill and stair-climber, treadmill and stationary bike, and even a treadmill that can also be used to help you lift weights.

It is easy to get bored when you exercise when you do it on a regular basis, but when you know you can switch and use a different method of working out every so often, your workout becomes a little more interesting. This is the main reason for the design of a hybrid treadmill being a bit different.

It allows you to switch back and forth between two pieces of exercise equipment with ease, enabling you to quickly go from a treadmill to numerous other pieces of equipment with just a few actions. They are also designed so that regardless of which exercise you’re utilizing, you can rest assured it will do its job and be reliable, meaning you will feel like the only purpose of the machine is the exercise you’re currently taking advantage of.

In other words, it simply won’t feel like it is there to provide two completely different types of exercise machines.


Obviously, there are many features and styles of hybrid treadmills, because each one is a little different from the others, and each brand and model can offer features that other machines don’t. Although they may sound complicated, the truth is that these machines are really quite simple to use.

Their features include various ways to quickly and easily switch between one type of exercise machine and another, as well as features such as:

  • Oversized pedals
  • Excellent manufacturers’ warranties
  • Large, cushioned seats
  • Programmable LCD features for measuring heart-rate, speed, and other variables
  • Pre-programmed workouts in many products
  • User-friendly instructions that make switching back and forth between exercise types simple and speedy

With hybrid treadmills, their features center on the two types of exercise they offer, and these features are also their biggest advantage. Whether you wish to switch from a treadmill to a stationary bike or from a stair-stepping machine back to a treadmill, their features are there to make this transition simple and fast, not to mention reliable and long-lasting.

They also allow you to switch from a high-impact treadmill to a low-impact bicycle or other machine so that you get the best of both of these activities.


The main purpose of these types of equipment is to make sure you have more than one way to exercise so that you don’t get bored doing the same exercise day after day. Before these hybrids were developed, it was nearly impossible for people to afford both a treadmill and another piece of exercise equipment, which means that most people simply made do with one machine, often getting bored in the process.

Let’s face it, the more you get bored the more likely you are to stop exercising altogether, but a hybrid machine is reasonably priced and offers you two separate types of exercises, which means it is unlikely you will ever get bored with working out whenever you purchase one of these machines.

They offer high-quality, effective workouts without the high costs associated with gym memberships or purchasing more than one exercise machine, allowing you to enjoy both a little variety and reasonable prices.


The sizes vary depending on the brand and model you choose, but they have an average size of 60 inches high and 57 inches in length. They are available for both home and commercial use, and if you visit the manufacturer’s website or the online store itself, you can get exact details and measurements of the machine you’re considering purchasing. When it comes to hybrid treadmills, the sky truly is the limit because manufacturers offer something for everyone, from beginning exercisers to seasoned pros.


Hybrid treadmills are two pieces of workout equipment in one, but that doesn’t mean their parts are sub-standard. Much like singular treadmills, hybrid treadmills are made with stainless steel frames, cushioned seats and platforms, excellent warranties, and inside parts that are made just as well as the ones on the outside.

The manufacturers of these machines concentrate on making sure that whatever exercise you’re participating in, you will be able to feel confident about the machine’s ability to perform that duty. These machines were built to last, and only parts and accessories of the highest quality are utilized with each and every one of them, which means you can enjoy them for a very long time.

4. Medical Treadmills

A patient walks on a medical treadmill.

Design Elements

Medical treadmills are made larger than regular treadmills, even those used in gyms and fitness centers, and since they must be completely accurate at all times, they are usually designed to be operated digitally. Most of them are also designed to work with a certain type of medical equipment that produce the measurements that doctors are looking for with their patients.

They are often designed with fewer moving parts to reduce wear and tear and make them last longer, a controlled soft start for patient comfort and accommodation, quiet operation so that the surrounding exam rooms and offices aren’t disturbed, and an AC-driven system that results in the most accurate speeds, regardless of the patient’s weight.

In other words, medical treadmills are built and designed for medical uses, which means they are accurate, efficient, and produce the results physicians need and want.


The main features of a medical treadmill include extra-large sizes, such as a running platform that can be over five feet long in size, 30 inches wide, and nearly four feet in height. They usually have easy-grip handles to suit many patients’ demand, and they can get up to roughly ten miles per hour.

Another feature is their ability to take measurements at .1 miles-per-hour increments, making it accurate even for patients that are unable to stay on for long or those who are extremely slow at the task.

After all, these treadmills are made to measure a person’s stress level and therefore, they need to be both accurate and comfortable. Other features include the capability to accommodate a patient that weighs up to 400 pounds or more, easy power requirements, and extra features such as emergency stop buttons and both long and short handrails to accommodate all patients.

They also have excellent warranties and great technical support teams, because the last thing a medical office needs is for their treadmill to stop working or work improperly even for a short time.


Obviously, the purpose of a medical treadmill is to conduct an accurate stress level test, and since it has to work efficiently on patients of all sizes, ages, and fitness levels, it will always be designed and manufactured to perfection. The good news is, the companies that design and build these machines do so with these patients in mind, which means it is easy to get just what you need when you purchase one.


Sizes vary greatly with medical treadmills, so doing your due diligence is always recommended when you’re looking for the perfect one for your office. Most are approximately 80 inches long, 30 inches wide, and 48 inches in height, although some are indeed larger or smaller than this.

If you research these machines online, most companies even give you the amount of floor space you need to accommodate the machine you’re considering purchasing, making it even easier to decide which one you want.


Medical treadmills are made of the highest quality materials, including double-sided decks that absorb shock, ISO 9001-certified capabilities and parts, a belt system that automatically aligns itself so that you don’t have to center the running belt periodically, and safety handrails made of high-tech steel so that they are reliable and safe for patients of all fitness levels and ages.

Patient safety is crucial when it comes to a medical treadmill, so the companies that make these machines spare nothing when it comes to the quality of the parts that make up the treadmill.