Manual vs. Electric Treadmill – Pros And Cons Of Both

manual treadmill vs electric treadmill - curved treadmill image
There are two basic types of treadmills—manual treadmills and electric treadmills. With a manual treadmill, you are the engine that gets the treadmill to move, while an electric treadmill comes with an electricity-powered motor that runs the treadmill.

Beyond these two basic descriptions, you get a wide variety of treadmills. However, electric treadmills are popular with residential treadmill buyers for the engaging features, and manual treadmills are often appealing with the streamlined usage. But which one is actually better for you?

Well, Treadmill Reviews is here to breakdown the pros and cons of each of these types of treadmills so that you can determine which is right for your health and fitness needs.

Manual Treadmill Benefits

There are a number of benefits to manual treadmills that have a wide range appeal. However, as we discuss both the pros and cons of manual treadmills, you should be aware that there are two types of manual treadmill—flat-belt and curved. Most of the positives attributed to manual treadmills are referring to curved treadmills, not flat-belt. You will likely see why down below as we cover the benefits and disadvantages.

  • Greater energy exertion – When using a manual treadmill, more of your muscles have to work, as you are the one powering the treadmill. With you as the battery, your exertion level rises, and you will generally burn more calories per hour than you would on an electric belt.
  • Increased safety – Electric belts require a safety key that will stop the moving belt if something disrupts the connection between key and treadmill. But you don’t have to be concerned with that when it comes to a manual treadmill, as they will stop soon after you stop moving.
  • Easy HIIT workouts – Particularly with a curved belt manual treadmill, you can pack in HIIT workouts more easily. By varying your effort and where you are running on the curve of the belt, you can alter your exertion level. Intense workouts aren’t the best idea on flat-belt treadmills, as they aren’t designed for them.
  • No electrical plugs – With a manual treadmill, you’ve cut the metaphorical cord that tied your treadmill position to where a convenient can be found. Instead, a manual treadmill can be placed where you want, and at best, all you need is batteries for the simple display.
  • Flat-belt manual treadmills are inexpensive – A flat-belt treadmill can be under $100, which makes them highly accessible. Even a more expensive flat-belt treadmill only reaches around $500, which is around where the most budget-friendly of the quality electric treadmills start in price.

Manual Treadmill Disadvantages

Even with the clear benefits listed above, there are still disadvantages to manual treadmills that should be considered before you commit to buying.

  • Can promote bad form – Many users hang onto the handlebars to give themselves more power to push their manual treadmill belt. However, not only does this action cut down on your exertion, but it also promotes poor walking and running form, as your arms are not moving naturally.
  • May stress joints – Flat-belt manual treadmills can particularly stress your joints, as there is minimal padding, and you have to push harder to get the treadmill to move. This joint stress can also be an issue on curved manual treadmills, though those machines tend to promote a more natural gait.
  • Lack of incline variability – A curved manual treadmill gives you a small incline range to use as you run closer to the front of the treadmill or not. But with flat belt treadmills, you get either a preset incline or can adjust between 2 positions. Neither option provides much in the way of incline.
  • Next to no features – While it can be considered a benefit, the fact that there are next to no features on manual treadmills can end up leaving users feeling a little bored.
  • Flat-belt manual treadmills not sturdy – The very low prices of the flat-belt manual treadmills come at a price—the sturdiness of the treadmills. These budget treadmills are often not up for rigorous workouts, or really, a workout that isn’t fast walking.

Electric Treadmill Benefits

There is a great deal of variety when it comes to motorized, electric treadmills, and the range of benefits and features have made it so that our Best Treadmills of 2020 all consist of electric treadmills.

  • Reduced stress and strain – With an electric treadmill, you don’t need to use extra force to get the treadmill moving. Instead, you can simply start at your preferred speed without straining yourself or stressing your joints.
  • Incline and speed digital control – Being able to control your speed and incline digitally is another hallmark of electric treadmills. How high an incline range and the amount of speed you get is dependent on the quality of the electric treadmill.
  • Engaging features – Many electric treadmills come with handy features like built-in fans, speakers, and workout programs. High-quality electric treadmill brands like ProForm and NordicTrack will even come with video workouts thanks to their free year of iFit Coach when you buy a new treadmill.
  • Good for all sorts of users – Whether all you need is a walking treadmill or you are looking to train for your next marathon on a treadmill, you can find an electric treadmill that fits your needs.
  • Competitive prices – Electric treadmills can come at very cheap prices to compete with flat-belt manual treadmills. However, these extremely cheap treadmills are often poor quality. But, starting from the $500 price point and upward, you can find good electric treadmills with plenty of features.

Electric Treadmill Disadvantages

Like with manual treadmills, there are downsides to choosing an electric treadmill. Some of the issues are due to preference, but common disadvantages are:

  • Cheap treadmills often underpowered – Electric treadmills under $500—and many that do fall into that price range—can be very underpowered and a poor investment.
  • Need to plug in machine – An electric treadmill needs to be plugged in to run and should not be used like a manual treadmill, as that can damage the motor. The need for an outlet may leave you positioning your treadmill in an awkward spot.
  • Can pose a safety hazard – Unlike manual treadmills that stop when you do, you will need to keep the safety key attached to you as you exercise on an electric treadmill. Otherwise, if you trip and fall, you could be injured by the still-moving belt.

Manual vs. Electric Treadmill—Which Should You Choose

As you can see, there are clear benefits and disadvantages for both electric and manual treadmills. We do hope that by outlining each of these treadmill types that you can more easily decide which is right for your health and fitness needs.

If you do decide that an electric treadmill best suits your needs, you may need a hand sorting through all your options. To help the process, you can use our 2020 treadmill buying guide, which will help walk you through the logical process of determining what you need in a treadmill and where to find the best treadmills for your needs.

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