Treadmills are also a great option for people who want to get in a workout as quickly as they can. One 2019 study published in the International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology found that at various self-reported exercise intensity levels, people were able to burn the most calories on a treadmill. This was a small study looking at just 16 young adults, however. And it doesn’t mean a treadmill will provide the best workout for everyone—people can use a greater percentage of the muscles in their body on a rowing erg, Papanek says, which could help experienced rowers burn more calories. But this and other research do show that a treadmill is a reliably efficient way to get in a solid workout, even if you have limited time.
Someone who just wants to be able to walk while building up fitness levels—using a Couch to 5k plan, for example, or working to build a regular walking routine—can benefit from a treadmill as well.
Not ideal for: Running on a treadmill is a relatively high-impact activity, higher than on any other common cardio machine. That means treadmill running is not a great option for people with issues in their knees, ankles, or back, Rogers says. (Walking would still be generally fine.)
If you are getting a machine for your home, you should also consider that treadmills can take up a lot of space, Papanek says—even folding treadmills often take up almost as much space as nonfolding models.
Treadmills also tend to be the loudest cardio machines, which can be an issue, especially for people who live in apartments, says John Galeotafiore, associate director of product testing at Consumer Reports.
Know before you try: If you haven’t spent much time on a treadmill (or any machine), adjusting the speed and incline manually—before using any automatic programs—can help you get used to its movement.
To use a treadmill safely, straddle the belt when you turn it on, and make sure to let the belt come to a complete stop before you get off the machine. You can see more of our tips for staying safe on a treadmill.
Consumer Reports tests treadmills for ergonomics, construction, and ease of use. Here are two top picks. (All Access members can also see our full list of the best treadmills.)