What is a Manual Treadmill?

When you think of a treadmill, you probably think of a motorized one with a console full of buttons and lights. You can select different inclines, speeds, and workouts. There’s also probably a heart-rate monitor as well as a fan and a calorie counter.

A manual treadmill is quite different, which we’ll discuss in this article!

Characteristics of Manual Treadmill

A manual treadmill, as the name implies, is not operated by electricity but instead manually. The belt will only move if you move it. In other words, the action of your feet against the deck moves the belt. You control the speed of the manual treadmill with your pace and motion.

Manual treadmills come in two different varieties: flat belt and curved belt. As the names imply, the former is a flat surface that is activated when you run and deactivated when you stop and the latter has a curved surface, requiring you to run in the bottom of an arc.

Differences Between a Manual and Motorized Treadmill

While manual and motorized treadmills share the word “treadmill,” they are quite different. First, a manual requires you to build your own speed and is operated only by your motion. By contrast, you can set your speed on a motorized treadmill, and it will run whether you are on the treadmill or not.

In addition, you can select incline options on a motorized treadmill during your workout. With a manual, you only have one incline level during a workout—a steep 10 percent—which can be hard to maintain. You have to stop and get off the treadmill in order to change it. In this same vein, a motorized treadmill gives you significantly more bells and whistles with workout plans, heart-rate monitor, calorie counter, fans, and so forth. You won’t see any of this on a manual treadmill.

You’ll have fewer injury concerns on a manual treadmill because this type of treadmill stops when you stop. But a manual treadmill can also cause more joint stress, as it is a more strenuous workout. This might be a particular concern if you have knee or hip arthritis.

A manual is lighter and easier to store in your house in addition to costing significantly less. You can find manual treadmills for less than $200 in comparison, which is at least ¼ the cost of a motorized treadmill. Finally, manuals don’t require yearly maintenance like some motorized models do.

Since a manual treadmill requires more effort than a motorized one, it should be no surprise that one study found that individuals used 30 percent more energy on a manual versus a motorized treadmill, thus giving you a better workout. Similarly, another study found that runners had higher heart rates at the same speed when using a curved belt treadmill, over 20 beats per minute higher on average.

Factors to Consider About a Manual Treadmill

Now that you know what a manual treadmill is and how it differs from a motorized one, here are some things to keep in mind. A curved belt manual treadmill is better than a flat one for runners while walkers can use a flat manual treadmill. The reason is that you often cannot get beyond a speed of 3.5-4.0 on a flat treadmill.

If you have a home with kids and pets, a manual treadmill might be a good fit for you as you don’t have to worry about automatic moving belts. Plus, it’s also safer because it stops when you stop, and there’s no electricity required since it is muscle powered.

You’ll have less variety of speed and options, and your heart rate level might be less elevated because it is hard to maintain an effective pace on a manual treadmill. Even so, you’ll get a great workout. Athletes often use manual treadmills for high-intensity workouts, using curved belt ones for sprint intervals.

With a manual treadmill, you’ll get a great workout for your legs and core, and it is an affordable alternative to a motorized treadmill. Whether you’re looking for different ways to spice up your workout routine or just can’t justify spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a motorized treadmill, a manual treadmill might be a good option for you.

**Featured image courtesy of Marco Verch via Flickr**

The Wired Runner