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Manual Treadmill vs Electric: Which Is Better?

Treadmills have been a major part of the fitness world for years now, and they have come a long way from their first iterations. These days, consumers have an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to selecting a treadmill, but they can significantly narrow down their search when they first decide whether to purchase a manual or electric treadmill.

There are many notable differences between manual and electric treadmills, and many consumers aren't sure which type would be better for them right off the bat. Learn more about what a manual treadmill is, how it differs from electric treadmills, and more using our guide below.

What is a manual treadmill?

Manual treadmills, also referred to as non-motorized treadmills, are those that have a running belt not propelled by an electric motor. Instead, the belt moves because the force from your feet moves it. Manual treadmills have actually been around for hundreds of years, as they used to be used to power machines like water pumps or corn mills.

Fortunately, the manual treadmills of today are fitness devices and recent advancements have made them better than ever. One such important innovation is a curved belt instead of a straight one like manual treadmills of the past. Curved treadmill belts help users maintain better form, feel less pressure on their joints, and burn more calories.

Many gyms offer a couple of manual treadmills alongside rows and rows of motorized treadmills, which we will talk more about below, so you can always give them a try to see if you like how they feel before you commit to purchasing one.

What is a motorized treadmill?

Motorized treadmills, often called electric treadmills, are those that use electricity to move the belt instead of the power generated by your feet required to move a motorless treadmill. Motorized treadmills are used in gyms, labs, and homes everywhere, and they have been popular for a long time. Many people seek motorized treadmills because they offer numerous settings that a motorless treadmill can't, such as preset workouts, fitness tracking, and more.

Motorized treadmills do require electricity, so you will have to plan ahead and clear a space near an outlet to put your motorized treadmill if you plan to buy one.

What is the difference between a manual treadmill vs motorized treadmill?

The main difference between manual and motorized treadmills is the use of electricity to move the belt in motorized treadmills. As mentioned above, the shape of the belt can also differ, as some manual treadmills offer a curved belt. Electric treadmills usually offer complex displays that allow you to adjust the incline and speed. Some also include graphics that show the distance you have run or walked, and many now have more advanced features like a cushioned treadmill belt, which can better support your joints compared to a flat belt manual treadmill.

A flat belt manual treadmill usually only consists of a belt for you to walk, handles to keep your balance, and a minimalist display that shows how far you have gone and the duration of your workout. Many manual treadmills don't have a display of any kind, and they are typically only suited for walking, while flat-belt electric treadmills can typically handle both walking and running. Quality curved manual treadmills are usually sturdy enough to tolerate long running workouts just as well or better than electric treadmills, and they tend to be better suited for HIIT, or high-intensity interval training treadmill routines because you can adjust your speed immediately.

Which is better: a motorized treadmill vs manual?

Generally speaking, yes. Manual curved treadmills are better than electric treadmills for most people, especially if they want to get a more intense workout in the same amount of time. Manual flat treadmills have a time and a place, and they may be the best option for some people.

People who may benefit more from an electric treadmill are those who want more features, like built-in workouts, incline changes, and video displays.

Are manual treadmills more advanced?

It depends on how you define "advanced" regarding treadmills. To some, electric treadmills may seem more advanced because they can offer pre-programmed workout challenges, various incline settings, and even built-in televisions. The technological capabilities of electric treadmills may make them more advanced than manual treadmills if that's how you define advanced.

To others, curved manual treadmills may be more advanced because they allow you to work more muscle groups and burn more calories at once. The workouts also feel harder, making your workouts more efficient, and many agree that manual treadmills feel more natural to outdoor running than electric ones. Curved manual treadmills began hitting the market in the early 2010s, while flat manual and electric treadmills have been around for decades.

The innovation of a curved belt may also make a treadmill feel more advanced, which is why it’s important to fully understand how to use a manual treadmill properly before getting started.

What are the pros and cons of a manual treadmill vs electric treadmill?

Manual treadmills come with numerous pros and a few cons compared to electric treadmills, and it's important to be aware of them before making a decision on which kind of treadmill you want to purchase. Some of the most important pros and cons to know about include:

Pro: no electricity

One of the most notable pros a manual treadmill can provide is that it requires no electricity to use, so you don't have to worry about placing it near an outlet. This also means you can save on your electric bill, as treadmills and other pieces of electric workout equipment can use substantial amounts of electricity.

Pro: better safety

Most people know at least one person that has fallen while using an electric treadmill, as minor slips can become major falls when the motorized belt keeps moving. Manual treadmills can take a bit of getting used to, especially if you are accustomed to electric treadmills, but they are less likely to make you fall and be dragged on the electric belt. If you do use an electric treadmill, be sure to keep the magnetic key on you which will stop the machine if you slip and fall.

Pro: less maintenance

Quality electric treadmills tend to be quite an investment, often costing a couple of thousand dollars initially. This isn't the only time electric treadmills accrue costs, though. Many electric treadmills require regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly and safely. If parts on an electric treadmill begin to wear down, it may become unsafe to use. It is currently recommended to have an electric treadmill inspected and serviced on a yearly basis.

Pro: you control the speed

Quality electric treadmills tend to be quite an investment, often costing a couple of thousand dollars initially. This isn't the only time electric treadmills accrue costs, though. Many electric treadmills require regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly and safely. If parts on an electric treadmill begin to wear down, it may become unsafe to use. It is currently recommended to have an electric treadmill inspected and serviced on a yearly basis.

Pro: you burn more calories in the same amount of time

Because your feet are the ones propelling the belt instead of electricity, you actually do more work when using a manual treadmill. This translates to burning more calories than you would if you used an electric treadmill for the same amount of time at a similar pace. Of course, you'll feel the increased workload of a manual treadmill, but this can also help you build more endurance over time too.

Con: fewer settings and features

Manual treadmills don't often have the same additional features as electric treadmills, like incline increases, speed adjustments, and automatic speed changes in pre-made workouts. You also won't find built-in televisions or advanced sound systems in manual treadmills. If those features are important to you, it might be better to stick with an electric treadmill.

Con: price difference

Although manual treadmills are usually cheaper when compared to their electric counterparts, the price difference can be murkier when comparing higher quality equipment. Electric treadmills have decreased in price over the years, making their prices more competitive with manual treadmills than they used to be. Quality manual treadmills, like the curved belts we have discussed, tend to cost more than flat-belt manual treadmills and sometimes comparable electric treadmills.

This initial price difference is often made up over time, as curved treadmills tend to be more rugged than flat-belt manuals, helping them have a longer lifespan while better tolerating long-running workouts. Paired with no need for electricity and little maintenance, a curved belt manual treadmill may end up costing the same as a comparable electric treadmill over time.

The bottom line

There are numerous differences between manual vs electric treadmills, and it's important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each before investing in a new treadmill for your home gym. If you want to learn more about the curved manual treadmill, or you have any other questions about the fitness equipment Tru Grit offers, please contact us today!


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