Looking to be more active at home with a treadmill but don’t have the space? The best folding treadmills can be a great way to squeeze in a cardio workout while also being huge space savers. Foldable treadmills (or under-desk treadmills) are ideal for small spaces because they can easily be stored away versus ellipticals and exercise bikes. You can use them while you work or watch TV and then easily tuck them under your bed or couch. The price point also makes it a more feasible option than higher-end brands like Peloton and other smart treadmills. To help you find the best folding treadmill for your needs, we reached out to fitness experts for buying guide advice.
Dr. Sean Penwell, MD, ACSM-Certified Personal Trainer, and CEO of Healthstar Co, an on-demand health, and fitness company based in Los Angeles, California, says that the importance of getting active can’t be overstated enough. “Less than 25% of Americans get the minimum amount of physicality activity recommended by the American Heart Association guidelines. Walking is one of the easiest and best ways to get moving and stay active,” he notes.
“A compact folding treadmill, especially when paired with a standing desk, can be one of the best ways to boost the amount of time you spend walking during the week,” Penwell shares. “And if your treadmill allows for speeds that can enable brisk walking (3 to 4.5 mph depending on age), this will help you meet the minimum 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity set by the American Heart Association.”
Dr. Penwall says the most important consideration when buying a folding treadmill is to ask yourself how you’ll be using the treadmill. “Your ultimate purpose will help define all the other considerations for these smaller folding treadmills,” he explains.
According to our experts, the main considerations to help choose a folding treadmill for a small space are:
The maximum speed of the treadmill will dictate what kind of workouts you can do. “Some compact folding treadmills are small and sleek, but top out at just 3 mph. For most people, 3 mph is at the high end of average walking speed so don’t expect to do any brisk power walking at this speed, let alone running,” says Dr. Penwall. “And if you’re already running an 8-minute mile, you’ll want a treadmill that can go at least 7.5 mph.”
Keep in mind that folding treadmills come in a range of sizes, and they may fold down completely or stand upright when not in use. Sydney Eaton, a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer and Lead In-House Fitness Instructor at Sunny Health Fitness shared some tips in terms of choosing the size for a folding treadmill.
“Be sure to measure your space, and check the dimensions of the treadmill on the product listing. You’ll want to know both the dimensions of the treadmill when it’s fully set up, and when it’s folded to make sure it’s a good fit for both spaces,” she explains. “If you are looking for a treadmill to regularly store in a small space like under a bed or in the closet, check that the treadmill has wheels so you’ll be able to easily roll it in and out of storage. Heavy lifting or complicated maneuvering is just one more barrier to getting your workout in, so checking for something as silly and simple as wheels can really improve your at-home experience.”
Dr. Penwall agrees that picking a treadmill that is easy for you to move is key. “If it’s easy to move your exercise equipment into place for your workouts, then there will be less inertia to getting a workout started, and every little thing you can do to increase the likelihood of exercising will help with consistency, which is half the battle,” he explains.
“It’s worth remembering that very few modern treadmills fold completely up and will be more of a “V” shape when folded,” advises Garret Seacat, Certified Strength, and Conditioning Specialist and Head Coach of Absolute Endurance.
Many folding treadmills have rather low maximum weight limitations, so be sure to check that the treadmill can accommodate your weight. Treadmills typically have weight limits between 200 and 300 pounds.
The basic features to look at with folding treadmills are the maximum speed and incline capabilities, whether the incline is automatic, and what sort of safety features are attached. While many folding treadmills for small spaces don’t have an incline option, if you’re looking for a good workout, it’s often worth it to spend more on this option. “Increasing the incline of your walk can dramatically boost the calories you burn,” explains Dr. Penwall. “Typically, for every 1% increase in incline (uphill grade) you will burn about 10% more calories compared to walking on flat surfaces. At a 10% incline, you will burn twice as many calories walking!”
“Some treadmills come with additional features that can make exercising more engaging, which can include live streaming fitness classes via a mobile app or directly onto your treadmill screen, leaderboards, or a fitness community that can improve accountability and social engagement,” shares Dr. Penwall. If these features are important to you, you’ll pay more initially but might be more inclined to use the treadmill.
Your budget will guide what you can buy. Keep in mind that when it comes to exercise equipment, you often get what you pay for, so it can be worth it to spend a bit more upfront. When buying a folding treadmill for a small space, heed Eaton’s advice, “At the end of the day, pick the treadmill that’s right for you. There are tons of options out there, but keep your space and ideal workout experience in mind and you have a recipe for success!”
Below we’ve rounded up the best foldable treadmills based on the advice of fitness experts. Shop top picks from Amazon, Treadly, Costway, and more.
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