A running treadmill is a common piece of equipment in a fitness testing laboratory or sports science research lab. Basic treadmills used for fitness training are readily available, but not all will have the features required for sport science testing. Here we discuss some of the features you should look for, how to check that the speed and gradient are accurate, and some of the fitness tests that you can use a treadmill.
Please note, we do not sell treadmills directly (but here is a link to find some for sale). The information here is to describe the different treadmills available, the different features and functions, to help you chose the best treadmill for your situation.
Treadmill Ergometer Features
Here are some of the features and functions that you may find on a treadmill, some are more essential than others.
- Adjustable Speed — all treadmills will enable you to set the speed, but you will also need to step it up quickly and accurately, and as high as 20 km/hr (12 mph).
- Adjustable Gradient — for testing you will need to be able to change the gradient over a large range, sometimes to high levels to increase the intensity without increasing speed.
- Clear Display — the display should show running speed (in km/hr and mph) and gradient (in %), and be easily visible to both the person running on the treadmill and the assessor.
- Programmable Activities — it would be useful to be able to pre-program the full workout, including speed and gradient changes over time.
- Safety Switch — there needs to be a shutoff switch (large red button!) or cord that can be attached to the subject, so that the treadmill can be switched off quickly in an emergency.
- Safety Bars — bars on at least one side to hold on to is essential for support when starting and particularly at the completion of maximal tests.
- Heart Rate Monitor — not essential, but sometimes useful to have a heart rate receiver built into the treadmill.
- Quality Build — the treadmill needs to be of good quality with a durable motor and sturdy build to cope with the more extreme uses of testing.
- Adaptable — Some treadmill designs will enable the use of different exercise modes, such as placing a wheelchair or bicycle on the treadmill belt.
- Portable — being able to move the treadmill may come in handy to move it closer to particular equipment, or fold away to make room when not in use.
If you are using the treadmill for research it is important to have accurate speed and gradient measurements, and not to rely solely on the display unit. It is possible to calibrate the speed and gradient. A simple way to check the calibration of a treadmill's speed by marking the treadmill mat, measuring its length, and timing how quickly the belt runs (see details of speed calibration). To calibrate the gradient requires measuring how high the front of the treadmill is raised and using simple trigonometry (see details of gradient calibration)
Fitness Tests Using Treadmills
There is a range of fitness tests using treadmill running as the primary exercise mode, from quick intense anaerobic sprint tests to longer endurance VO2 max tests. Here are just a few of the fitness tests that utilize a treadmill. See the full list.
- Maximal Oxygen Consumption Test (VO2max) — a maximal exercise test to measure VO2max on a treadmill.
- Chester Treadmill Test — walking at 6.2km/hr on a treadmill, increasing the gradient by 3% every 2 minutes.
- Bruce Protocol Test — treadmill stress test
- Balke Treadmill Test — another treadmill stress test.
- MART (Maximal Anaerobic Running Test) - 20 sec sprint/100 sec recovery, on a treadmill
- Cunningham-Faulkner test — maximal treadmill running test at 20% gradient.
- Treadmills to buy
- List of treadmill fitness tests
- A Guide to Treadmills
- Cycle Ergometers for Fitness Testing
- List of Testing Equipment
- Sport specific fitness tests