Manual Vs Electric Treadmill: Pros & Cons For Home Use

A treadmill is one of the best pieces of equipment that you can add to your home gym if you want to incorporate cardio into your routine. All you need is a good high quality treadmill, and a set of sturdy well made running shoes. 

In this article, we will help you to break down the pros and cons of manual vs electric treadmills in order for you to decide which treadmill is right for you. Here are the main differences between manual treadmills and electric treadmills. 

There are two primary types of treadmills — manual and electric. A manual treadmill does not require power, while an electric treadmill uses an electricity-powered motor to operate the machine.  

There are a variety of treadmills available in both manual and electric. Electric treadmills are popular for their innovative features, and manual treadmills are known for their streamlined usage.  The question is, which one is better for you? 

Manual Treadmill Pros 

  • Does not require power 
  • Costs less than an electric model 
  • Low impact and better for the joints 

Manual Treadmill Cons 

  • Less varied workout plans 
  • No safety shut off features 

Electric Treadmill Pros 

  • Easier on joints than running outside 
  • They have safety shut-off features 
  • Varied workout plans and programs 

Electric Treadmill Cons 

  • Can be difficult to dismount if you are inexperienced 
  • Easier to miss your footing and cause an injury 
  • Many different parts that need to be maintained 
man running on a manual treadmill

Manual Vs Electric Treadmill: In-Depth Comparison 

For Cardio Workouts

On a manual treadmill, the movement of your feet against the deck will move the belt. The belt will only move if you move it. People who run or walk will have to expend more effort on a curved belt manual treadmill than they will by using an electric treadmill.

A manual treadmill offers more benefits, and users can get their heart rates to a high level at a lower speed.

Winner: Manual Treadmill

For Burning Calories

There was a study that discovered people expended 30% more energy by using a manual treadmill at the same speed compared to an electric treadmill. There was another study that compared the curved belt treadmill to an electric treadmill and overground running. 

It found that people who ran experienced higher heart rates when running at the same speed when they were using the curved belt treadmill — which is more than 20 beats per minute above average compared to a flat belt manual.  

Winner: Manual, Specifically the Curved Belt Manual Treadmill 

Impact Level (Best Machine for Injuries & Joint Pain) 

A flat belt model will make it difficult to get the treadmill's belt moving at first, which can cause stress in your joints, especially if you have hip or knee arthritis.

You might have to lift the incline of a flat belt manual treadmill in order to make it easier for you to get the belt going. However, you will be walking uphill, and it might not be what you want to do in your workout. 

Electric treadmills are better at lower speeds, but at higher speeds, they place a similar amount of stress on the joints. Neither version of the treadmill is particularly joint-friendly, so you might want to look into other cardio machines like the rowing machine or the elliptical for a lower-impact cardio workout. 

Winner: Neither

For HIIT 

Many athletic trainers use a curved belt manual treadmill as part of their workouts with alternate moderate and high intensity. Professional teams will use the manual type for training or performing sprint intervals on the curved belt treadmill. For those that are training at a higher level, the manual treadmill is king.  

When it comes to the average gym user, however, you need to take into consideration ease of use and experience. For most people, a pre-set HIIT program on an electric treadmill will be easier to stick to and follow compared to setting up your own workout routine. 

Winner: Electric Treadmill 

For Fat Loss & Weight Control 

If you are looking for strict fat loss and weight control, then the best machine for you will depend upon your specific metrics, fitness, and weight.  

If you are carrying a fair amount of excess body fat, you will probably find it easier to start on an electric treadmill, keeping the speed lower and controlled. On a manual treadmill, it can be harder to maintain a slower pace, and this can make them more difficult for those with a lower level of fitness. 

Winner: Electric Treadmill 

For Toning Legs and Bums 

When you are on a manual treadmill, you will use more muscle power to exercise the lower parts of your body. This means that you will get more of a strength-based workout. This is better for building definition in the legs and the bum. 

Winner: Manual Treadmill 

For Burning Belly Fat 

Manual treadmills are harder to maintain your heart rate. The electric treadmill offers a belt cushioning system so you can have a comfortable time exercising. With an electric treadmill, you can exercise faster and longer as they are designed for a broader target user range. This will help you burn belly fat more quickly.

Winner: Electric Treadmill 

For Running 

Users have consistently reported that manual treadmills are never very good for running. Motorized treadmills are the best for running. The maximum speed is faster than what most will need as they can go up to 12 mph, which is 5 minutes per mile.

Not many people can go that fast, and not many will need that speed to get running in your workouts now or at some point in the future. This means you will be future-proofed for longer with an electric treadmill. 

Winner: Electric Treadmill 

Size, Portability, and Storage 

The average treadmill is 3 feet wide and 7 feet long. Manual treadmills tend to be smaller and lighter and are heavier than electric models. Electric models are heavier and are harder to move and store when not in use.

Manual models often feature foldable components to make storage easier under the bed or in the closet. The treadmill can be easily found in many different sizes and weights, with manual models usually being lighter, thinner, and easier to store and move. 

Winner: Manual Treadmill 

Cost 

An electric treadmill for home use will start at a higher price compared to flat belt manual treadmills. You should be willing to pay at least $1,000 for a motorized treadmill of good quality

Flat-belt manual treadmills are less expensive, and a flat belt manual treadmill usually sells for under $300. However, the most popular manual type is the curved belt treadmill, which generally costs more. 

Winner: Manual Treadmill 

woman on treadmill

Conclusion

There are many benefits and disadvantages of electric treadmills and manual treadmills. We believe that explaining the details of both treadmills will help you make a good decision about which machine is right for your fitness and health. 

Thank you for taking the time to read our list of manual vs. electric treadmill differences. 

Paul J