I love walking outside. But here near Chicago, there comes a time of year when no matter how hearty you think you are, walking outside just isn’t gonna happen. When the wind chill is 30 below, and the actual temp is -2° F, even the dog doesn’t want to go outside. And I can’t blame her!
Whether it’s for cold or snow or rain or simply that you want to watch Netflix while you run, there are a lot of solid reasons for purchasing a treadmill. If you’re like most people, that decision is followed by the “where the heck are we going to put it?” discussion. Are you going to make space in your current home gym? Are you going to squeeze it into that spare bedroom you don’t use? How about putting it down in the basement?
Treadmills take up a good amount of space. To install them safely, you’ll actually need more room than you might think.
To accommodate most treadmills, you’ll need a space that measures at least 7′ x 12′ with a minimum of 8′ of ceiling clearance. While the typical treadmill itself only measures 3′ x 6′ x 5′, extra space is needed for the user’s safety as well as for ventilation of the motor and other moving parts.
Very often people only look at the dimensions of the treadmill itself. They measure the model they are planning to buy and then look for a spot in their home that is that size. This really isn’t the right way to approach it.
If you are in the process of shopping for your own treadmill, I’d recommend following a few basic steps. This will ensure that you not only get one you’ll love and use, but one that actually fits in your house. Not to mention one that is positioned so it can be used safely.
Buy the right treadmill first
Any exercise is better than no exercise. If the only way you can fit a treadmill in your home or apartment is to buy a compact unit, then that’s what you will have to do. As long as you are still following the guidelines below, it’s definitely better than nothing.
If you can, you should always start by identifying the right treadmill for your use. That will impact the size of your unit and therefore how much space you will need to install it.
I usually only recommend people look at Nordic Track or ProForm treadmills. They aren’t the only options around, but they are consistently some of the best. They offer a variety of models and are almost guaranteed to have something you’ll love. And they are 100% going to be nicer than almost all of the no-name, cheaper options on Amazon!
If you will only be walking on your new treadmill, then you don’t need an extra long deck. A shorter belt will handle the shorter gait of a walker. If you will be running, however, your stride will be longer. That necessitates a longer deck.
If you’ve ever tried to run on a short treadmill, you’ll understand why this is important. You need enough space to comfortably run without worrying about your feet falling off the back edge of the belt. That’s a recipe for injury.
If you are taller than 6’, then you also need to look at models with a longer running area. I’m 6’6”, so even though I was only going to be walking on my treadmill, I still opted for a model with a bit longer belt. That made a big difference in accommodating my long, gangly legs! It also meant I was going to have to find a little extra room for the model I purchased.
Another size difference that should be determined by your use is the CHP (continuous horse power) of the motor. For walkers, a smaller CHP (1.5ish) is appropriate. For runners, you’ll want to bump that up to 2-2.5. If you are over 200 lbs., you’ll want to add another .5 CHP to your equation.
While a larger motor doesn’t always mean a bigger treadmill, sometimes it does. Don’t go light on the motor to save space or money. A treadmill is something you’ll have for a long time. Having the right amount of CHP is critical to your enjoyment over its lifespan.
An important factor in buying the right treadmill is the deck cushioning. There are as many ways to do this as there are treadmill manufacturers. How much cushioning you really need depends on both your intended use and your preferences.
Many times, a higher quality deck will be further off the ground. This won’t be a problem if you are 5’2” and your room has a 9’ ceiling. If you are 6’2” and the ceiling is 7’, this will cause a problem. Always consider your ceiling height when picking a spot for your new treadmill.
Folding Deck Treadmills
One of the big mistakes people make when buying a treadmill is thinking that a fold up model will limit the amount of space needed to use it. That’s simply not the case. Actual use of the unit means the deck will be down. And that means you basically have a normal sized treadmill with normal space requirements.
Fold up models are great if you are putting your treadmill in a multi purpose area like your garage or finished basement. It allows you to fold the deck up out of the way so you still have room for things like your car, or the ability to walk around it.
Keep in mind that fold up models are generally a little less durable. On the whole they don’t usually come with higher CHP motors or longer decks. Always keep your intended use of the treadmill in mind first and foremost. If the model that meets your needs also happens to fold, don’t discount it because of that feature. By the same token, don’t shoot for foldable first at the expense of the features you actually need.
And remember my first point. If your only choice is the most compact fold up model or nothing, you gotta do what you gotta do, right?
Getting it home
So you have the right treadmill picked out. It meets all of your needs and you can’t wait to get it home and put in some miles. Now what? Well, now you have to get it into your home and set it up.
If you are buying your treadmill used, which is a great idea by the way, you will have a unique problem. Your treadmill will already be assembled. That means that it may not even fit through your front door. If, by some miracle, it does, it may not fit around corners, up or down stairs, or through your interior doorways.
Measure before you buy, and then see if you can find the assembly instructions. Whether you get them from the previous owner or from the interwebs, you’ll need them. Hidden inside the structure of your new treadmill is wiring that connects the motor, power supply, and the console. Knowing where this stuff is is critical to successfully taking it apart and getting it back together again.
If you are buying new, pay the store your bought it from for delivery and installation. I cannot not recommend this highly enough. Some stores will offer this free, some will charge. When I bought mine, I opted to save the $49 installation fee and do it myself. 3 hours into assembly I deeply regretted that decision.
One last note is to consider the room your are putting it in. Is this going to be your new treadmill’s “forever home”? If not, once it’s assembled, how much trouble will it be to move? Even though I have made a space for it in my garage, my treadmill still lives in my bedroom simply because I am dreading taking it apart, moving it, and then reassembling it. A little forethought goes a long way here!
About 1000 words ago, I promised to explain how much actual space you need for your new treadmill. I gave you a space requirement that probably looked big to you. Here’s why…
You want a workout, not a trip to the hospital!!!
Simply put, in order to stay safe, you need space all around it.
You need enough space so that if you fall, you are not wedged between a moving piece of equipment and a wall.
A lot of things can happen when you are pushing yourself hard. You can slip, become fatigued and lose coordination, trip on a shoelace, or you could overheat and pass out. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.
Safety isn’t about, “Oh, that will never happen to me.”. It’s about making sure that if it does happen, you don’t make things worse.
Overall Space Guidelines
Take the measurements of your new treadmill and add the following to make sure you can safely use it in your home.
Allow 24” on both sides. This will allow room on either side for safe entry and exit. It will also allow room for you to roll off of it if necessary.
Allow 6’ behind the unit. If you fall and the belt continues to run (and let’s be honest, even though I and the manufacturer highly recommends it, almost no one uses the emergency shutoff cord), you want to be able to fall and roll off the back of the unit onto the floor.
If the rear of the unit is too close to a wall, you could find yourself in trouble. First, you get slammed into the wall. Then you are given up to third degree burns by the spinning belt rubbing your skin off at an alarming rate. All while you have no room to right yourself or get clear.
Allow 24″ in front of the unit. This is for ventilation of your motor. Without proper airflow, you are asking for your very expensive new piece of fitness equipment to overheat and fail. This type of failure will not be covered by warranty if you have not left space for the motor to breathe.
Add your height to the deck height and then add 1’. This makes sure you won’t slam your head into the ceiling when running. I’m really tall. I’ve done this before. It’s no fun.
Can you put your treadmill on the second floor?
In short, yes you can. Any home or apartment that could pass a building inspection can accommodate a treadmill in a second floor room. That doesn’t mean, however, that the folks in the room below will appreciate this. You running will sound to them like God is knocking on the ceiling. Assuming this is okay, go right ahead and install your treadmill on an upper floor of your home. For more details, see my full article on the topic here!
If you are doing this, I’d make sure to put down some rubber flooring first. Click here to see my complete guide to home gym flooring. At a minimum, get a treadmill mat.
Also, if you are curious about how much fitness gear you can put in that second floor room, see my full article on the safety of installing a gym on your second floor.
A properly bought and safely installed treadmill is something you’ll get years of use from. It will allow you to walk comfortably when it’s freezing out and run safely when it’s raining. Knowing how much space you’ll need will help you buy the right unit and put it someplace that it can live happily. And most importantly, knowing the space that is required will keep you working out safely for years.