A treadmill gives consumers the flexibility to walk or run indoors during bad weather or when they don’t have free time during daylight hours. With a treadmill, you stay in one place so if a knee problem flares up you aren’t stranded 5 km from home. You can adjust many elements of the run to suit your training regimen or to keep the workout from becoming stale. Build fitness or gain a competitive edge. The top five machines are set-up for multi-media interaction.

Number Five: Horizon Elite T3000

This is a great machine: a little expensive, but full of interesting functions. Have you ever wished you could pretend you were running in France? The Elite T3000 comes with a Passport system which, when connected to your TV, projects images of streets and trails around the world.

With a possible 12% incline, you can climb hills at a brisk walking pace. Pick up speed: up to 12 mph. Choose one of 10 programs, displayed on a three-part LED screen. The maximum weight is 350 lbs, so whether you’re trying to lose weight or improve your race time this is an excellent purchase.

Number Four: Lifespan 7000i

The biggest disadvantage of this Lifespan treadmill is the price: over $4,000. The T5 comes highly recommended, however, with its tough steel build and long belt for generous strides. Impact absorption protects your joints for the future or against re-injury.

Bluetooth compatibility allows users to connect to their favorite shows or running tunes and stay motivated. There’s an amazing 20-mph speed limit, so if you’re a sprinter this is ideal. Choose one of 15 incline levels and really get your heart rate going, adjusted at your own pace. Start with small inclines when you first begin to get fit and watch your cardio strength improve over time.

There are 21 programs to select from including healthy living, weight loss, and a customizable setting. The belt pauses automatically for several seconds if you step off whereas Quickstart lets you get running before you quite know what setting is right for the day. Go for manual settings instead of a program if you don’t need guidance.

Number Three: Life Fitness T5

The T5 remembers your last setting so you don’t have to think about it. Just run. There’s a dishwasher-safe, removable cup holder for your water or energy drink. Use the hand grips to read your heart rate. Shock absorption is built in to protect vulnerable knee, hip, and ankle joints. Handles are built along the sides and the front if you want to rest your arms or walk for a little while. The Life Fitness T5 costs around $4,000.

Number Two: Proform Pro 2000

What I like most about the Proform Pro 2000 is its affordable price: under $2,000, about half what you pay for the other three. This is the best machine in a class most runners can afford to bring home whereas the others are more likely to end up in a commercial gym or homes of wealthy consumers. There is plenty of room to run, so you are unlikely to gradually drift to one side and slip off (it happens). An electromagnetic motor is quiet, so you can watch TV and hear it too. A huge screen with RaceTrack display shows numerous functions and programs. Even call up Google Maps from around the world and set your running program accordingly.

This treadmill provides both incline (15%) and decline (3%) to simulate that joyful downhill sensation and allow you to practice control. The body also positions itself a little differently and uses certain muscles to run downhill, so get in some practice before race day. The Proform Pro 2000 folds away neatly.

Top Machine: Nordic 1750

As commercial machines go this one gets top marks every time, but don’t let the word “commercial” fool you. The Nordic 1750 is also the least expensive treadmill here; suitable for home use. Set it for up to 15% incline or up to 3% decline and a maximum speed of 12 mph. The belt is wide and can be set for cushioning if you don’t wish to simulate authentic road-run impact. Pick a program — one of 38 — such as interval or speed training. The touch screen will also connect to your computer so you can read emails while running.