Does The Bowflex Treadclimber Really Back Up Its Bold Claims?

The other night I saw an infomercial for the Bowflex Treadclimber TC5000 which is like a combination of a treadmill and elliptical machine in one that helps reduce joint stress and claims to burn 2 x the calories than on a regular treadmill due to their 3-in 1-technology (which I’m still not sure what that means but it sounds pretty cool doesn’t it?) and that you’ll get more results with less effort in less time…

Now, I’ll admit that I’m all for time efficient workouts that produce better results than traditional high volume training.  However, at times during the infomercial I noticed a block of fine print that quickly flashed on screen.

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The fine print is so small you practically need a telescope to read it and the text is white which they cleverly blend into a white background making it barely legible…Also, that fine print is on and off the screen in the blink of an eye so unless you’re one hell of an amazing speed reader with the vision of the bionic man you probably won’t even notice it.

But, thanks to the creation of the DVR I was able to take a closer look and I was shocked at what the fine print said…

So, here’s a summary of the Bowflex Treadclimber TC5000 fine print facts:

Fact #1: Studies were performed with the Treadclimber at 3.2 mph and at level 12 intensity versus a regular treadmill at 6.2 mph and 0% incline

Now, I’ve never actually used a Bowflex Treadclimber but I have used an elliptical trainer at a level 12 intensity and I’m willing to bet that level 12 intensity on the Treadclimber is pretty darn difficult to maintain just as it’s difficult for most people to maintain a 6.2 mph pace on a treadmill for 30-60 minutes.

While the Treadclimber allows you to move at a comfortable walking pace the reality is that you are simply substituting speed for resistance. This is the same thing you can do using an elliptical machine.

Fact #2: The Treadclimber infomercial shows a chart revealing you burn 321 calories on the Treadclimber (at 3.2 mph and level 12) over a 30-minute period which is more than on the treadmill (at 6.2 mph and 0% incline).

However, I’m curious as to how they came up with this number since calorie expenditure is largely dependent upon how much you weigh.

Another thing to consider is that at most only 60% of those calories burned actually come from fat.

So, if we do some quick math we can see that out of 321 calories burned x 60% of those calories come from fat = 186 calories from fat burned…

1 lb of fat = 3,500 calories

This means that you would have to perform about 9 hours on the Treadclimber just to burn 1 measly pound of fat…Coincidentally, this is about the same amount of time it would take to burn 1 lb of fat using a treadmill

Maybe it’s just me but trading 9 hours for 1 lb of fat just doesn’t seem like it backs up their claim of more results with less effort in less time.

Fact #3: The participants in the Treadclimber study lost a significant amount of body weight and body fat.

However, the participants used the meal plan that comes with the Treadclimber which goes to show that you cannot achieve your weight loss goals without controlling your calorie intake.

And, since we now know that it takes about 9 hours to burn 1 lb of fat using the Treadclimber this suggests that a large contributor to the weight and body fat loss is due to proper diet.

The bottom line is that the Bowflex Treadclimber has some advantages versus a regular treadmill (and a hefty price tag) but when it comes to losing weight and reducing body fat cardio just isn’t a very effective option.

While the Treadclimber may burn 2 x the calories versus the treadmill it’s still only slightly more than 5% of a pound of fat for 30 minutes!

The 2 most important factors for weight loss and body fat reduction are: (1) diet and (2) resistance training and you can achieve your goals without fad diets or expensive over-hyped fitness equipment.

Last Edited: 5th April 2010


    Share Your Thoughts:

  1. VonniB says

    Great article! I’ve been contemplating spending my hard earned cash — in this stressed economy no doubt — for this Bow product. Now I think a much more thoughtful approach is appropriate!

  2. Shelly says

    Great article, looks like you really put a great deal of time and thought into it! good for you! I wanted to just leave a note saying that I did purchase the TC5000, and when I received it, looked diligently through the manual, including the meal plan. Needless to say, the meal plan was not for me, so instead, I decided to make my own healthier choices, and work out 5 times a week as opposed to the suggested 3 times a week for 30 minutes (when/if following the meal plan). I have not ever deprived myself of treats, but keep it within reason. I have enjoyed the same foods as before, but in moderation. Simply put, I have made a lifestyle change for myself, and one that I can actually stick with. I am very pleased to say that I am officially 35 pounds lighter as a result of the bowflex. Now I, like most im sure, have tried the “diet” plans out there before, and this is honestly the first time anything has worked for me. I am a size 8 for the first time, for as long as I can remember. Sure the bowflex treadclimber comes with a hefty price tag, but to me, it was probably the best investment I could have made for myself!

  3. Sherry says

    I purchased a used TC1000 for $300.00 Three weeks ago. It has been a great machine. I do watch what I eat and only eat in moderation. I used it 6 days a week. I’ve noticed I can fit into several pair of pants I could not two weeks ago! Im ok with losing inches first. I know the pounds will come. Im very pleased so far!

  4. Laurie says

    I just bought one used about a month ago. I’ve used it approximately 6 x since I had bronchitis for a couple of weeks. I am hoping it lives up to its claims. I do know that after using it for 30 minutes I can definitely feel it in my butt and legs. I am going to be using this 3 x week along with my step aerobics class twice a week. Hopefully I get the results I am looking for soon. I want to lose about 30 lbs and get into a size 8 again.

  5. says

    I am a trainer, certified through ACSM. A fellow trainer bought a treadclimber for her studio. She asked me to try it. She took it up to the highest level. I did not even break a sweat. I was on it for 15 minutes. I am a runner at about 6mph, and I teach Zumba Fitness. I own a gym. I know, for a fact, that Precor eliptical calorie estimates are way generous, and I assume this bowflex machine is similar. Also, I noticed if I turned my head to talk with my friend that I would trip on the other track. If you can picture a belt on a treadmill being split in two, you can see how this could happen. On an eliptical you do not have that issue because your feet stay on the pedal. But I wanted to let you know my experience with it. I have heard the claims that it supposedly burns the same calories as running. I don’t agree at all.

  6. Falon says

    I’m actually one of the people featured on the Bowflex Treadclimber commercial. All I can say is this machine truly works. I lost 85 pounds in 4 months. I didn’t use the meal plan Bowflex offered. Instead, I made healthier eating choices and adopted a lifestyle change. When I bought this machine, I was in the Marine Corps, and had three knee surgeries performed. The treadmill wasn’t an option, nor was the stationary bike, or the elliptical. I literally have no cartilage left in either knee. The Treadclimber doesn’t impact my knees at all. Just from that aspect alone, this machine has been worth every penny. Although it may not be “the” machine for some, it certainly is for me. To each his own! :)

    • Kathy says

      Falon – can you share your progression as to how fast you started out and how long it took you to start seeing results? I really wasn’t into an exercise regime prior to owning the treadclimber but I do work on the TC500 daily at this point. I have been working on it for 3 weeks now. I do see some loosening of clothing but no real weight loss. A bit disheartening. I am following a weight loss plan as well.


      • audrey says

        Yes Falon Your story is the most interesting to me because i’m the same size u were when u started. .i just received my machine two weeks ago. .I’ve been using it’. .It’s killing me and i’ve been gaining weight! :(

  7. says

    This article was VERY helpful!! It verifies what I have known all along that you don’t have to exercise all along to lose weight ( I’ve lost 68 lbs.) without an ounce of exercise just by following a sensible eating plan – lifestyle change – over a 4-year period and the pounds just keep melting away. I DO realize however that any type of exercise plan would have been better for me to stay toned or even have probably helped me take the weight off faster, but I am in my late 50’s, 60’s now and started losing strictly for dire health reasons to get off of so many pills (all the more reason to exercise, wouldn’t you think?), but now that I am feeling so much better I am of course so much more interested in getting back in shape; therefore this article was VERY helpful to me!! People do need to understand that ALL “diets” DO work, but ONLY for a little while, until you get off of them and then once you get off, you feel that you have been so deprived, you “reward” yourself by indulging in what you’ve been missing and you end up gaining back what you just lost and usually ALWAYS gain back more weight than you just lost and become the “Yo-Yo” dieter for years and years of your life. You must make a lifetime committment to changing your eating habits, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot eat what you want to, just use portion control and eat proper foods (most of the time) and when you over-indulge, because we all “fall off the wagon” occasionally, forgive yourself and start over IMMEDIATELY and don’t wait until the preverbial next week, or next month, or next anything – start the VERY NEXT MEAL!! Take my word for it – it works, and if you exercise – doing anything in resistance to what you normally do, it will help your body WHILE you are losing those pounds and inches; don’t wait like I did – do it in conjunction with your weight loss – lifestyle eating change – program! (NOT a DIET!)

  8. Cala says

    Just looking for some advice. My husband is 59 and I am 54, we are looking for an inexpensive elliptical or something for home use. My husband’s job has him on his feet all day but mine has me sitting all day. We want to start with a home fitness unit that is not too much for beginners but not a toy either. Any recommendations?

  9. Gloria says

    I just got my treadclimber two weeks ago for christmas. I asked for a used one the one that can remain stationary as a tredmill just incase my hips and knees couldn’t take the other fuctions but my hubby decided to purchase a brand new top of the line one. Needless to say I am two weeks into it and I loathe this machine. I used to do three miles on the treadmill at 3.0 in 1 hour. I cant even get a mile in at 2.0 on this machine without crying in pain. I used to enjoy my workouts and was energized when done now I end my workouts in tears. I just emailed them to ask them how to return it. It will just end up being a $3000 clothes hanger if I don’t. Good thing I kept my treadmil!

  10. Gerry says

    I became interested in looking into the treadclimber from a TV ad and an ad in Diabetes Forcast. I try to “walk” about 4-5 times a week for about 1/2 hr (depends on how tired my 2 SMALL dogs get,,,,,1 is only 3 1/2#)….but I live in Florida and between the heat and rain and scheduling I am often thwarted. I have been considering getting a treadmill cuz I wont have to worry about the weather…..then I saw the treadclimber. Because of cost and this report I am certainly reconsidering just getting a treadmill. I seems that the benefit from the treadclimber are small and operation concerns may give me a reason to procrastinate. I think will be looking for a treadmill with the smallest foot print.

  11. Jinx says

    Very disappointed in the TC. Its hard to stay on, if you turn your head you loose your balance. My daughters eliptical is so much better. Quite bummed out about this new clothes hanger of mine. I’ll continue walking with my dogs on the old skid roads up here in Oregon and get a better workout.

  12. afeywaffles says

    I have a bowflex treadclimber, and the thing kills my knees. I will litterally break down in tears from the pain. And now it broke .__. Completely just stopped working. I think it was a waste of money.

  13. Paul Sale says

    So you write a review about a piece of equipment you’ve never used? Pontificate about something you know, not mindless, uninformed ramblings. I’ve had my Treadclimber for 6 months and lost 50 pounds and still eat pretty much anything I want … in moderation, of course but don’t take my word for it since I actually USE the equipment in question here.

  14. Trina says

    I bought the TC20 March 30, 2014 and in the first week I used it for 258 min, 14.71 miles and 3062 Calories. It is an Amazing Workout. I lost 3 lbs the first week. I started at 2.9 speed and before the end of the week my highest speed was 4.2 by the end of the week. The incline is at the highest level!!! I love my TC 20 and I highly recommend it!!!! My weight was 129 lbs at 5″4. I bought it to tone up and shape up and still lost 3 lbs and 1/4 inch on each thigh and half inch on my waist. I don’t love excercise but at 42 yrs all is starting to fall and reshape and I look at the TC 20 a dozen times before getting on it!!!

  15. Rose Zamudio says

    I just purchased a Bowflex TreadClimber TC20. I would like to know if working out 15 minutes twice a day gives the same benefits as it would if you worked out 30 minutes in one session a day?

  16. Courtney says

    I personally love the tread climber. I go over to my moms house to use hers. I was doing the 21 day fix diet and workout videos. I did 1 1/2 rounds and stuck to the diet to a T and didn’t lose a single pound.. I was upset and frustrated but didn’t give up. I turned to the tread climber.. I absolutely love it. I have it set to the max incline and 4.2-4.5 mph. I burn 1000 calories in 1 hr. I used to do the elliptical for an hr and only burned 600. So yes, I do believe it burns more calories and I am seeing great results. I lost 5 lbs in 2 weeks but the best part is I eat whatever I want pretty much, in moderation. Not only did I see results so far but my Mom lost 20+ lbs. she doesn’t use it anymore but the weight has stayed off. My stepfather lost over 40lbs with the tread climber, in fact since its been nice out he has stopped using the tread climber and walks outside and has gained weight. He is actually eating less calories and gaining. Which to me means that he isn’t burning the same amount of calories walking outside in the same amount of time.

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