Life Fitness F1 Smart Folding Treadmill Review

Life Fitness are global giants of the fitness world so the brand is often instantly recognisable, especially to gym-goers familiar with their commercial equipment. Such machines can cost up to £8000 so it’s a relief that some of their home models boast some of the same features of their club machines but at a fraction of the cost. The F1 treadmill is positioned at their entry-level price point but that says more about their target market than it does about this particular model! Life Fitness machines are aimed at people that aren’t afraid of paying a high price for a bit of quality….we set out to see if the F1 meets such high expectations!…….

The heavy price tag doesn’t just reflect the weight of Life Fitness’ reputation; you are also paying ‘indirectly’ for the ‘free installation’ of the machine. Some people may slightly resent that fact but for those that don’t possess much DIY enthusiasm or the desire to be wrestling an 18 stone box of parts this should probably be considered a worthwhile investment.

Once assembled, the machine has a look and feel of both quality and sturdiness. It certainly feels solid but for heavier users, it is worth noting that the user capacity maxes out at 21 stone 4lbs (which incidentally is 100 lb less than is capable on a similarly priced machine by another manufacturer).

The running area of 55” x 20” (140 cm x 51 cm) should, in most cases, offer an unrestrictive workout but we’d normally expect to find a 60” long belt on a machine of this calibre. Having given fair warning to the taller and heavier users out there, we must next address the super fast and the super fit! The F1 has a 2.5 Continuous Horse Power motor that is quiet and smooth but when looking at machines in this class we’re used to seeing 3CHP + units so once again it does fall short of expectations for a machine with this kind of price tag.

For many people the machine’s maximum speed of 10 mph will be more than adequate, as will the 12% incline, but then again, surely the same users are entitled to more than ‘adequate’ when investing such a sum?! After all, it is serious money and we expect ‘serious’ capabilities! Being as many machines at this price point offer 12mph top speeds and 15% incline levels we really can’t justify why the F1 can’t keep up.

Before we begin to sound too condemning, let us again remind readers that what we’ve mentioned so far will only affect a minority, in fact, the F1 possesses many features that will be universally enjoyed by all. One such feature is the cushioning system. This machine boasts the same ‘Flex Deck shock absorption as you’d find on Life’s big commercial machines and that’s more like it. LifeFitnes claim that this system absorbs up to 30% of the impact of running and, while other machines in the bracket claim to absorb more, in practice it feels great underfoot. Consideration has not just gone into its design, but also the materials used during its construction. It’s reassuring to know that due to the nature of the material (Polymer) used in the LifeSprings, the system should feel as good in years to come as it does when the machine is new.

Up to the console now, which houses a row of buttons that give easy access to the FIVE inbuilt pre-programmed workouts available (We have spelt the number out in case you thought we missed out as digit!) Yes, it’s a woefully small selection and we won’t be counting ‘Manual’ as number six in order to bulk up the figure! However, it’s not all bad – there is a USB port which allows you to download more programs from the Life Fitness ‘Virtual Trainer’ website. Though finding a USB cable long enough to reach your desktop PC if you don’t have a laptop may well prove a challenge! The downloadable workouts can even be customized to suit the particular goals that you are striving for. So thankfully there is, at least, a mechanism by which to expand upon the inbuilt options.

By pressing the RANDOM workout key, the console creates a course of varying hills and valleys that’s different every time. The user controls the speed but incline adjustments are made automatically.  By pressing the ‘HILL’ workout button, you will embark upon an interval style of training.

As you’d expect, the F1 has pulse grip sensors inlaid into the handlebars which are good  for getting a rough idea of your heart rate, but for a proper readout, there is a Polar chest strap transmitter included. Wearing this will allow you to get readings transmitted wirelessly to the inbuilt receiver and you can then also use both of the target heart rate workouts.

The button labelled ‘FAT BURN’ is designed to keep the user at around 65% of their theoretical maximum heart range that is the percentage widely recognized as most effective for fat burning.

If your goals are aimed towards improving your fitness levels then the ‘CARDIO’ button is for you. This works on the same principle as the FAT BURN session except that the target heart range is set at 80%.

The ‘FIT TEST’ button can only be utilized when wearing a compatible chest strap transmitter. The Fit test gets you working at a 5% incline for 5 minutes and then gives you a score based upon the rate at which you recover after the workout. This is a good gauge to monitor your progress by performing the test every few weeks.

To fully exploit the ‘fun’ potential of the F1 it seems rather crucial to get involved with the Life Fitness website. There you can customise your workouts and even install a free app on your iPhone that can track your workouts both on the F1 and on the road by using the GPS in the phone! Life Fitness has even got on the ‘social media’ wagon by allowing you to set up a personal profile with your picture, assemble groups of training ‘buddies’ and send and receive alerts for a bit of friendly banter! It’s all good fun and can certainly help with motivation but if you struggle to find time to even squeeze in a workout, let alone track, upload and network, then the F1 has got some convenient (and more conventional) features that should appeal.

For starters, we love the ‘Go System’ on Life Fitness machines. It’s a simple concept – you have three buttons for ‘Quick Start’ action that are pre-set at certain speeds. Press ‘Walk’ and the machine sets away at a gentle 2mph pace. Press ‘Jog’ and it’s an instant adjustment to 4mph and if you want to up the intensity with one touch, pressing ‘Run’ will set the speed at 6mph. It’s a great idea and one made even better by the option to customise each button to your own personally selected speed (ideal for making instant adjustments when performing manual Interval training too!)

At Centre stage on the console is a dedicated iPhone or iPod Touch dock. Set your device on the dock and it will be charging up and you can control the sounds with the sweat-resistant keys. It’s a nice idea but we were very disappointed to see that there are no inbuilt speakers so you are reliant on using the headphone jack which makes us wonder about the thought process here. Why would you plug you music player into the doc and then plug your headphones into the treadmill console, when you can just plug your headphones into your music player and get the sound directly from your device? It doesn’t work with Android devices either as it’s Apple product specific. It certainly does seem a bit muddled and also means that roughly half of its potential users won’t be able to use this function. There is a handy ledge to sit your tablet on and two storage holders that keep your drinks bottle and accessories close at hand.

Like all most domestic treadmills, the F1 folds up to save space. The deck is fairly easy to fold and we particularly liked the high positioning of the unlocking lever which is conveniently placed up in the top corner(within easy reach of you, but out of the reach of smaller children!)

So what do we think overall? If you have your heart set on owning a Life Fitness machine then you’re probably already accepting of the fact that you’ll need to dig deep into your pockets! What is harder to accept, considering the price tag, is all of the shortcomings and limitations of this machine. There were so many times during testing the F1 that our review team could make unfavourable comparisons with other brands that boasted cheaper models with far more impressive specifications….but then again, those machines don’t have the enviable ‘Life Fitness’ badge!

Best Price

Currently available for £1895.00 from John Lewis

Review Summary - In Brief

The F1 may not have the highest top speed or incline in its price bracket, but it does ooze quality and is fitted with the impressive cushioning technology that's made their machines so popular in gyms around the world. It is high quality but you do pay a big premium for the brand name meaning it does fall short in the value for money stakes, though you do get a high-quality treadmill. For a big saving but still a top-quality treadmill, have a look at the Proform Pro 5000 which features a larger motor, a larger running deck, silly amount of training options and interactive training capabilities and a large HD touchscreen console, for a considerable amount less. Or, for just a little bit more you can get the outstanding NordicTrack Commercial 2950 which,  if we're completely honest, beats the F1 Smart hands down in every department.

Life Fitness F1 Specifications

  • 2.5 HP Continuous Duty motor (4.5 HP peak)
  • 16.1 km/h (10mph) maximum speed
  • 12% incline
  • Running Area: 140cm x 51cm (55.1” x 20”) with FlexDeck® Shock Absorption System
  • Smart Console with LCD Display providing feedback on: incline, time, speed, distance,  heart rate, target heart rate, calories, pace
  • 7 pre-programmed workouts plus unlimited workouts through the Life Fitness Virtual Trainer website and USB port
  • Pulse measurement via wireless chest strap or hand pulse grips
  • Conveniences: USB port, transportation wheels, audio system, iPod compatibility
  • Maximum User Weight: 135kg / 297.6lbs
  • Product Weight: 117kg /258lbs
  • Dimensions in use (L x W x H): 196cm /77″ x 86cm /34″ x 150cm /59″
  • Dimensions when folded (L x W x H): 89cm /35″ x 86cm /33.9″ x 190.5cm /75″
  • Warranty: 3 years parts and labour

Life Fitness F1 Smart Treadmill - Console / Display Unit

Life Fitness F1 Smart Treadmill - User Reviews

The Pros

  • Superb Flex Deck cushioning system
  • Good build quality and solid feel
  • ‘Virtual Trainer’ compatible
  • USB port for downloading new programs and tracking progress on the website

The Cons

  • Only 5 programs
  • No speaker system means you have to use headphones
  • Doesn’t have the power or incline capabilities of many competitors machines
  • Limited maximum user weight and running area
  • Music port only works with Apple products
Life Fitness F1 Smart Treadmill Reviewer Ratings

Power - 8
Appearance - 8
Running Area - 7
Comfort - 9
Reliability - 9.5
Noise - 9
Ease Of Use - 8
Controls - 8
Warranty - 9
Value for Money - 4
Best Price

Currently available for £1895.00 from John Lewis

Also see our Treadmill Comparison Table

Whilst every effort is made to give you accurate information we cannot guarantee the technical specification. Models change on a regular basis and may differ slightly from the above review. We recommend you contact the retailer if you have a question regarding technical data. Please read our Legal Disclaimer

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