Create

Treadmill vs. Outdoor Running: Which is Better and Why?

Is it better to run on a treadmill, or outdoors? Image via Pexels/William Choquette
Is it better to run on a treadmill, or outdoors? Image via Pexels/William Choquette
Natalie P.

When it comes to running, people consider two major options: the treadmill, or outdoors?

Treadmills can be found in almost any fitness facility. It’s usually the first piece of equipment people gravitate towards at the gym. It’s a great way to get some steps in for a warm-up, burn some calories, or even complete a whole running workout.

Then there are some people who prefer to run outside, whether it’s on the streets, in a park, on a trail, wherever; as long as it’s outside.

But is one better than the other? Could the treadmill possibly be bad for you? And there’s so much fresh air and excitement with running outdoors! They’re both vastly different environments.

A lot of individuals enjoy outdoor runs. image via Unsplash/Alessio Soggetti
A lot of individuals enjoy outdoor runs. image via Unsplash/Alessio Soggetti

While running as an exercise provides several health benefits, it is up to the person to choose how they want to carry it out. The health benefits from running include:

• Relieves stress

• Lowers blood pressure

• Aids in weight loss

• Improves endurance

Let’s weigh out the pros and cons of running outdoors versus running on a treadmill.


Running on the treadmill

The pros:

Accessibility

Possibly the biggest advantage with treadmills is that they can be accessed at any time. Since they are almost always indoors, you don’t have to worry about weather conditions or the time of day.

Treadmills are generally indoors. Image via Unsplash/Ryan de Hamer
Treadmills are generally indoors. Image via Unsplash/Ryan de Hamer

Multiple speeds and functions

Most treadmills, especially newer ones, come with the added benefit of being able to control the speed of the belt, add an incline to the walk, etc. Some even come with in-built HIIT timers and controls to give you an effective workout.

Controlling pace is easy

We often lose track of how slow or fast we’re moving if we don’t have a device measuring our pace. Treadmills eliminate the need for that by maintaining a constant speed and displaying stats on the screen.

Suitable for beginners/individuals with injuries

Using a treadmill is preferable for those who are new to exercise or even those rehabilitating from an injury. The cushioned belt makes it easier on the joints and the speed can be maintained at a slow, controlled pace.

Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Who wants to go through the hassle of stepping outside anyway? But wait, there is also a small list of cons.

The cons:

May be hard on the joints

While walking may be alright, running on the belt can pose a risk to the joints, especially the knees and ankles. This is because the belt moves in the opposite direction of our running. Over time, exercising on the treadmill can wear out joints.

Monotonous

Most people hate working on treadmills solely because of the monotony, and how boring it might get to essentially be in the same place and looking at the same view. 10 minutes feels like an hour.

Treadmill runs may apply pressure to your joints. Image via Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio
Treadmill runs may apply pressure to your joints. Image via Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

Doesn’t help improve quickness

Sure, you can strive to become a faster runner and work towards it using a treadmill, but it lacks the ability to make turns or conquer different terrains. So while you might be building up on your endurance, you won’t be able to develop the same mind-muscle connection.

They are incredibly expensive

Treadmills definitely don’t come cheap. While it might be a worthwhile investment, there is a pretty large amount to invest. A more affordable alternative would be going outdoors for a run.


Running outdoors

The pros:

More variety

This is why the majority pick runs outdoors over the treadmill; it offers more options. Pick your terrain - hills, sidewalks, track fields, wherever. You won’t be confined to the monotonous belt of the treadmill.

Improves agility and quickness

Outdoor terrain is seldom a consistent path, especially on the streets and in hiking trails. Constantly having to change pace or direction and avoiding obstacles improves reflexes and makes you quicker.

Great way to take in fresh air

With the right breathing techniques, you won’t feel the need to stop for a breath or collect yourself as much as you might on the treadmill. Especially in a confined space, it is hard to take in sufficient fresh air. The outdoors constantly provide you with air.

Maybe outdoor runs sound more like your thing, but it’s no rosy ground to walk on, either. Let’s take a look at the cons of the outdoors.

The cons:

Weather and temperature outside

In most cases, people skip their runs because of the weather. It can be risky to run outside while it's raining as it makes it easy to slip and injure oneself, and there’s a good chance of catching the flu. Weather that's too hot might dehydrate you and leave you feeling weak. In extreme cases, people have been reported to faint while running in hot weather.

Extreme temperatures may exhaust you. Image via Pexels/Andres Ayrton
Extreme temperatures may exhaust you. Image via Pexels/Andres Ayrton

Might be dangerous

This is due to several other people and vehicles that might be around when you’re running, especially if it’s on the streets. There’s always a chance of running into someone or getting hit by a vehicle that didn’t see you. If you’re running in the night, be sure to wear clothing with reflective panels.


So, which is better?

It depends on your goals. If you’re training for a marathon or endurance event, long distance outdoor runs is your go-to option. If you’re just looking to get some steps in before the day ends, or want a short, sweaty workout, the treadmill should fit your requirements perfectly.

It also depends largely on what you enjoy. If you prefer variety and to explore, you won’t stay consistent with the treadmill. If you prefer to get your sweat session in quick without any obstacles, the treadmill is your thing.

Treadmills and outdoor runs have their own pros and cons. image via Unsplash/Mike Cox
Treadmills and outdoor runs have their own pros and cons. image via Unsplash/Mike Cox

Ultimately, the best run you can do is one you don’t skip out on. You’re an outdoors person, but is it raining outside? It’s okay, you can use the treadmill just for today. Do you like using the treadmill but your friends asked you to join them in the park? Never know how fresh air might benefit you!

So lace up those running shoes and get your legs ready with some stretches. Plug your headphones in and step out onto your terrain.


live poll LIVE POLL

Q. Which do you prefer?

Treadmills, any day.

Outdoors for me!

41 votes so far

Edited by Prem Deshpande

Comments

Fetching more content...