This discussion about running on treadmill vs outside is not a new one and there can be arguments for and against both options. Running outside improves stability by pushing you to explore the moving and ever-changing terrain around you. Whereas treadmill running will compel you to maintain speed and performance levels which you may not be able to achieve outdoors.
Is It Better to Run on a Treadmill versus Outside?
Whether running on a treadmill is better than running outside depends upon your personal training needs, objectives, and preference, but both are great for burning calories and weight loss. Having said that, the treadmill has some clear advantages over outside running as you can use a treadmill in your personal space no matter what the external weather conditions are.
Running on Treadmills
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to these two types of exercise routines. To decide in your personal preference, whether treadmill training will work for you better than running outdoors, you need to consider the advantages that treadmill offers, see the pros and cons for yourself.
Pros of Treadmill Training
Your treadmill can be your best friend when the weather is too harsh to run outside. Also, if you get your free time at night, you may want to run on a treadmill instead of heading out in the dark. If you have kids at home that you cannot leave alone, treadmill running can be the only option for you.
Your treadmill forces you to maintain the same pace and can provide you with the convenience that outdoor running may not. That is not all. Let us cover some of the important pros of treadmill:
No Weather Problems
During inclement weather conditions, you do not have much of a choice to venture outside. It may be breezy, icy or raining cats and dogs, and in such conditions, having a treadmill is ideal, as you can easily continue your fitness regime without worrying about the weather on a particular day, and avoiding hazards as well that you may encounter during these bad weather phenomena. However, as there is no wind resistance, this may reduce the perceived exertion of the running even though running at a faster pace.
Besides that, even during hot and humid days, running outdoors may not be the most convenient and efficient option, as you can be exposed to dehydration, exhaustion, or even heat stroke. You can again count on your treadmill to save the day for you and stick to your regular aerobic exercise routine.
Control the Treadmill Pace
You may also prefer running on a treadmill as it provides a more controlled environment and helps you control your pace, giving you important details regarding the miles (or kilometers) you have covered, the time you have been active, calories burned, and also your heart rate (and more options, depending upon the type of treadmill).
If you want a steady state running at a certain pace, you can set it in your treadmill and it will let you run or walk for hours at that same pace. It makes the treadmill perfect for structured speed workouts. As the treadmill belt propels you forward thus you use your hamstring muscles less, to reach the same effort, you can also set the incline-level that gives you a feeling as if you are climbing uphill – and as a result, burn more calories and lose weight.
If you are running outside, you are terrain-dependent. If the ground is elevating, you must run uphill no matter how hard it feels on the knees. On the other hand, if you want to challenge yourself by adding the incline-factor, you cannot do so in outdoor running, unless you find a hill to climb – which is not an easy task for most of us.
Running on a treadmill reduces the impact on your legs and body that you usually get whilst running on uneven or flatter outdoor surfaces that can offer more shock. Dirt, debris, and other obstructions can be a hazard, particularly when you are running fast. This can, on a longer run, may lead to ankle, knee, and back problems, and these only get compounded or severe with the passage of time.
You overcome these concerns and surprises when running or jogging on a treadmill. It provides a fairly soft surface to run along with the shock absorption features that minimize the impact of a treadmill belt on your joints. This also gives you the peace of mind that you won’t be bumping, slipping, or tripping on anything in your way and your body will stay protected from pains and aches.
Safe and Private Space
The biggest advantage of treadmill running that treadmill runners quote is the convenience of operating it within the comfort of their homes. You do not have to travel to exercise. You can choose the time of your liking and get a flexible routine to maintain your fitness.
As you can imagine, it is also a much safer option as compared to when you run outdoors. You cannot be hit by a car or bump into things or people on the sidewalk. You can also exercise at night or later if you like, without the concern of being harassed or physically attacked by a stranger.
It is like having your private gym or running space where you can sweat it out without the uncomfortable feeling of being watched around by people.
Cons of Treadmill Running
Even the best inventions have some drawbacks. Here are some of the disadvantages of running on a treadmill:
Straight Track Without Turns
You cannot make turns while running on a treadmill. This limits your ability to work on your agility. It could also get boring after a while when all you do is jog in a straight direction.
Running on a moving belt can be somewhat monotonous for you as you will get the same view each time you use the machine and cannot enjoy the beauty of a variety of running routes. You can put a TV or your cellphone in front of the treadmill to keep you entertained or play your favorite music while you run to make it less boring and more fun.
No Downhill Running
Most treadmills give you the incline option, but that’s about it. You cannot and won’t be running downhull. This limits your running as you cannot strengthen your anterior tibialis muscles present at the front of your legs and thus you will be missing this from your training program.
Running outside in the open with nature (or buildings!) around you can be a different experience than running inside the four walls of your home or gym.
Pros of Outside Running – Why is Running Outside Better than Treadmill?
Just like running on your treadmill, an outdoor run has many plusses. Here are some advantages outside running has over treadmills:
Not many things in life are free – but running outside is. You do not need to invest in a treadmill or get a gym membership when you can run outside. Moreover, outdoor runners are not restricted by their gym’s timings as one can run outside at any time convenient.
Possible Training During Travels
Running is a great way to check the area around you when you travel. If you are used to running outside, traveling is easier. If your body depends upon a treadmill, you cannot travel with it and you may not find it everywhere you go.
Outdoors and Fresh Air
Although the air resistance makes it tougher, running outside is more enjoyable than running inside a building. You get to see life around you – different people, places, and terrain, especially if you are trail running. You can breathe in the clean air and feel the sky above your head.
When you run outside, you have an unpredictable terrain, and that’s what makes running exciting. You may have to run downhill or turn. This is something you cannot experience on a treadmill.
You can set different levels of speed or incline feature at your treadmill, but the unpredictable terrain that running outside offers is unmatchable. This can, however, be a downside too as it may cause you more distraction while you jog. Yet, if you are preparing for an outdoor race, some training runs in unpredictable weather may be highly beneficial.
Cons of Outside Running
There is a reason why many runners who used to run outside decide to invest in a treadmill and switch to running indoors. Running outside may look very natural as compared to running inside a confined space, but there are some disadvantages of outside running. Let us have a look at those:
Dangers and Distractions
If you are running out alone or at nighttime, you may encounter a dangerous situation or feel unsafe.
You may also be distracted by cars, cyclists, and other people who are jogging or playing outside. And if that is not enough, dogs and other animals can slow down your pace. You may also meet neighbors who would want you to stop by to talk about some ongoing issues, disturbing your running time.
Although you can injure yourself when not safely using the treadmill, the probability of having a knee, leg, foot, or ankle injury is more when you run outside. Ground reaction forces may also adversely affect your joints. When you train outside, you are prone to many negative aspects of running, like stepping in some puddle, slipping, bumping into a pole, or having a collision with someone.
Closing Thoughts About Running on Treadmill Compared to Outside
While you may already have a favorite one among the two, considering their pros and cons, there is no denying the fact that both running options have tons of physical as well as mental health benefits. If you want to enjoy running without worrying about the weather conditions ruining your workout, it is better to go for a treadmill run. This way, you can always take out time to burn calories, or even do cardio – without worrying about leaving your home.
Although running outside offers you fresh air and a constant change of scenery that does not let you get bored, you have a higher probability of bumping into something or someone, resulting in negatively impacting your workout routine. Your treadmill also displays your stats to keep you motivated to run more, faster, or in an inclined position.
If you have a treadmill, you can always have a backup plan to run outside for a change, but if you opt for running outside, you do not have a backup running option when the weather is too hot, cold, rainy, or dark.