Savvy Tips & Helpful Hints

Running Outside vs On a Treadmill: Which Option is Most Effective?

Running is a sport with several enthusiasts. However, the discussion over running outside vs. on a treadmill is not a new one. The best thing is that supporters of both approaches share their love for running. Outdoor runners may describe treadmill running as monotonous and boring, while treadmill runners prefer running in a controlled environment. However, there is no right and wrong way to run, especially considering that both approaches have their pros and cons. Here is a breakdown of running outside vs. on a treadmill.

1) Benefits of Running Outside. Some people love the fun of lacing up and hitting the road in the morning or any other time of day. Doing so means that they expend more energy than they would on a treadmill while taking in the fresh air. Experts suggest that running outside allows you to grow more muscle because your feet have to grab the ground to propel you. A treadmill does some of the propelling for you by feeding the belt to you. Running outside is also suited to a natural gait cycle since you are doing the work yourself. A treadmill can cause you to shorten your stride. Running outside will also activate more muscles because you do not have to run in a strictly linear pattern, unlike on a treadmill, where some of your muscles could become weak and deconditioned. Running outside is rarely a bad idea. You cannot replicate the feeling of running with the wind rushing past your body or the sun shining on your skin for some vitamin D. 

2) Cons of Running Outside. The weather always determines whether you will run outside. Experts recommend running in dry, moderately warm temperatures. Running in the rain, snow, and extremely cold or hot temperatures is risky and less of an idea. Running in extreme cold or hot temperatures also increases your risk of dehydration and can be life-threatening if you do not wear proper clothing and rehydrate. Running at night increases your chances of injury and can be dangerous. 

3) Benefits of Running on a Treadmill. Treadmill running provides a completely controlled environment. You can control the pace, incline, interval, and recovery. For example, if you get used to running at a certain speed, you can change the speed easily. The feeling of the belt moving under your feet translates to outdoor training, making it easier to maintain a pace without staring at your watch every few minutes. Treadmill running also motivates you to complete a tempo or threshold run. Also, you can set your treadmill to a 1% grade to stimulate outside running at certain speeds, offsetting the lack of air resistance and the moving belt. A treadmill is also a convenient training alternative because you can do it on your time, even in bad weather and at night. You can also use your headphones to listen to music, watch TV, and even page through a book while exercising on a treadmill. If you want to run a few miles to keep up with your cardio demands, you can use a treadmill. 

4) Cons of Treadmill Running. While treadmills are safe for training, you can still get hurt. Reports suggest that there are more than 42000 treadmill-related injuries in the US each year. These injuries include sprains, falls, head injuries, and cardiovascular events. Most treadmills do not come with a downward incline feature, which you need to strengthen your anterior tibialis muscle. Also, there are no turns on a treadmill, limiting your ability to improve your lateral agility. Treadmill running can also be boring. Even with a TV or music in your gym, running on a treadmill can be tedious. 

5) Making a Choice. If you intend to meet your cardiovascular fitness goals, a treadmill is an ideal alternative for you. You can pair the exercise with a pulse monitor and push yourself while keeping within your maximum heart rate. However, if you are training for a race event, you will benefit more from training outside. You can still incorporate treadmill running to improve your cardio health, but limit it to no more than 40% of your entire training. 

Regardless of your exercise goals, where you choose to run is a personal preference. If you prefer running on a treadmill, you are likely to commit to that routine and vice versa. The choice between treadmills and outside running does not have to be a decision. If you want to lace up and get moving, choose the method that suits you. You may also decide to combine both methods if it is practical and functional. 

One Comment

  • Edna Williams

    Running outside provides cardiovascular benefits as well as the opportunity to enjoy nature. Using a treadmill is a great alternative when the weather is inclement or if you have physical limitations which may make you more prone to injury! Thank you for this article!

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