Running On The Treadmill Or Outdoors? Surprising Benefits You Need To Know!

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Running on the Treadmill
Treadmill Joke

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), over 50 million Americans do their running on the Treadmill each year.

Running on the Treadmill vs Outside

If you're starting or you've been off the treadmill for a while, it may be a bit confusing to know how to get started. But you don't have to be an expert to get the most out of it. So, how does running on treadmills compare with running outside? That's the burning question for many of us.

A treadmill can be a tempting at home alternative to pounding the pavement for any runner who struggles to fit their workouts into busy weekday schedules. While running on a treadmill can sometimes feel less “real” than running outside, research suggests that the two forms of exercises offer comparable health benefits, provided you stay within your target heart rate.

A few different factors can influence the effectiveness of running on the treadmill vs. running outside. For example, if you live indoors or if you're trying to take a break from the rain, going for a run on the treadmill can be a great substitute. If you live outdoors or if you're looking for a good workout, running on the treadmill may not provide the same benefits as running out.

Benefits of Running

It reduces stress, increases energy, endurance, burns more calories, makes you feel active, and increases self-confidence.

I'm out braving the elements and running along the road. It's a chilly morning, so I'm bundled up. I love running in the morning, it's so peaceful and quiet, it's the perfect time to think about all kinds of things. I'm thrilled I decided to start running. It's surely my perfect me-time, my meditation time. It's also been a great way for me to exercise. I'm glad I chose to do all my running outside instead of on a treadmill.

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Benefits of Running Outside

I am an outdoor runner. So I'm always in favor of outdoor running. You get fresh air and the company of various other runners. 

Running on roads, pavements, etc., is like running on actual tracks. You do not get bored and can have a different route every day. Lots of variations in the trail give you essential training of running on a race track. There are different levels of inclines as well as declines on the same route. 

You can do road runs, dirt runs, hill runs, trail runs, and the list goes on. You experience the weather, the rain, the sun, the moon, nature in all its colors and vibes.

Running outdoors is more exciting, and if you love running, you will always look forward to it. If you are practicing and training for a race, you have to run outside as most of the running tracks and all the marathon tracks are outdoors only.

Cons of Running Outside

There are various problems too with running outdoors. If you are a morning runner, depending on which part of the geography you stay in, it is usually dark when you start running, and sometimes it is still dark when you have finished. Sometimes, you are not even able to see where your foot is falling. This can give you very funny to very horrendous experiences.

Later in the day, it is not even suggested with the kind of traffic we have in our metro cities nowadays, and till late evening it is the same. 

My biggest worry when running outside is the fear of dogs. Yes, I do agree the fear of a dog chasing you does increase your speed, but I could manage without such pacers. In the complete quiet, when you suddenly hear a dog bark, even if you cannot see it, your pace automatically increases.

Once running on the serene beaches of South Goa, five dogs chased and surrounded me. I almost promised them I will not run ever again, but they themselves lost interest in me and left.

Benefits of Running on a Treadmill

You know your track well. You can adjust the incline to your liking. You can do various other things while running like watching the news on TV or even read something. You can set the treadmill to a particular pace and then run at that pace continuously.  

If at home, you do not even need proper running gear to run on a treadmill. Just wear your pajamas and get going. You are safe from all the vagaries of the weather. You can also run in the airconditioned environment of your home or gym. 

Have you ever tried running on the treadmill during monsoon when the outside humidity is 97%? Trust me, those are the days when you congratulate yourself on buying a treadmill and running in the air-conditioned comfort. You can monitor your running very well with the help of various meters attached to the treadmill.

You can run at any time of the day. There is no wind resistance, better weather control, less chance of injury, and no distractions. The treadmill keeps pushing the mat at you as you run, making running easier than running outside. 

Treadmills are also beneficial while recovering from injuries. While running outside poses more significant risks, the treadmill can be a boon with its controlled speeds and inclines.

Cons of Treadmill running

Running on a treadmill involves one significant investment. If you do your running at home, depending on your pocket, body weight, interest in running, etc. treadmills are a big investment. Then there is regular servicing of the treadmill, though heavy-duty treadmills require less maintenance. 

For running in a gym, there are regular gym fees and the latest style statement running gear that you like.

Risk of Injury

According to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, treadmills cause more accidents than any other piece of exercise equipment.  But don't just yet move towards outdoor running.  It is as hazardous or even more.  The estimates range from 2.5 to 33 running-related injuries per 1000 hours of running.  You need to be very cautious while running on the roads.

So Treadmill or Running Outside?

Running outside vs Treadmill running argument is as old as the treadmill. 

Research has found that VO2 max(the optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise) is the same while running on a treadmill and outside. So treadmill running is as effective as outside running, at least on this parameter.

In 1996, Andy Jones and Jonathan Doust published a paper that compared the oxygen (i.e., energy) consumption of runners, running outdoors, or on treadmills at various inclines. Running on flat treadmills burned about 4 percent less energy, but that difference could be eliminated by setting the treadmill incline to 1 percent

But, there is a difference. The perceived exertion is more in outside running. e.g., if you are running on a rainy day outside, you will feel more effort than running on the treadmill at the same or faster pace. Similarly, running at 1 or 2% incline on a treadmill is perceived to be less exerting than running uphill on a sunny day. 

Quads & Hamstrings

Treadmill running involves your quads more as the mat is already moving towards you, whereas outdoor running involves your hamstrings much more. So, if you are training for a marathon, better spend more time outside. 

While some people say treadmill mats being cushioned are better for joints as they absorb most of the impact, studies also reveal running outside increases your bone density

Marathon Training on a Treadmill

One thing is for sure. If you are training for an event then it helps to have a treadmill at home.

You can practice outside as well as on the treadmill. You can try all your speed runs & easy runs on the treadmill. The treadmill will force you to sustain speed and the performance levels not possible outside.  You will have more focus during your interval training. But, limit your treadmill runs to about 40% of overall training.

The ever-changing terrain outside will help you build stability for the race track and there is no substitute for that. 

Conclusion

It is more important that we run rather than where we run. Both have their Pros & Cons but we cannot substitute one for the other. So we can decide on our requirements.

Buy a treadmill if it is for exercise only, running outdoors is a problem due to traffic or weather or you like to do your workouts at any time you are free.

You will go outside if you love running, the conditions are favorable and you don't give a damn about conditions.

Do both if you like to take part in events and love to have PBs(personal best timings) and podium finishes.

Most of the research shows that running does not cause joint damage, whether outside or on a treadmill.  If you are a family, it helps to have a treadmill at home as all can use the same at different times of the day. 

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