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 have been off the treadmill for a while, it may be confusing to know how to get started. But you have to see the running on the treadmill benefits compared to running outside. So that’s the burning question for many of us.
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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 exercise offer comparable health benefits, provided you stay within your target heart rate.
Several factors can influence the effectiveness of running on the treadmill versus outside. For example, if you live indoors or are trying to take a break from the rain, running on the treadmill can be a great substitute. But, on the other hand, if you live outdoors or looking for a good workout, running on the treadmill may not provide the same benefits as running out.
Benefits of Running
It reduces stress, gives an energy boost, increases 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.
Benefits of Running Outside
No More Boredom
I am an outdoor runner. So I’m always in favor of outdoor running. You get the company of various other runners.
Running on roads, uneven ground, pavements, etc., is like running on actual tracks. You do not get bored and can have a different route every day. The trail’s numerous variations provide essential resistance training for running on a race track. There are different levels of inclines and declines on the same route.
You can do road runs, dirt runs, hill runs, trail runs, and so on. You experience the weather, the rain, the sun, the moon, and nature in all its colors and vibes.
Running outdoors is more exciting, and you will always look forward to it if you love running. However, if you are practising and training for a race, you have to run outside as most of the running tracks and all the marathon tracks are outdoors only.
Running on a treadmill is considered boring compared to running outside. Some runners feel treadmill running is difficult due to the boredom involved. So the treadmill sessions are shorter than running outside. Of course, the new treadmills give you the feeling of running in various beautiful locations worldwide or with accomplished runners. You can even watch the news, movie or any channel of your choice on the big screens provided nowadays. Podcasts and music also help. Despite all this, some people find running outside more enjoyable.
Run Longer and Further
Jogging outdoors is less boring than running on a treadmill, so you may run more. It’s simpler to endure when you’re not focused on your legs and lungs.
Outdoors, you’ll have diversions like the weather, scenery, noise, people, and cars to keep your mind off the extra effort you put in. In addition, running outdoors may help you run longer if you like it.
Sunlight and Fresh Air
Outdoor time is beneficial to our health and may make us happy. Outside, you’ll receive your daily dosage of vitamin D. Getting some fresh air also helps decrease tension and anxiety. Nothing can beat the freshness of morning air.
Room to Grow
Running outdoors in natural surroundings rather than on a treadmill allows for greater natural development in strength, coordination, technique, and endurance.
Trail running challenges your coordination and alertness as you navigate tree roots, loose pebbles, and other hazards.
Monitoring Progress More Enjoyable
Wearing a smartwatch gives you much more information about your running performance and other parameters than running on a treadmill.
A runner’s heart rate variability (HRV) measures the fluctuations during a run. You can see your progress and review your routes as your run log develops.
Cons of Running Outside
There are various problems, too, with running outdoors. For example, 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 cannot even see where your foot is falling. It can give you very funny or very horrendous experiences.
Later in the day, it is not even suggested with the 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 agree that a dog’s fear of chasing you increase your speed, but I could manage without such pacers. In complete quiet, when you suddenly hear a dog bark, your pace automatically increases, even if you cannot see it.
Once running on the serene beaches of South Goa, five dogs chased and surrounded me. I almost promised them I would never run again, but they lost interest in me and left.
Benefits of Running on a Treadmill
Good treadmills have an incline of 15 to 40%. This much incline is not regularly possible for most of the time running outside. Depending on the incline you have set on your treadmill, it burns 3 to 4 times more calories than flat running.
Treadmills offer better interval and speed training options due to their speed and incline setting functions. If you have both the possibilities of running outside and treadmill training, do twice a week interval training on your treadmill, and you will surely do your personal best in the next marathon.
Know your Tracks
You know your tracks well and can adjust the incline, the cushion on the treadmill belt and the treadmill speed to your liking. You can do various other things while running, like watching the news on TV or reading something. You can set the treadmill to a particular pace and then run at that pace continuously.
Run in Any Dress
Treadmill runners don’t even need proper running gear to run. Just wear your pyjamas and get going. However, serious runners like to run inappropriate gear outside, in a gym or at home. You are safe from all kinds of weather conditions. You can also run in the airconditioned environment of your home or gym.
Weather doesn’t Matter
Have you ever tried running on the treadmill during a monsoon when the outside humidity is 97%? Trust me, and those are the days when you congratulate yourself on buying a treadmill and running in air-conditioned comfort. You can monitor your running very well with the help of various meters attached to the treadmill.
Time doesn’t Matter
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 outside.
Recovery from Injury
Treadmills are also beneficial while recovering from injuries. While running outside poses more significant risks, the treadmill can be a boon with controlled speeds and inclines.
Disadvantages of Treadmill Running
Running on a treadmill involves one significant investment. If you run at home, treadmills are a big investment depending on your pocket, body weight, interest in running, etc. 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 you like.
Risk of Injury
According to Consumer Product Safety Commission data, treadmills cause more accidents than any other 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. So it would help to be cautious while running on the roads.
Treadmill or Running Outside?
The running outside vs treadmill 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, at least on this parameter, treadmill running is as effective as outside running.
In 1996, Andy Jones and Jonathan Doust published a paper that compared runners’ oxygen (i.e., energy) consumption, running outdoors, or on treadmills at various inclines. For example, running on flat treadmills burns about 4% less energy due to a lack of air resistance. Still, you can eliminate that difference between the treadmill and outside running by setting the treadmill incline to 1%.
But, there is a difference. The perceived exertion is more in the running. For example, if you run on a rainy day outside, you will feel more effort than running on the treadmill at the same or faster pace. Similarly, running at a 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 much more hamstrings. So, if you are training for a marathon, you had better spend more time outside.
While some people say the cushioned treadmill mats are better for joints as they absorb most of the impact, studies also reveal that running outside increases 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 performance levels not possible outside. You will have more focus during your interval training. However, keep your treadmill to about 40% of your training time.
The ever-changing terrain outside will help you build stability for the race track, and there is no substitute for that.
It is more important that we run rather than where we run. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but we cannot substitute one. So we can decide on our requirements.
Buy a treadmill for exercise only. Running outdoors is a problem due to traffic or bad weather, etc. You can do treadmill workouts at any time you are free.
You will go outside if you love running, the conditions are favorable, and you don’t damn about conditions.
Do both if you like participating in events and love having PBs (personal best timings) and podium finishes.
Most research shows that running does not cause joint damage outside or on a treadmill. However, if you are a family, it helps to have a treadmill at home, as everyone can use the same one at different times of the day.