Running on Treadmill vs Outside – Which Is Better And Why?

There’s no new controversy about running on treadmill vs. outside.

Running outdoors will increase your stability by challenging you to negotiate ever-changing terrain.

But a treadmill forces you to achieve pace and efficiency standards that would otherwise lag outdoors.

There is no correct or incorrect solution to the argument running on a treadmill vs. outside at the end of the day.

All methodologies have their pros and cons depending on the individual training preferences and expectations.


Running on a Treadmill

A treadmill is a workout machine with a revolving belt that you can walk or run on.

Treadmills are included in most health clubs, or you can buy yourself from shops or online.

However, treadmills are one of the most common aerobic equipment pieces at home and in gyms due to the many advantages they bring.

According to the United States America, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 50 million Americans use a treadmill last year, an improvement of no less than 40% from 2000.


Outdoor Running

Outside running means running outdoors on the road, a path, a pavement, or some other outdoor landscape.

Whether on a track, a trail, or a pavement, outdoor running is a common alternative, particularly for runners practicing on a path or a trail race.

Not only is running outdoors more enjoyable than running on a treadmill, but you can even become a faster runner by preferring good outdoor activities.

At the end of the day, of course, the ultimate decision is about personal experience and the choices open to you, so here are some of the main advantages of running outside or on a treadmill.


Benefits of Running on Treadmill

running on a treadmill
Woman running on a treadmill

Now let’s talk about some of the major benefits you can grab from running on a treadmill.

Let’s discuss.


1.  You Will Burn More Calories

A lot of things decide whether you’re going to burn more calories on a treadmill or outside.

Initially, the calorie burn depends on the type and distance of the run.

But on average, you’re likely to be burning more calories on the treadmill.

Since many people are now running on a treadmill, there’s a much higher level of focus and intensity, and they’re experiencing a much higher calorie burn.

That said, if the high-calorie burn is your main target, don’t opt for running outside.

As running on a treadmill is quite controllable.

You can control your speed and track your duration and distance as well.

While running on a treadmill you run continuously at one place only, which keeps you completely focused.

Although when you run outside there are a lot of factors that will distract you from running but not in the case of a treadmill.


2.  You don’t need to concern about the weather.

Weather is something you really need to worry about and plan for before you reach the trails, the road, or the field.

You prefer to run outside in the summer when it’s not as humid and when the sun isn’t directly overhead.

And in the winter, it’s safer to be out while the sun is out.

But while running on a treadmill, you will not have to worry about the weather.

By the way, if it’s terrible outside, you’re not any cooler by pushing yourself to hang out there.

But it’s absolutely possible to run outside in the winter unless it’s super snowy.

Yes, it’s important to run in possible race-day conditions while practicing, but quality runs should be performed on good weather days.

The temperature is always nice indoors.


3.  Lower Impact

Runners prefer to have shorter stride lengths and higher stride speeds on the treadmill than when they run outdoors.

According to the 2014 study, this will reduce weight-bearing joints such as the ankles, knees, and hips.

But the analysis was carried out a few years back.

Today, slat-belt treadmills like the Woodway machines and the new Peloton Tread are on the market, offering still more cushioning.

Researchers in the 2017 analysis studied the workout patterns of more than 2,500 participants over their lifespan.

They found that those who ran consistently were less likely to experience frequent knee pain or signs of osteoarthritis than non-runners.


4.  There will be a lesser risk of injury.

Running outside raises the possibility of being hit by a vehicle, rolling an ankle on rocky terrain, and even experiencing sun damage.

People sometimes forget that this can be a matter of importance.

Something else to remember is how comfortable you’re feeling when you’re running alone; whether you need to do your runs until the sun comes up or after it sets because you don’t feel like exercising outside, the treadmill is the perfect pivot.


5.  Efficient And Effective Solution

If you don’t have a lot of time to sweat, the treadmill will win.

Not only is it fast, just hop on and press start, but it’s also totally under your fingertips.

Plus, you don’t have to worry about all the variables that outdoor running might present, like being stuck in a crosswalk after a crosswalk or slowing to let other pedestrians pass by.


Benefits of Running Outside

Outdoor Running
Girl running on the beach

Now, let’s peek into some of the benefits of running outside.


1.  Supports your bone growth

The treadmill’s smoother surface produces less pressure on bones and connective tissue, but this also ensures that you can not induce as much bone growth as possible.

Over time, a lack of bone growth could lead to bone loss injury, which occurs when old bones break down faster than new bones.

That said, running on a treadmill doesn’t mean that all these problems are going to happen.

A 2019 study found that long-distance runners displayed elevated levels of bone formation markers with no evidence of adverse effects on bone growth.


2.  Supports Lateral Movement also.

Runners are criticized for possessing poor lateral muscles since running often allows you to step in one direction, i.e., forward.

This is much more common among treadmill runners when there is never any shift in direction.

But if you’re going outdoors,  you’re naturally going to function sideways as you turn around and step around unusual objects.

Another advantage is that lateral movement increases balance and helps create flexibility around the ankles and feet.


3.  Lower Impact

Yeah, treadmills have less impact than other outdoor surfaces, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a low-impact outdoor run.

Light-colored concrete is the hardest thing to run, but avoid it wherever possible. If you can, pick a dirt trail, a short grass, a beach, or a nearby high school track to reduce the impact.

Also, the surface of the treadmill is designed softer as compared to the concrete track on the roads.


4.  Strengthens your butt

If you’re on a self-powered treadmill, you probably won’t engage your hamstring muscles that much on the treadmill as you might do outside.

That’s because the belt is already moving under you, and any time your foot falls in front of you, it’s brought back by the treadmill belt, an activity that your hamstrings and glutes typically oversee.

When you’re outside, the muscles don’t get a rest, which means you’re going to develop your booty quicker.


5.  It gives you more mental benefits.

You can’t breathe fresh air, feel a soft breeze blowing through your hair, or bask in the sun to warm your skin when you’re running on a treadmill.

Living in nature will contribute to a healthier state of mind.

A 2011 review of the studies showed that when people run on the open road, they experience a higher energy boost and a decrease in anxiety, frustration, and stress relative to indoor running.


6.  You can adapt more

Outdoor running conditions the body to make unpredictable physical adjustments, such as stepping off a curb, making a hard left, or strategizing around crowds.

These things are necessary to keep the body strong and stable.

If you’re preparing for a marathon, outdoor running also trains you emotionally and physically for elements that are beyond your control.

Rapidly fluctuating terrain and conditions will have a significant effect on your mental game on race day, but if you practice for outdoor training, it’s less likely to throw you off when it counts.


Treadmill Pros and Cons

benefits of running on treadmill
Girls running on the treadmill

Let’s shed some light on the pros and cons of running on a treadmill.

Pros of Running on a treadmill

Let’s explore some of the major pros of running on a treadmill.

  • You can replicate the conditions of a race. If you’re training for a hilly marathon, you can run a hill on a treadmill even if you don’t have access to a hill-training route. Research the course and prepare the treadmill hills for the right spots. Similarly, if you’re running a marathon in the weather colder than where you work, use a treadmill to get acclimatized to a comfortable atmosphere. Finally, use the treadmill to test out race day clothes to make sure it fits for you.
  • You can monitor the speed. Outside, it can be tough to keep pace. For this cause, treadmill workouts can be a successful option if you come back from injury. The treadmill helps you to keep monitor the number of miles you ran and your speed. But you should still use the speed of the treadmill to drive yourself.
  • There are no limits on nature and temperature. Running in poor weather is uncomfortable, particularly though you’re dressing for it. And it’s risky to run on ice and snow. There is a chance of dehydration or heat exhaustion in hot weather. You can prevent these hazards within a treadmill. You don’t have to think about sunscreen, or over-or under-dressing, or getting spotted away from home without the right gear.
  • The flat, cushioned surface is smoother on the joints. Treadmills have greater shock resistance than the concrete, which means less tension on the ankles and knees. And when you’re running on the treadmill, you’re developing stamina and endurance like you’re running out hills.


Cons of Running on a treadmill

It’s time to discuss the cons of running on a treadmill.

  • You could also get injured. Although treadmills are considered a better choice for most people, the CPSC estimates more than 24,000 treadmill-related injuries in the U.S. per year. This includes sprains, drops, head injuries, and cardiovascular problems of individuals who either run too rapidly or pushed too hard.
  • You can’t go downhill. Many treadmills do not have a downward incline feature that you need to reinforce the anterior tibialis muscles at the front of your thighs.
  • You can’t make a turn. Similarly, there are no turns on the treadmill system, which hinders your ability to boost your lateral agility.
  • It could be boring. Even with music or TV to keep you entertained, treadmill running for a long time can be exhausting.


Outdoor Running Pros and Cons

Now, as we have discussed the pros and cons of running on a treadmill.

Now let’s focus on the pros and cons of outdoor running.

Pros of Outdoor Running

Let’s have a quick discussion about the pros of outdoor running.

  • You don’t need to be a member of the gym. Running outdoors is free and you are not limited by the calendar of the gym or the availability of the equipment.
  • You can pursue your training and though you’re traveling. Hotels will also recommend routes in the area. Running is a fun way to try out a new venue.
  • It offers sport-specific road racing practice. When running outdoors, the muscles and joints will be better suited to the varying terrain you will find in a race. You’ll be more able to adjust to changes in conditions and know when to make an extra effort when faced with elevations or established obstacles.
  • It offers you the chance to enjoy nature and breathe fresh air. Some study has also found that exercise is more fun when done outdoors.
  • It can be inspiring to reach a distance target outside. And if you’re not inspired, you do have to complete your way home.
  • It’s building the bones. Weight-bearing, high-impact, running activity creates bone mineral density, an indicator of how strong bones are. Small research has found that it is more effective than cycling and even strength exercise.
  • It’s going to eat more calories. Thanks to the wind resistance outside, you have to work a bit harder to keep up your speed, which means a higher calorie burn.

Cons of Outdoor Running

Now, we will discuss some of the cons of outdoor running.

  • There’s a chance of injury. According to a study by the University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, knee injuries are by far the most frequent, followed by lower leg, foot, and ankle injuries, respectively.
  • It could be risky. In addition to overuse accidents, there are other external hazards: crashes, vehicles, pedestrians, dogs, and other threats.
  • Running outdoor can only be performed during the day. At night, it will quite dangerous.
  • The weather and temperature will surely affect your running routine.


What is Better Treadmill or Running Outside

One big question emerges from runners’ diverse opinions: which is better, running on the treadmill vs. outside.

The followers of both methods share a passion for running.

Although many outdoor running fans might find it boring and tiring, on the other hand, treadmill runners love to run in a regulated environment.

So, let’s discuss that which form of running is better as per different aspects.


How does Treadmill running win?

Treadmill pros and cons
A man running on a treadmill

A treadmill is easily accessible anytime.

Because most treadmills are indoors, they can be used day or night and in any weather.

This will make running more accessible to anyone who works out at night or lives in areas with ever-changing conditions.

Many of the treadmill running enthusiasts have the different features that the treadmill can give, such as precise regulation of their speed, incline, and intervals.

For example, running outdoors may pose a higher risk to someone returning from an ankle injury due to factors such as uneven ground and slippery sidewalks.

Finally, running on a treadmill could be safer for your knees and joints, as most treadmills have cushioned belts that absorb some of the effects.

On the other hand, the hard ground, particularly the sidewalks and roads, would not.

Contrary to common opinion, most evidence indicates that no method of running causes knee or joint injury.


How does Outside running win?

benefits of running outside
Outdoor running girl

According to many runners, running outside is quite a fun-loving activity as compared to running on a treadmill.

This is because you can enjoy beautiful scenes, cool air, challenging terrains, and so many running tracks.

Increased variation can improve the desire of an individual to continue to run. 

A 2016 study showed that spending at least 30 minutes per week on outdoor greenery, such as parks and woods, could decrease the risk of depression by 7% and high blood pressure by 9%.

Also, the different conditions and obstacles you can face when running outdoors will help you activate other muscle groups and create a stronger balance. 

Also, research shows that running outside can develop stronger bones because you’re running on tougher surfaces. 

Eventually, outdoor running is absolutely free if you remove the expense of running shoes and workout clothes.

This is the only reason that outdoor running doesn’t cost you several bucks.


Final Verdict

Running on treadmill vs. outside each has its own advantages and drawbacks.

If you want to run outdoors or on a treadmill, it will help you both physically and psychologically.

There is no definite winner in the debate between running on treadmill vs. outside.

All of this depends on your fitness goals, priorities, and lifestyle.

And you’re going to get the best boost from a combination of both.

Only make sure you lean on the form you’re running.

When you keep things consistent, you’ll get the best out of your running lifestyle.



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