Which is Better: Outdoor Running or Treadmill Running?

Which is Better: Outdoor Running or Treadmill Running?

Running is a very popular form of exercise and people take up running for a variety of reasons. For many it is to lose weight and get fit. For others it is the adrenalin rush and enjoyment of racing, whilst for some it is for the social side of joining a running club and having the benefit of friends and companions to run with, which helps with motivation. Many people choose to run in the great outdoors, some prefer the treadmill and others mix and match between the two - but is it better to run outside or on a treadmill? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both.

Pros of running outdoors

  • Burns more calories than running on a treadmill. This is because outside you have wind resistance whilst running inside on a treadmill does not.

  • Running outside taxes you more as it forces you to engage more muscles, which results in a better leg workout. This is because your legs, ankles and feet have to work harder to grip the varying terrain as you run, whilst you contend with twists and turns, varying gradients and pot holes.

  • Sunlight. We all need our vitamin D. Being outside in the sunlight boosts our vitamin D levels which is great for bone health, essential for everyone.

  • Running outside allows for a more interesting run, inspiring us to run further, and you can vary your routes whenever you like. Not only do you get to see different views along the way, you also get to hear the many sounds of nature.

Cons of running outdoors

  • The weather. Whilst it offers us our vitamin D in good weather, running in wet, slippery conditions or in strong winds, fog and ice can be dangerous and unpleasant.
  • If you choose to run in the dark evenings or mornings, you need to ensure you wear reflective clothing so that you can be seen by drivers. Running in pairs or groups is a safer alternative than running alone, particularly in secluded areas and other areas which are not well lit.
  • If you suffer from certain allergies such as hayfever or asthma, you have to contend with such things as pollen and traffic fumes which may aggravate the condition.
  • There are more hazards outside which increases the risk of tripping and falling and causing injury.

Pros of using a treadmill

  • The weather outdoors is never a problem! Whether it’s raining, icy, windy or freezing cold, you can still get your run done in a comfortable environment. 
  • No additional irritation for allergies such as hay fever or asthma from outdoor pollen and fumes.
  • The risk of injury through tripping and falling is reduced.
  • The cushioned belt allows for a more gentle impact on the joints.
  • You can vary your run by adjusting the gradient and speed of the treadmill to replicate an outdoor run.
  • The treadmill can record the distance you have run, the duration of the run, your heart rate and the calories burned.
  • Some treadmills have inbuilt screens allowing you to watch TV or choose a particular trail which simulates you running in that area.
  • No need to carry your water bottle on your run. Most treadmills have an inbuilt water bottle holder for you to place your bottle whilst running.
  • You don’t have to pause your run whilst waiting to cross the road or avoid pedestrians or other hazards.

Cons of using a treadmill

  • You don’t have the benefit of sunlight exposure for vitamin D.
  • There is a cost implication either with gym fees or purchasing a treadmill.
  • Can be a little boring and monotonous.

However you choose to do it, running is a great form of exercise and has countless health and wellbeing benefits. Always consult your health profession before taking up running, particularly if you have any health problems or concerns.


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