Is Running On Treadmill As Good As Running Outside?

If you have decided to take running more seriously as a part of your new year resolutions, you may have wondered if you should opt for the treadmill instead of great outdoors. So how do the two compare?

According to Greatist, the former has a lower impact on your joints. People running on a treadmill "tend to have lower stride lengths and higher stride rates" compared to those who are running outside. So using a treadmill may be better for those who are recovering from an injury.

However, treadmills involve a moving surface which means your hamstrings do not work as hard as they have to in shifting your leg forward. So if you do use the device, make sure to include cross training in your workout to target the muscles on the back of your legs, as noted by TIME.

Depending on the type of treadmill used, you may be able to use features to simulate race environments — but this is only to a certain degree. Running outdoors can improve your agility as the ground tends to be uneven, a skill which may not be developed if you use treadmills exclusively.

"When you run outside, there are typically changes in scenery, changes in direction, and a sense of exploration. You lose that when you take it indoors and complete your workout by running in place," said Pamela Geisel, M.S., C.S.C.S., a certified strength and conditioning specialist.

In general, do take up the chance to run in refreshing green spaces if you have access to them. In a review, scientists from the University of Exeter found that running and exercising in natural environments "was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression," and an overall increase in energy levels and well-being.

But a lot of this comes down to where you live and what the weather is like. Treadmills win in terms of convenience as you can use them to go running at any time of the day without any constraints like snow or extreme heat which can raise the risk of injury and dehydration respectively.

So, unless a person has health conditions or injuries that could influence their preference, running on a treadmill and running outside can provide adequate health benefits. As Very Well Fit puts it, the device is fine if your primary goal is cardiovascular fitness. 

However, if you have additional goals such as training for a race or wanting to improve your reflexes, nothing can mimic the variations and obstacles that come with the natural environment. And of course, you are more likely to experience mental health benefits when you head outside too.