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Is it Better to Run Outside or on the Treadmill?

Updated on June 14, 2015

When it comes to exercise, you can’t get much more effective than running. It may not be the most fun activity out there (although my marathon maniac sister might beg to differ), but it certainly gets the job done. Not only is it just about the most efficient way to burn calories, but it’s been shown to strengthen your heart and lungs, promote a healthy flow of blood and oxygen throughout your body, and build your stamina. Plus, because it induces pressure on your legs and back, it’s considered a weight-bearing exercise, meaning it builds bone density. As if that wasn’t enough, research indicates running regularly can add a few extra years to your life.

So, there’s no doubt that running is a great exercise to pick up, but how should you go about doing it? That is, should you head for the treadmill or the great outdoors? It depends.

Running on a treadmill offers less impact to your joints.
Running on a treadmill offers less impact to your joints. | Source

If you’re looking for less impact…

Go for the treadmill. There’s a reason they speak of pounding the pavement. When running outside, your feet are beating down on concrete and your body is what absorbs the shock. Technology in treadmills on the other hand continues to evolve and the machines you can get today are equipped with cushioning and shock absorbers that help reduce the impact. They won’t completely eliminate it, but running on a treadmill is a lot more forgiving than running on a concrete sidewalk.

If you’re looking for a better workout…

Head outside. All that fresh air blowing in your face creates wind resistance, which according to some studies can increase your workload by 2% to 10% (depending on your running speed). In addition, when running on a treadmill you’re moving in a confined space on a belt that is helping to propel you along, which means a shorter, less powerful stride. You can help even the playing field by increasing the incline on your treadmill by as little as 1%, but just make sure you’re not holding onto the treadmill – it decreases the energy your leg muscles need to exert and therefore reduces your calorie burning power.

Running outside offers a change of scenery.
Running outside offers a change of scenery. | Source

If you’re looking for less boredom…

It’s a toss-up. These days treadmills are equipped with everything from iPod® ports to built-in TVs to Internet capabilities, making your workout seem a little less monotonous. For some runners though, nothing beats the freedom and scenery of the great outdoors, allowing them to pass the miles as they take in the ever-changing sights and sounds around them.

If you’re looking for convenience…

You’ll probably want to opt for the treadmill. While you theoretically could head outside on any given day just like you could hop on the treadmill, running in inclement weather (extreme cold, rain, snow, extreme heat, etc.) isn’t all that convenient or advisable for that matter. Assuming you keep your home at an optimal temperature, the treadmill will offer a suitable running environment no matter what’s going on outside.

If you’re looking to work more muscles…

It doesn’t matter which option you choose because you use the same muscles running outside as you do running on the treadmill (providing you’re not holding onto it).

Both outdoor running and treadmill running have their pros and cons, and you’ll have to decide which regiment works with your lifestyle. Regardless of which option you choose though, as long as you get up and get moving, you’ll be sure to benefit.


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    • profile image

      Horst 3 years ago

      I'm speechless. It is a very good blog and very enganigg too. Nice work! That's not actually much coming from an newbie writer like me, however it's all I may say after diving into your posts. Great grammar and vocabulary. Not like different blogs. You actually recognise what you?re speaking about too. Such a lot that you made me wish to explore more. Your blog has transform a stepping stone for me, my friend.

    • kuckoo profile image

      Your Lover 4 years ago from Your Heart

      nature is powerful and i am sure running outside in the morning can improve your health, much faster than running on a treadmill. more over it's always good to have a breezy morning :D

    • jtrader profile image

      jtrader 4 years ago

      As you mentioned, convenience is what the treadmill offers. You can't run miles in rain or snow.

    • profile image

      Dimitris Man 4 years ago

      I always like to make the most of everything. Combination is my middle name, so when I can we ran outside with my wife in the park, when that's not possible we choose the gym or in the house, indoor training. Its very interesting hub and helpful.

    • authoramin profile image

      Mohammad Tanvir Ibne Amin 5 years ago from Dhaka

      Great hub.

    • profile image

      B A N K A I guy 5 years ago

      Personally I use a cross trainer, no impact at all :)

    • Rebecca2904 profile image

      Rebecca 5 years ago

      Interesting Hub! I enjoy running outside but, because of a weak ankle, I can't really go for any longer than a km or two at the moment (it's probably running outside which caused it in the first place, you never know.) I find running on a treadmill is not only tedious, but it's also much harder to find a good pace and stick to it, but that might just be me.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      I go to the gym and use the treadmill.. in the cooler days I go outside.. this is a great hub..


      check out my latest hub

      you will have a surprise


    • Dr Pooja profile image

      Dr Pooja 5 years ago

      Great job ! Just started using the treadmill a year back.Like it since it gives incline option.Agree it gets boring at times and to break the monotony I go out for brisk walks .

    • GiblinGirl profile image

      GiblinGirl 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks josh!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania


      I do not run a lot, but do work part time at a running store and selling products at marathons. So, I know a lot about running. You did an excellent job comparing the two with their advantages. Great job Giblin!

    • GiblinGirl profile image

      GiblinGirl 5 years ago from New Jersey

      My sister is definitely an outdoor runner - she goes crazy on the treadmill too :)

      Hmmm... I've never tried walking backward on the treadmill, but I may just give it a whirl.

    • bamuscarella profile image

      Brittany 5 years ago from Buffalo, NY

      When I first started running, I stuck to the treadmill, but then as I wanted to train for half- and full-marathons, I found I was much more prepared when I ran outside. Plus, for me it's a lot less boring. I go crazy on the treadmill! But the treadmill does have a lot of benefits, like being able to increase the incline whenever you want. I also like to put the incline at max and walk backward on the treadmill at a slow to moderate pace to work my leg muscles in another way.

    • GiblinGirl profile image

      GiblinGirl 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks for commenting bamuscarella and sonny. I'm a treadmill runner myself, but about a year ago I was helping my husband train for a 5k and we definitely had to log some time outside to make sure we were ready.

    • sonnyhodgin profile image

      Sonny Hodgin 5 years ago from Indiana

      Good stuff! Running is a part of my job, so I need to actually "pound the pavement." Treadmills certainly have their advantages, though. Voted up and useful!

    • bamuscarella profile image

      Brittany 5 years ago from Buffalo, NY

      Nice hub! Running in general is a great workout and, especially if you run outside or have your own treadmill, it's a cheap way to stay healthy. If you are training for a race I would recommend running outside so that you can get used to the type of terrain you'll encounter during the race. Also, I have found that if you want to work more muscles, run outside. When you run on grass or an uneven surface, you end up using the small stabilizing muscles in your legs and core more than you would simply running on the treadmill or on concrete. :)