- Exercise & Fitness
Running: Treadmill versus Pavement Which is Better For Your Knees?
Treadmill versus pavement - it is a complicated argument. Typically, runners love one and hate the other. Personally, I hate both. But if I have to run, it is anywhere but on a treadmill. I have never been able to simulate running while on a treadmill; and worse yet, when I am on a treadmill, it is more like plodding, flat-footed, awkward stomping.
Running has numerous physical benefits. It burns approximately 100 calories per mile, so it is one of the fastest ways to lose weight. It can build bone density, increase energy, build cardiovascular strength and even fight heart disease.
Of course, there are some dangers in running. Runners commonly suffer from over-use injuries in their muscles and joints. Occasionally, joggers are hit by vehicles. For the treadmill fanatic, the most common injury is falling off.
Treadmill Dancing - Don't Try This at Home!
According to some reports, snow is the most difficult terrain to run on, and grass is the easiest.
The Knee Joint
A common theory is that treadmills are easier on runners’ joints. The difference cited most often between treadmills and pavement is the effect on knees. In regards to their effect on knees, treadmills and asphalt terrain are almost equal. (TheWalkingSite.com, 2005). At gyms, most treadmills have a cushion under the treadmill belt; however, home treadmills rarely have a cushion. (Burfoot, A., 2006).
At the onset of knee problems, a doctor should be consulted. From personal experience, I can tell you that the sooner you see the doctor, the easier the problem is to fix. For an avid runner, glucosamine supplements should be considered. They will strengthen the cartilage surrounding the joints. Also, the muscles surrounding your knees should be strong and flexible through exercise and stretching.
On RunnersWorld.com, I read an article that reported that runners often shorten their steps when running on a treadmill. This could account for the decrease in injuries. (Burfoot, A., 2006). I learned firsthand, that shorter steps only mean more work for my legs.
Running outdoors on pavement and running indoors on a treadmill have similar physical challenges, but there are some differences also. On a treadmill, some energy is inappropriately spent. Each time the runner’s foot lands on the belt, the belt goes backwards for a fraction of a second. Though it is presumably a nominal difference, long periods of running will show a greater effect. (Orr, R.)
In order to correctly simulate the air resistance involved with outdoor running, a treadmill needs to be raised to a one or two percent incline. This incline, however, causes shins and hip flexors to react differently than when outside, so it is not a perfect simulation. (Orr, R.) If a runner lives in a cold weather climate and refuses to run in the cold, a treadmill is a good alternative. However, the runner should expect that come springtime, there will be an adjustment period when returning to pavement.
Running outdoors on pavement provides physical challenges similar to those of running indoors on a treadmill, but running on pavement has more psychological advantages.
Running has many psychological benefits. It can improve sleep, create self-discipline, and provide a sense of accomplishment. It can be used to help with depression, anxiety and addiction. (Benefits of Running, 2006).
In terms of mental challenges, running on pavement surpasses running on a treadmill. The reasons are many: there are no televisions outdoors to help you tune out the pain; second, a treadmill electronically controls your pace, whereas on pavement, you have to focus on it. You have to consciously think about setting a pace and force your legs to move faster.
A third psychological advantage of running outdoors is the price. Except for shoes, it is free. Compared to running on a treadmill in a gym, running outdoors is like freedom - freedom from overcrowding, from time limits on cardio workouts, from travel time, from being surrounding by the smell of sweat and freedom from monthly dues.
At the end of the day, it is the runner’s choice when deciding whether to run outdoors on pavement or indoors on a treadmill. Although both are sufficient exercise, running on pavement gives a person the best workout for their time and energy. To receive all of the possible psychological benefits of running, find a nature path outdoors, breath in the fresh air, and run. Allow the freedom of your legs to take you wherever they may.