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Why Running Outdoors is Better than Using a Treadmill

Updated on March 29, 2014

Running is one of the best ways to exercise your body. It's great way to quickly burn calories while strengthening your lungs and your heart. Running is so good for you in fact that entire businesses are dedicated to it. One sector of the running industry that has gotten a lot of attention lately is the treadmill industry. In general, treadmills are great pieces of equipment that allow runners to keep up with their workout even when the weather wouldn't allow for one. However, treadmills aren't all that they are cracked up to be. Many people purchase them thinking that it will help them reach their fitness goals. However, this is rarely the case. In many cases treadmills quickly end up becoming expensive coat racks. If you're thinking about purchase a treadmill for yourself, here are five reasons why running on a treadmill isn't as good as doing the real thing:

Treadmills Make Quitting Too Easy

I own a treadmill and have realized that running on it has really hindered my progress toward my fitness goals. When running on a treadmill its far too easy to quit whenever it gets really tough. To quit, all you have to do is simply stop running and you are no further from the couch now then you were when you started running. If you were running outdoors around your neighborhood, giving up wouldn't be so easy. Sure you could stop running when you run out of gas, but you would still be miles away from home. This simple fact alone means that an outdoor jog is better for helping you improve you running ability than a treadmill is. For me, this was the biggest reason to stop using the treadmill and start running outside instead.


Let's Face It, Treadmills are Boring

You could run all day on a treadmill but will never leave the same spot. You'll end up staring at the wall or your feet every time you run and eventually this will become so monotonous that your mind will convince you that running isn't that fun. When running on a treadmill time just seems to pass by so much more slowly then if you were running outdoors. Sure, you could put the treadmill in front of a TV, but who really wants to keep their fitness equipment in the living room? The alternative isn't much better either - buying a brand new TV for your garage? I don't think so.

There are plenty of other ways to reduce boredom while on a treadmill, however the quickest and easiest method is probably to go outside instead. When out in the environment your running experience will suddenly become an adventure. There are so many things to see and pay attention to that your mind will forget that you are running. Running will become fun again and your workouts will be much better.

Treadmills are Expensive

How much does it cost to go running? If you're a beginner runner the cost is almost negligible. All you need to get started is some comfortable clothes and a decent pair of shoes (some people don't even need shoes!). If you're a professional runner, then you may spend a couple hundred dollars a year on shoes and athletic wear. If you want to use a treadmill to get your running in, be prepared to break open the bank. Treadmills can cost anywhere from $300 to more than $7,500 with the average cost of these machines hovering around $1200. In addition to the initial cost of the treadmill you will still have to pay for electricity and occasional maintenance. Oh, and you'll still end up buying running shoes and athletic wear too.

The table below shows the average cost of running (both with and without a treadmill) for a typical person who exercises for 30 minutes 4 times a week over a one year period. Prices were developed via an analysis of products on as well as the average mileage ratings for shoes. The analysis also assumes that the runner uses a very basic set of running clothing. The maintenance cost for the treadmill was assumed to be zero in this case.

With Treadmill
Without Treadmill
Athletic Wear
Total Cost
Cost Per Hour
Cost Per Mile**

*Electrical usage assumes 1yr at 2hrs per week; Rate is 12 cents per killowatt-hr; Typical treadmill motor rated at 12amps

**Assumes average running speed of 6mph

Treadmills are Noisy

Most treadmills, especially the cheaper models, will generate a considerable amount of noise when they are in operation. If you have a grumpy family or live in an apartment building, noise is not good thing. My treadmill is very noisy. When I attempted to get in my morning workout, my wife and kids would wake up because of all the noise. I had to move the treadmill into the garage just so that I could use it. The noise also makes it hard to hear the music that I enjoyed listening to. I had to invest in an expensive pair of headphones just to hear my music while running on the treadmill. The noise of the treadmill made running a less than enjoyable experience.

A Compilation of Treadmill Accidents

Treadmills Hurt People

Check out the video to the right - it's a compilation of treadmill accidents. The video is actually pretty funny, however it illustrates the dangers of treadmills. Even if you don't act like an idiot while running on a treadmill you can still get hurt. According to an article posted in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, more than 8,700 children are injured by exercise equipment every year. The article argues that home treadmills pose a significant safety hazard to children under the age of 5.

Children aren't the only ones at risk either. Adults are just as susceptible to injury. Some injuries are caused by complacency or inattentiveness. However other injuries can be cause by a malfunction of the equipment. I was injured while using a treadmill that malfunctioned. I was running at a fairly fast pace (around 8mph) and the belt suddenly slipped under my feet. This sent me falling to the ground. Luckily I had enough clear space around the machine to avoid getting a nasty friction burn. I ended up only having a few bruises. And I'm not the only victim either. A quick internet search of treadmill accidents yields thousands of results. Clearly treadmills are more dangerous than people think.

© 2014 Christopher Wanamaker


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