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Why Should You Avoid The Treadmill And Run Outside?

Updated on February 14, 2017

Treadmill Habit

I have given up running on a treadmill. I had fallen into the dreaded category of 'treadmill runner' over the past two to three years. Why? The main reason: I moved to China.

Running in China

When I first arrived here, I decided running outside would be impossible, not least because of the high volume of bodies upon the street. The air too, somewhat of a health risk.


Consequently, I decided, with urgency - although regrettably, to join a gym. I became somewhat obsessed with my almost daily trips to the workout house, attempting to bash out my usual 10 kilometre run atop the treadmill. Choosing instead to use weight machines and dumbbells in place of my previously favoured push-ups.


If you are in need of some treadmill entertainment (and evidence for why you should run outside), here are some treadmill fails, courtesy of Youtube.

Treadmill Fails

I don't mean to attack treadmills or gyms for that matter. Indeed, if said machinery is your only option for exercise, then run on a treadmill you must, as being inactive is frankly a ticket to early death. You can control every aspect of your workout: pace and incline are programmable; absence of suitable terrain, weather or darkness pose no difficulty; and finally, there is no risk of being knocked flying by over sized city cars.

In October of last year, my gym closed for two months for renovation. At the time, this seemed to be the end of the world. On looking in the mirror, I imagined a bloated face ensuing from the likely weight gain while I pictured my legs losing their 'runners shape' we all adore. I made a pledge that I would attempt to sustain my fitness level by running outside.

And run outside I did.

I instantly fell in love (once again) with outdoor running. Whether the sun is shining brightly or the rain pummeling the asphalt. Running outside is a pure joy that should be engaged in by all. The sense of distance provides one with the greatest feeling of achievement (5km, 10km, 20km - they all count) every day; a wholesome feeling of seeing the world outside of your usual comfort zone.

The Gym V Outside

Do you run on a treadmill or outside?

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Running Outside: The Benefits

Knowing, then, as we do that running on a treadmill is the epitome of dull, how does the alternative, traditional method of running outside benefit one's health and well-being? The answer is multifaceted.


We know running burns calories, helping us to maintain our ideal weight or aid in the loss of excess fat. However, running outside provides some extra benefits often overlooked by those who workout in the gym far more often than outside. From research and experience, I outline five health advantages of running outside compared with running in the gym.


  • Vitamin D

    • Many of us go from home to work, often missing the prime time of day to source the sun vitamin, Vitamin D. By increasing the time outside exercising, one can increase their exposure to the sun and improve VD levels. You'll feel happier and have a healthy glow.

  • Run anywhere at anytime

    • You can run anywhere, with far more interesting sites than the internals of your gym. You'll learn of places near your home you had no idea about. What's more, with the right safety equipment you can run at any time, dawn or dusk. Such exercise outside, then, is far more convenient than the gym.

  • Bone Strength

    • Unlike the common cardio workouts in the gym (cross trainer/swimming etc) running builds strength in your bones.

  • Immune Strength

    • People tend to have bad habits in the gym, exposing you to all sorts of germs that could bring on the common cold. A 30-minute run outside will boost your immune system, helping to fight off the dreaded cold.

  • Never run the same

    • Each gym run is the same - you set your treadmill and switch on your running playlist. When you run outside, no run ever needs to be the same. You can change the route, alternate direction or simply keep an eye out for what people are up to at different times of the day. Running outside need never be boring.

  • Last, running doesn't destroy your knees

    • This is a common misnomer. I hear it all the time in running circles in China as well as back home. Running increases strength in the cartilage helping to prevent knee problems in the future. Go on, get out there!

The Future

My gym membership is due for renewal again. I am confident in my ability to run outside, even in what was an unfamiliar environment. This year I will use the saved money on a new pair of running shoes and perhaps one of those heart rate monitoring gadgets. As I sit I consider where I shall run tomorrow.


See you.

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