Benefits of Treadmills VS Outdoor Running

by  |  Protalus • 

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Humans are creatures of habit - and running methods are no exception. Many new runners and seasoned athletes alike have a preference for the way in which they clock up the miles, whether it be outdoors or on a treadmill. While there is no denying that either option is far better than no exercise at all, there are benefits and drawbacks to each of them.

Pros of outdoor running

Research from the University of Exeter found that exercising in nature is linked with heightened feelings of revitalization, energy levels and positive engagement as well as lower levels of tension, anger and depression. In other words, hitting the pavement al-fresco-style can positively impact one’s wellbeing.

outdoor runner

It also burns more calories than treadmill running. That’s because hopping over obstacles on the road, dodging other pedestrians and jumping over curbs activates a wider range of muscles than the straight linear pattern that feet are restricted to when moving on a machine. Adjusting to windy and wet conditions also requires more effort than moving from the comfort and stability of a wind-free, temperature-controlled room. Even the simple act of propelling one’s feet off the ground uses more energy than a treadmill feeding them the belt. The support provided by a machine can shorten a runner’s stride, again reducing the workload.

A jog is more likely to last longer when done outside, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, which found people who exercise outside will do so for longer and more often than those who work out indoors. This could have something to do with the fact that an outdoor environment is more stimulating. A jogger is less likely to get bored admiring different scenery than when staring at the same wall. And when someone gets caught up in the distractions of their surroundings, they can’t just hit stop like they can on a treadmill - they’ve got to run back.

Pros of treadmill running

Despite the many benefits of working up a sweat amid fresh air, there are also some advantages to treadmill training. Unlike the guesswork involved in natural running, treadmills allow the runner to control the pace, incline, interval, and recovery. These are helpful tools for someone who is trying to pick up their pace. Adjusting to certain speeds is far easier when there is a belt moving their feet. Once used to the new pace, they can translate it to outdoor running. The incline control is particularly helpful for people who don’t live in hilly areas.

treadmill running

Another positive about treadmills is their reduced impact compared with running on roads or other hard surfaces. Feet pounding pavement, dirt and other surfaces puts immense pressure on ankles, knees and backs. Treadmills are designed to absorb shock and reduce strains on joints.

As for the issue of the treadmill belt taking away some effort, there is always the option to set the machine to 1% gradient. This directs more energy back into the foot lift and allows more calories to be burned.

Bottom line

There is no right or wrong way to run. It is important that each runner figures out what works for them - which can sometimes be a combination of both methods - and sticking to their habits. Whether running in a gym or on the street, getting the body moving will release endorphins, spark a range of health benefits, and clear the mind. And there’s the added bonus of feeling no guilt and ample pride for choosing exercise over more couch time.

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