Treadmill vs Outdoor Running | Pros and Cons
Since running is growing increasingly popular, there is a never-ending debate over treadmill running versus outdoor running. This article is aimed at solving this argument.
We will learn about the differences between these two types of exercise, their pros and cons, discuss which of them is better for weight loss, and provide expert recommendations on which form of running you should go for.
Treadmill vs outdoor running: what’s the difference?
Perhaps the most obvious difference between running on a treadmill and outdoor running is the environment. Treadmills are machines used to simulate running movements on a moving belt and are used inside to make working out from home easy.
Outdoor running, as the name implies, simply means running outside with the benefit of exploring nature and your local area. While outdoor running includes scenery and terrain changes, treadmill running happens indoors, either in the gym or at home.
While treadmills allow you to have total control of your workout, running outside might not. Using a treadmill means you can set the incline, speed, and intervals you wish to train at. Treadmills give you a more controlled workout environment.
Alternatively, when you run outdoors you face air resistance, particularly when running against the wind. Running on a treadmill doesn’t give you this opportunity. With no wind resistance for your body to counter you won’t have to work as hard.
Treadmill pros and cons
No weather problems
One great thing about treadmills is that you won’t have to worry about certain unfavourable weather conditions that outdoor running might expose you to. Running in hot temperatures easily causes dehydration and exhaustion, and running in snow or ice is even worse as it could be very risky. Since treadmills are indoors, you can work out anytime regardless of the weather.
Constant jumping and skipping over inclines and irregular terrains would not allow you to maintain a consistent pace. Treadmills make it easy to maintain your pace and mileage. You can even track your pace and make improvements based on your workout program. Tracking your pace encourages you to attain even more pace or distance. Also, when you’re recovering from an injury, it helps you come back to normal fitness gradually and safely.
For various reasons, treadmills are much safer than outdoor running. They protect your ankles from injuries since they offer better shock absorption than pavements or roads.
One cannot deny that outdoor running comes with some risks and hazards. When running on treadmills, you don’t have to worry about moving vehicles or exposing yourself to unsafe environments. To use treadmills, you won’t be needing a running partner or group.
One of the biggest downsides to this beautiful machine is that it’s expensive, or at least more expensive than running outdoors. To use a treadmill, you’d either need to purchase one, typically for a few hundred or a few thousand pounds, or get a gym membership.
Although you’re encouraged to listen to music, watch a podcast, or watch a movie while using treadmills, after a time it tends to be monotonous. Due to the absence of interesting scenery, different terrains, and skipping over obstacles, treadmills might get tedious and not give you that urge to go at it the next day. Perhaps you should focus on performance and results as motivation.
Since treadmills do not provide different ranges of running movements, it tends to work only the same muscles, neglecting the others. Treadmills cannot simulate running downhill, a motion that helps strengthen and develop the anterior tibialis muscles.
Also, since the moving belt on treadmills only propels you forward, it neglects the hamstrings. Treadmills won’t also give you the lateral agility you’d gain from outdoor running due to the absence of turns.
Outdoor running pros and cons
Inexpensive and accessible
Outdoor running is as free as it gets. Available to you are unlimited paths you can choose from for your running. You won’t have to worry about getting yourself a gym membership, and you’re not restricted by gym schedule or unavailability of treadmills. All you need is a good pair of running shoes.
It’s less boring
Research has shown that workouts are more enjoyable when done outside. The sightings of nature, communities, fellow pedestrians, and vehicles would make a two-hour outdoor run feel more like 30 minutes.
Yes, running outdoors is undoubtedly more interesting than running on a treadmill. You’re able to explore new places and more importantly, breathe fresh air. It makes the workout more motivating, since the more distance you run, the more sights you see.
More muscle activity
You experience more muscle activation when you run outdoors. Unlike treadmills, outdoor running includes downhills and barriers, which will activate more muscles than using a treadmill would. Your glutes and hamstrings won’t be left unattended, and you will develop better balance.
Running outside means you constantly have to watch out for the weather. Even when you start running in good weather, over a two-hour run you might run into bad weather. Hot temperatures can cause you to dehydrate and get exhausted fast. Rainy or snowy weather affects your stride and can make the terrain slippery. Even excessive wind resistance can make running uncomfortable or impossible.
Under certain conditions, outdoor running can be unsafe. You need to constantly watch out for moving vehicles, excavations, or trip hazards. Also, many people are not comfortable unless they’re with a running partner or group.
Always have safety measures in place. For example, during low visibility or at night run with a headlamp or reflective clothing.
Outdoor running means you’re likely to run along uneven terrain. Although good for muscle activation and lateral agility, it causes more injury risks. Knee injuries are the most common, and you can easily sprain your ankle.
Which is better for weight loss?
Losing weight requires the creation of a calorie deficit, that is, you burn more calories than you absorb. Now, to burn more calories than you absorb you must first watch your diet and cut your calorie consumption. Cardio exercises and/or aerobic exercises would then help you lose weight effectively.
Running is a proven and effective aerobic exercise that helps burn calories. Coupling nutrition with running exercises is a great way to lose weight. However, there then comes the question of which form of running is better for weight loss? Treadmill or outdoor running?
The best choice is the one you enjoy. Nothing is better than losing weight in a fun way. Nonetheless, there are approaches to it. Although hours-long jogging is fantastic for your cardio, you shouldn’t skip high-intensity interval training, such as 15-90 seconds of sprinting followed by an equivalent time of jogging or walking.
Although both are great ways to lose weight, outdoor running might be better due to the presence of air resistance and the downhill stretches it provides.
Both treadmills and outdoor running are good ways to run. As shown in this article, they come with their pros and cons, and it is for you to decide which you’d prefer. Things like the environment, cost, and weather should be factored into your decision.
By the way, who says you can’t alternate between both forms?
About the author: Marvellous Ogunne is an expert fitness writer and trainer, a contributor to FitnessFighters, and with a passion for more effective workouts and better nutrition.
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