Running on Treadmill vs. Running Outside: Which Is a Better Workout?

Running is one of the most common exercises you can do. Not only is it a great cardio workout, but it’s a simple and effective way to work on your overall health and fitness. But most people hate running because it’s monotonous, especially on a treadmill, Luckily, there’s an easy way to make running more fun: Do it outside!

Not only is running outdoors more exciting than running on a treadmill, but you may also become a better runner by choosing the outdoors. Despite its multiple benefits, running on a treadmill has its advantages, too, especially when it comes to safety and scheduling.

Ultimately, the best choice comes down to personal preference and what’s available and accessbile, but here are the pros and cons of running outside versus on a treadmill.

Read more: Best Workouts to Do Outside This Summer

Why running outside is better than running on a treadmill

The scenery will inspire you to run farther, and the natural terrain will challenge you more than a treadmill.

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You won’t get as bored

Your body does the same exact thing on a treadmill as it does on a sidewalk, yet it feels astronomically harder on a treadmill. The treadmill is just a mental game for most people. I personally can’t weather more than 20 minutes on a treadmill without feeling like I’ll implode mentally. podcasts and a banging playlist sometimes help, but running outdoors is undoubtedly more fun.

You’re more likely to run longer and farther

Because you won’t get as bored while running outside compared to on a treadmill, you might naturally run more. It’s easier to persist when your sole focus isn’t the pain in your legs and lungs.

When outdoors, you’ll have distractions to take your mind off of the physical exertion, such as the weather, your view, sounds, fellow pedestrians and vehicles. If running outside does encourage you to run fartherthat’s one easy way to improve your endurance,

You get fresh air and sunshine

Spending time outside can make you feel happier, and studies show that outdoor time is vital to our health. For starters, you’ll get your daily dose of Vitamin D while outside (something many people lack enough of). Aside from that, getting some fresh air is known to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

You have more opportunity for improvement

Running outside versus on a treadmill provides more natural opportunity for improvement, not just in speed, but in strength, coordination, technique and endurance. For example, if you live near hills or mountains, running routes with inclines, declines and switchbacks will challenge your legs more (yes, most treadmills have incline features, but they’re limited compared to what you’ll experience in the great outdoors) .

Trail running provides opportunities to enhance your coordination and awareness skills, as you have to stay cognizant of and dodge tree roots, loose rocks and other obstacles that come with tough terrain (be sure to buy trail running shoes for extra traction).

Read more: It’s Never Too Late to Run Your First 5K. Here’s How

It’s more fun to track and see progress

When you run outdoors and wear an activity tracker like an Apple WatchFitbit, Garmin or Polar watch, you can see all sorts of fun stats about your run.

Depending on how hardcore of a runner you are, you can track simple stats such as distance, time, pace and calories burned, or more in-depth stats such as cadence, bounce, elevation, altitude changes, heart rate variability (HRV) and headwind.

As your run log grows, you’ll be able to visualize your progress and enjoy looking back on all the routes you’ve run.

Read more: Nike Run Club, Strava, Daily Burn: The 7 Best Running Apps

When you must run on the treadmill…

Young woman running on a treadmill

The treadmill has its place.

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Sometimes, a treadmill is the only option, in the case of:

  • Inclement weather
  • Working too late or too early to run in the daylight
  • No proven safe route to run
  • Needing to track your pace but no activity tracker
  • Can’t leave your kids at home (and you have a treadmill at home)
  • Using a treadmill helps absorb shock when you have joint issues

Even though running outdoors provides so many benefits, running on a treadmill has its advantages, too. On a treadmill, you don’t have to worry about cars, bikes or pedestrians, and you probably won’t feel the need to carry Mace or a taser with you. You can also turn the volume up on your headphones without worrying so much about your surroundings.

If you have to work out at home because you have young children, investing in a treadmill is a smart move if you like to run but can’t hit the pavement regularly. Also, running on a treadmill usually isn’t as hard on your joints because the belt absorbs much of the shock that, on a blacktop, is sent straight to your ankles and knees.

Still, for many people, running on a treadmill is just dreadful. Try these tips for making your treadmill runs more fun and use these treadmill workouts to get faster and improve your endurance.

More for your fitness:

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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