Treadmill Running vs Outdoor Running

Jun 26, 2014 | by AIF

Whether you are training for a half marathon event, or just enjoy getting the blood pumping in your legs, it pays to train as efficiently and safely as possible. So the question we ask is, which is better running on a treadmill or running outside? Thanks to Lead Fitness Coach, David Mitchell from the Australian Institute of Fitness WA, is here to explain the pros and cons for each so you can adjust your training accordingly.

Running has a large number of health and fitness benefits including weight loss, reducing blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, increasing cardiac output, and improving mood and self esteem. Whether you then run on the road or the treadmill is up to what suits you and your needs, as they both have their benefits.

Outdoor running benefits include:

#1 – The world is your running track; you can run anywhere you like.

#2 – It’s much more functional for daily activities.

#3 – You get to enjoy the scenery, get fresh air, notice changing seasons, weather, and enjoy nature.

#4 – It’s generally more challenging and you expend more calories as you will have to run up and down hills, deal with wind resistance, and because the treadmill belt helps propel you along.

#5 – It’s likely more motivating; you must complete a distance goal and can’t just stop to get off.

#6 – You get the opportunity to run with groups and socialise.

#7 – You can take new routes and see something new every day.

Treadmill running also has its benefits, these include:

#1 – It’s easier to control your environment.

#2 – You can easily monitor your speed, tempo, gradient and calories burnt.

#3 – You can stop your workout anytime you need or want.

#4 – You can work out while watching TV if you like.

#5 – The smooth, cushioned surface is easier on the joints.

#6 – There are no concerns about personal safety.

#7 – Treadmill running is a great wet weather backup to ensure you still get your workout in, regardless of the weather.

One big difference between the two is the technique. When you run on the ground you need to use your glutes and hamstrings more to propel you forward and to overcome factors like wind resistance. On a treadmill as the belt is moving underneath you all you need to do is jump’ in the air. This means if you run at the same pace on the treadmill as outside on flat pavement, you will expend less energy on the treadmill. In order to compensate for the treadmill’s momentum, studies have found that simply raising the treadmill incline to at least 1% will better simulate the energy expenditure of walking or running on flat pavement outdoors.

So as you can see outdoor running is more challenging and therefore a better workout, but any running is better than none, and a beginner may want to start on a treadmill to have the convenience of being able to stop at any time, and also if they have as much of a concern about their joints. If you are a runner, indoor or outdoor, strength training really complements the cardio aspect and helps to build stronger muscles which will help improve your running technique and muscular endurance for those long runs.



At the Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF), we are no stranger to the competitive and evolving nature of the fitness industry. That’s why we remain the #1 fitness educator since 1979. We continuously raise the bar by providing the best education and resources through dynamic and hybrid training methods that mould to your lifestyle. We are strong believers in evidence over fads, so you can be assured your training with AIF will solidify your career for the long-term.

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