Treadmill Running vs Outdoor Running

Jan 10, 2022 | by AIF

Running has a large number of health and fitness benefits, including weight loss, reduced blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, increased cardiac output, and improved mood and self esteem. Whether you’re training for a marathon or just enjoy starting your day by getting the blood pumping in your legs, it pays to train as efficiently and safely as possible.

While some love to get out and about, pounding the pavements, others prefer to run on the spot, pumps hitting the rubber belt and eyes glued to a screen. So, which is better, running on a treadmill or running outside? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

The benefits of outdoor running

If al fresco running is your thing, you’ll be reaping more than physical rewards.

#1. The world is your running track; you can run almost 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 and weather and enjoy nature, all of which is great for the soul.

#4. It’s generally more challenging and you expend more calories as you run up and down hills and deal with wind resistance (generally not encountered in the confines of the gym!)

#5. It can be more motivating as you must complete a distance goal, and you can’t just stop to get off because you generally need to get home!

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

#7. You can take new routes and explore new areas every day.

The benefits of treadmill running

The indoor option also has its benefits, including:

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

#2. You can monitor your speed, tempo, gradient and calories burnt at a glance (although today’s wearable tech shows all this – and more – to street runners too).

#3. You can stop your workout anytime you need or want, which could be useful in case of injury or discomfort.

#4. You can work out while indulging in screen time or scrolling your socials.

#5. The smooth, cushioned surface is low-impact and easier on the joints.

#6. There are no concerns about personal safety, making it a safer option for night running than jogging through dimly lit suburbs.

#7. It’s a great rainy day backup that allows you to get your workout in, regardless of the weather.

The main difference

One big difference between outdoor running and treadmill running 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 beneath you, you are effectively just jumping in the air in a controlled manner. This means that if you run at the same pace on the treadmill as you do 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.

It’s clear, then, that although treadmill running offers a number of convenience and comfort benefits, outdoor running is more physically challenging and therefore provides a better workout.

However, any form of running is better than none, so if treadmill running works for you, go for it. Those new to running may want to start on a treadmill in order to build their confidence as they increase their ability to a level that they would feel comfortable transferring to the streets. By enabling them to stop at any time, it provides a simple way to cut a workout short if necessary, without the inconvenience of having to still make their way back home.

On a final note, if you’re a runner, resistance training really complements the cardio aspect of running. By building stronger leg muscles, you will improve your running technique and muscular endurance for those long runs, be they indoor or out.



The Australian Institute of Fitness
The Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF) is the largest and longest established fitness training organisation in Australia, with dynamic training methods and expert course coaches nationwide - spanning fitness, massage and nutrition. The AIF qualifies more fitness professionals than any other provider in Australia, as well as offering a broad range of continuing education courses (CEC), upskilling resources and partnership programs for existing industry.

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