What are Differences between Treadmill Running and Outdoor Running?

Last updated on February 16th, 2024

treadmill road running

Discover the advantages and disadvantages of treadmill running versus outdoor road running. Both options offer excellent exercise opportunities, so learn how to decide between the two or even consider combining them for a well-rounded workout routine.

If you're a beginner in the running world and unsure how to begin, you might be contemplating whether to start on a treadmill or head outside for a run. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. Running outdoors provides a greater range of training options as you encounter inclines, declines, and different terrains. On the other hand, treadmills offer a consistent surface and the option to adjust speed or programming to simulate hill running or trail running.

treadmill running

Many people believe that running on a treadmill is less challenging. Nevertheless, it is possible to put in the same amount of effort and achieve the same intensity in a workout, regardless of whether you run on a treadmill or outside. Quantifying the level of exertion and effort is tricky, as it varies from person to person and depends on individual perspectives.

Heart rate and perceived exertion are commonly used to gauge the level of effort put into physical activity. Perceived exertion is a tool athletes use to assess the intensity of their workouts and how hard they have worked. Running on a treadmill typically results in a lower perceived exertion, even though heart rate and calorie burn may indicate a different level of exertion. This is likely because the consistent and even surface of the treadmill reduces the perceived difficulty of the activity.

The impact of weather on perceived exertion is significant as it can make you feel like you are exerting more effort when running the same distance on a hot or cold day. This is due to the nuances of the terrain and the influence of the weather. However, running on a treadmill can still provide an excellent workout, with only a slight variation in difficulty.

Running on a treadmill offers convenience, especially if you have one at home or if the weather doesn't permit outdoor running. Treadmill running is gentler on your joints and body because of the smooth surface and adjustable speed.

However, there are drawbacks to treadmill running. The incline on a treadmill is typically consistent and doesn't replicate the natural variations you would encounter outside. Additionally, you are unable to make turns on a treadmill, and some athletes find it monotonous because they miss the outdoors and fresh air.

road running

Starting outdoor running is simple and doesn't require any equipment. It also offers a refreshing change of scenery, which can boost your spirits and motivate you to leave your workspace or home. Additionally, outdoor running better prepares you for races as it exposes you to different variables and terrains, unlike the monotonous treadmill experience.

Running outdoors can help you burn extra calories because of the varied conditions like the weather, wind, and uneven surfaces. There are also additional challenges like inclines, declines, traffic, and obstacles. However, whether you choose to run on a treadmill or outside ultimately depends on your personal preference. The advantage of using a treadmill is that it provides a consistent environment, with predictable weather and terrain.

Outdoor running carries a small chance of injury due to weather and ground conditions, as well as the strain on the body from running on different surfaces. Slippery roads can also pose additional risks. However, assessing the weather conditions and finding a balance between treadmill and outdoor running can help mitigate these dangers in regions with unpredictable weather.

running girl

If your goal is to improve your health and cardiovascular fitness, then running on a treadmill is an excellent choice. Many treadmills come equipped with heart rate monitors, allowing you to regularly monitor your heart rate and ensure that you are reaching your desired levels of activity.

If your aim is to prepare for a race, opting for outdoor running is more advantageous. In case inclement weather poses a challenge in your area, you can make up for it by incorporating treadmill workouts on days when going outside is not possible. This way, you can still reap the benefits of your training for that particular day.

The most crucial factor, regardless of your objectives, is to find something you genuinely enjoy and will commit to for the long haul. Engaging in any form of training is better than not training at all, so it's perfectly fine to make changes to your routine on certain days for various reasons. If you have the opportunity to use a treadmill, you might consider yourself fortunate as it allows you to benefit from both types of training.

Ultimately, the key is to keep your body in motion and derive true pleasure from exercise and maintaining fitness. Remember to always seek advice from your healthcare provider prior to initiating any new exercise regimen.