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Running on Treadmill vs. Outside: Which One is Better

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There are a lot of things that come to our mind when we think about running on treadmill vs. outside. The first doubt that creeps into our minds is which one is more effective than the other and will give us the desired results faster! A lot of research, conflicting opinions, and self-analysis has got an answer which says that running on a treadmill vs. running outside is more or less the same (!) and generate similar results.

A few studies also show that if you do a certain type of workouts on the treadmill, the results are considerably better than running outside! But, running on a treadmill does have a few disadvantages as well! A mile on the treadmill can seem like ten miles if not done properly.

Treadmill running
Is Treadmill Running More Beneficial? (source)

To understand the difference between running on a treadmill vs. outside, you need to know potential pros and cons of both types of running. Let’s try and understand some in this article.

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Difference Between Running on Treadmill vs. Outside

Treadmill running vs outside running
Treadmill Running or Outside Running- Your Preference? (source)

When compared, the run on a treadmill is easier than running outside. Due to the absence of wind resistance when running on treadmill, it is easier for you to reach your running goal on the machine.

If theories are to be believed, it is better to run outside fighting the wind resistance rather than staying indoors and running on a treadmill.

Running outside
Outdoor Running Has Its Perks (source)

However, if you run on the treadmill with just 1% grade, you are very close to running outside with the same resistance despite of having no wind in your surroundings. Also, a lot of studies have proven that results of people running on this grade on a treadmill show the same results of those who run outside.

When Is Treadmill Running Better Than Outside

Treadmill running
Incline the Treadmill by 1% For Better Benefits (source)

When you run on a treadmill with grade 1% you are running on the same intensity as what you would be doing in outside running. Mix your treadmill running with certain workouts and exercises to achieve similar fitness results as in running outside.

So, when can you ditch the pavement for the machine running, let's check out!

When the weather and footing are bad

This is the biggest benefit of running on treadmill vs. outside. If the weather is hot, or it is raining outside or there is bad footing, running on the treadmill is the best option. It is always better to get a good and healthy workout on a treadmill than to suffer from a bad run or getting injured when the run is not done correctly.

Simulating the race courses while indoors

This is one of the most sort after benefit of treadmill running. A run on the treadmill will give you the ability to simulate your goal race course. Many treadmills will also give you the opportunity to create your own race courses as per the kind of workout you want to do. You can adjust the incline levels and have a customised course map of as and when you want to run. You can also have this as a weekly or a daily course, as and how you like.

You can also simulate your uphill or downhill run which eventually prepares you for the opening miles for your race day. Treadmill running helps you prepare for the races, marathons in a faster and a more organised way. It is the best cardio workout in the form of running.

running on treadmill
When to Choose the Treadmill Over Outdoor Running (source)

Leaning to Intake “On-run” Fluid and Carbohydrate

Treadmill running will train you to guzzle water without stopping or slowing down. This practice can be quite helpful while running long races like marathons. Tempo running such as treadmill running can prepare you to manage your hydration breaks better without losing precious time. For this, you always need to make sure that you have water handy whenever you are running on a treadmill. If you are preparing for a marathon or a race it is important that you practice fluids and carbs intake on your runs and learn to maintain the same tempo.

How to Run on a Treadmill Better

How to run on treadmill
Learn How to Run on Treadmill (source)

Running on a treadmill is always advantageous but in the long term if the only time you step out to run is a race or a marathon, then there can be some issues to this as treadmill running only trains you for a specific type of a run and not something like what an outside run would be.

Here are some specific areas you need to keep into consideration if you are a regular treadmill runner:

You need to learn how to build pace on the treadmill

When you choose treadmill over running outside make sure you don’t run on it by setting the same pace forever. You need to keep moving forward with it but just don’t set and forget your workout on the treadmill. When you keep moderating the pace of your treadmill you run faster and train better.

For many, the treadmill is boring

Yes, you read that right! A lot of runners find the treadmill as a very boring option to run. When you run outside, there are so many things which you interact with but when you run on a treadmill, a wall or a TV is all that you can look at, and that is where the question of what is better – treadmill or running outside comes into play. When you run outside you have a sense of working out, as you have put in hard work and when you are about to reach your target you feel a sense of happiness. However, when you run on a treadmill, your mind cannot visualize the finish line. Treadmill running is just an option to explore when you don’t feel like getting out of your home or the weather conditions don’t give you a chance to get out! Hence, keep yourself motivated while on the treadmill.

Treadmill vs. Outside Running - Does It Provide the Same Workout?

If you want to get the same workout on a treadmill as what you will get from running outside you will have to maintain the same amount of effort! This is the main difference between outdoor and indoor running. The effort is generally identified by the heart rate after the exertion. If, however, you run the same pace on the treadmill as outside on flat road, you will expend less energy on the treadmill.

The reason behind this is due to terrain changes, low wind resistance and also because a treadmill belt will help you propel faster. Studies say that if you raise the treadmill incline by just 1% you will get better results, simulate better energy and you will be able to compensate with the run that you will do outside.

treadmill vs outdoor running
Treadmill Running May Not Produce the Same Running Results as Outdoor Running (source)

Running on Treadmill vs. Outside Running - Who Should Train on a Treadmill?

If you are training for an outdoor event, marathon or a race, you definitely need to run outside to get accustomed to the terrain and wind and path. Treadmill run is not going to suffice and help you train for running outside. You can start on the treadmill but cannot continue on it only and then go for a race or marathon. Treadmill running cannot give you all the elements which are required for running outside. Additionally, running on varied terrains will also prepare your muscles and joints to take on any kind of terrain difficulties.

Training on treadmill vs road running
Who Should Train on a Treadmill (source)

When you run outside you also get accustomed to running in different types of weather. This will also help you in learning the kind of shoes and clothes you need to wear. If you are planning to do a downhill run then again, the treadmill cannot simulate you in that, as there is no way that you can run on a treadmill downwards. For this, you will have to step outside and train yourself. When you are training on treadmill you path is fixed, there are no twists and turns and you will not be able to train for a certain terrain.

Pros of Outdoor and Treadmill Running

Pros of running on treadmill vs. outside
Treadmill Running and Outdoor Running, Both Has Its Advantages (source)

There are a lot of reasons why a lot of people prefer running outside over running on a treadmill. Both have their cons but also have a lot of pros. It is at the end of the day a personal choice and a preference that one has when they choose to train in a certain way.

Here are some of the most basic and common benefits of running indoor and that on a treadmill.

Treadmill Running Pros:

  • No issues with weather, temperatures, and tracks
  • You can stop your run whenever you want to
  • Your workout can happen anytime when you want in your comfort zone
  • As you are running on a treadmill, you will have no joint issues as the floor is cushioned
  • Treadmill running is at home so there is no issue of personal safety as well

Outdoor Running Pros:

  • You can choose the path of your choice and can enjoy your run
  • Outdoor running is considered more functional when you run on a daily basis
  • When you run outside you interact with a lot of things. You can enjoy the scenery, nature, wind pressure and the various terrains
  • As the run is more challenging chances of burning more calories are higher
  • It's likely more motivating. You must complete a distance goal and can't just stop & get off.
  • You feel more accomplished when you run outside as a lot of people say it is more effort
  • As the routes of running are different it’s a lot more enjoyable and you can find new paths every day.

Indoor and Treadmill running have their own pros and cons and also offer a different type of elements of a run. Mostly a lot of runners prefer to run outside because it is more varied, challenging and gives better results. If you pick the right type of running and enjoy it then you will never want to run indoors on a treadmill.

Reasons to Ditch Running on Treadmill for Outside Running

Reasons to run outside
Outdoor Running is More Refreshing (source)

To enjoy a comfortable run in the harsh winters, the treadmill is a darling entity. But do not get too comfortable with indoor running and switch to outside running asap. And here’s why!

To Build Better Muscles

Outside running is known to build your body muscles better. Running on the asphalt is a better butt-strengthener than running on the belt. This is because every time one of your feet lands in front, the other is automatically placed behind by the treadmill belt- an action that should be naturally governed by your glutes. Additionally, running on incline surfaces, such as hills, will stimulate workload on your glutes, core, and throughout your legs.

To Burn More Calories

Like we mentioned, outside running comes with wind resistance and presents challenging terrains to runners. The abrupt stops and starts and the quick turns lead to increased caloric burn. To get the same amount to calorie reduction via running on treadmill vs outside sprint, experts recommend to adjust the treadmill by one percent incline.

Reduce Injury Risks

It is widely believed that soft surface of the treadmill results in less impact on your bones and tissues, minimizing the injury risks. But experts also say that a less impactful running will not stimulate much bone growth as it should do and over the time will trigger injuries. Not to mention, in the absence of less-than-perfect running form on the treadmill, you might be hovering too close to the console or holding on to the rails too much, can also cause injuries.

Outside running prepares you better

When it comes to training for a race, running outdoors trumps the treadmill anytime. You need to understand the dynamics of outside running before the big race. Unless you're participating in an indoor triathlon, there’s no substitute for outside running. Experts believe that, ideally, a runner should run part, if not all, of the race's course during their training.

To Acquire More energy

In the battle of running on treadmill vs. outside, outside running win in this category. Studies show that people who run outdoors tend to enjoy a significantly greater energy boost and drop in tension, anger, and depression compared to when indoors runners. The inspiring outside world with fresh air and smiling faces work in entirety to bring a holistic shift in our body. All of that is lost when pounding the treadmill.

Improved Cardio Health

As long as a runner is running at the same level of exertion (1 percent incline in case of treadmills), the heart gets just as much out of treadmill running as from the outside running workout. But the added dose of vitamin D acquired from running outside is a mood booster and can actually improve heart health over the long term.

But despite the reasons to pick outdoor running, if you still choose to run on treadmill then make sure that you keep advancing with the speed and incline so that it can get challenging. That is the only change that you can do on a treadmill run. This run also can get boring as you will be doing it alone and with lesser concentration as you will be in your comfort zone.

Running outside is healthier
Running Outside is Healthier (source)

Nevertheless, treadmills are the most popular way of building cardio vascular strength as they are available both at home and at gyms, they are considered as fast, effective and good trainers for the people who have just started and taken the path to remain fit. Treadmill is a good friend to many runners and people who like to stay indoors and fit. However, the debate of which run is better – outdoor or indoor continues to be persistent for the longest time! And the verdict lies in the personal preference.

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