You may prefer one over the other, but both have pros and cons.
On cardio days, some prefer running on a treadmill—where they can manually set the pace and speed. Running ‘purists’ on the other hand, can’t deal with the monotony of treadmill running. Does that mean one is better than the other? Let’s figure it out…
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Good for your mind: Bhaskar Shetty, a Mumbai-based certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist says, “The obvious advantage of running outdoors that people don’t acknowledge enough is how it makes us feel immediately. Research has shown that running outdoors helps improve mental health, as we get to breathe fresh air and soak in some much-needed Vitamin D (often referred to as the happy hormone) from the sun. Considering the year 2020 was, this alone makes a strong case for going for a long run in the park or at the beach.” Plus, running outside delivers a bigger energy boost and helps in curbing tension, anger and depression when compared to running inside.
Good for your muscles: The mental health aspect aside, running outdoors activates your muscles a step further than while on the treadmill, as your feet need to grab the ground to propel you forward. A treadmill does some of that work for you with the moving belt below! In addition, you don’t have to run in a strictly linear pattern—you may need to avoid obstacles or people. Running outdoors also compliments our natural ‘gait’ cycle. Shetty adds, “You’re doing all the work yourself and you’re not limited by the treadmill, which can cause some people to shorten their stride.”
Good for fat loss: Thanks to wind resistance outside, you have to work a little harder to keep up your pace, which means; a greater calorie burn. “To compensate for the difference between treadmill and outdoor running, runners will need to increase the incline of the treadmill by anywhere from 1 to 2 per cent during training.”
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Higher risk of injury: According to research by the University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, knee injuries are by far the most common, followed by lower leg, foot, and ankle injuries while running outdoors.
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It’s easy on your joints: A treadmill’s cushioned belt is designed to shock absorb as opposed to a pavement or trail. This means less stress on the ankles and knees.
You can control your pace. “While on a run outside, it can be difficult to maintain a consistent pace. For this reason, treadmill training can be a good solution if you are getting back on track from an injury,” explains Shetty.
It’s not weather-dependent: A treadmill is the most popular cardiovascular equipment for home because it lets you run in your own time, come rain or shine! You won’t ever have to cancel a run due to bad weather!
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You can still get hurt: “Never run too fast or push too hard to avoid injuries. Sprains, falls, head injuries due to falling and cardiovascular can be avoided if you just listen to your body,” advices Shetty.
It’s boring: The mechanical monotony of it is a problem if you aren’t seriously motivated or committed.
Mechanical limitations: Treadmills max out in incline and speed, and more often than not, they aren’t capable of simulating downhill running, which is an essential part of any kind of training.
THE VERDICT: A treadmill can’t mimic real life or conditions. In assessing the real, rather than perceived, benefits of running—outdoor running wins hands down. Even if you run at the same pace on a treadmill, you will generally expend more energy running outdoors. This is not only due to variations in terrain, weather, and wind conditions; the treadmill ultimately does a lot of the work for you!. “If you’re just looking to log a few miles to keep up your cardio as part of a well-rounded fitness routine, the treadmill would do just fine,” explains Shetty. It’s also great for runners coming back from injury and runners who want to prevent injury!
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