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Running outdoors can be great but a treadmill is a good option too

Ramping up your mileage or speed too quickly is one of the main causes of injury and burnout.

Should you go for a run outside or just use a treadmill? Here we reveal the pros and cons of both so that you can make a better choice depending on circumstances and preference.

Written by Paras Hemrajani |Published : October 29, 2019 7:38 PM IST

Ask your friends whether they prefer going for a run in the midst of nature or if a treadmill works just fine for them. You will probably get different responses depending on personal preferences. There are two types of runners. One is the running purist who does not believe in treadmills. Others are motivated by manual controls and machines. If you are a runner, you probably have a preference too. Most probably, this preference will be based on your convenience also.

Environmentalists and healthcare professional from New York-Presbyterian Hospital say that the dangers of urban air pollution are of special concern to those who exercise by running, bicycling or skating. These individuals, while trying to be fit, should take care that they do not harm themselves through exposure to air pollution. Asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or cardiopulmonary maladies are common ailments that result from exposure to pollution. Moreover, the harsh winter cold may also be too much for some people. Then a treadmill makes better sense.

But, of course, exercising in a natural environment can be an added bonus. Researchers at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry reviewed existing studies and concluded that there are benefits to mental and physical well-being from exercising in a natural environment. It revitalises, increases energy and leads to more positive engagement. If you exercise in nature, you will also notice a decrease in tension, confusion, anger and depression. This review was published in the research journal Environmental Science and Technology.

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Let us look at the benefits and hazards of both.


If you are undecided about whether you should go for a run outside or just use the treadmill instead, we list a few merits of both.

Exhilaration and health

Running outside: Nothing beats the appeal of running outside in the rain or facing cold winds. You get to experience something that you will never find inside the four walls of your home or a gym.

Running on a treadmill: But if the weather outside is harsh, you can choose to run on a treadmill instead. After all, why risk your health when you have another option? But, of course, we don't mean to say that a treadmill is to be reserved only for a rainy day.

Balance, stride and stability

Running outside: Running outside requires more energy. It is also a better exercise for balance, as your feet need to hold on to an uneven ground rather than rubber. According to NYU Langone Health Sports Performance Centre, USA, running outside is great if you want to improve your natural gait cycle (stride). A person's stride gets affected by running on a treadmill because of its space limitation and other parametres. It also activates more muscles as your body is not limited to any one particular movement like on a treadmill. You don't have to follow a pattern and you can run wherever you want, however you want.

Running on a treadmill: On the other hand, running on a treadmill provides you with a stable, controlled environment. This is better if you are recovering from an injury, want to control your pace. A treadmill is also a better option if you are training for a specific inclined or declined race. Say, for example, you are training for a hill race. It is not possible to get that incline outside. For that you would have to depend on a treadmill.

Bone strength

Running outside: According to a research conducted at the University of Missouri, running on concrete or any other hard surface, is much better in improving a person's bone strength. It will expose your bones to harder conditions which will make them strong.

Running on a treadmill: Treadmills absorb the force coming from the ground, which is good if you have weak bones or an injury.


Running outside: Running outside is better because it is hard. And because of this, it is also riskier, and the chances of injury is much higher in this. Treadmills are designed to absorb ground forces because they can break a person's leg and harm the functioning of your joints. Running outside is good, but you must first build strength for it. Without sufficient leg strength training, the chances of major injury are high.

Running on a treadmill: A treadmill is a machine, and, like any other machine, it has its own limitations. A regular treadmill is not designed to provide the range of a normal uphill or downhill slope. Treadmills max out before. Not only are treadmills incapable of estimating actual outside hardships, they can also be boring and monotonous.


Is a treadmill better than going for a run on nature's trail? You can choose to do either as both can give your health a boost. But injuries and harsh climate may not always be conducive for outdoor exercises. Sometimes, you may also be faced with time constraints. If you live in a city, pollution and traffic may not make it possible for you to go for a run outside. In such cases, a treadmill is a great option. It will help you maintain your health and fitness in the comforts of your home. And you also save yourself from any possible health complications.

In fact, Ohio State University researchers have tried to introduce the benefits of running outside in a treadmill. They have developed a new treadmill that automatically changes speed to match the pace of the runner. The result is a treadmill experience that is much closer to walking or running outdoors.

But then, running outdoors come with its own benefits. It exhilarates and rejuvenates you. It is more beneficial for overall health. Experts also say that you burn more calories when you exercise outdoors.

We can conclude by saying that both can boost your fitness level and help you maintain your health. It all depends on personal preference, the weather and your health condition. Do whatever suits you best and makes you more comfortable. Since both come with their own pros and cons, you need to make a prudent choice.

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