Is It Better to Run Outside or on a Treadmill?


Did you recently make a choice to improve on your general fitness? If so then running must have crossed your mind. There are two ways you can go about this. You can opt to join the local gym and run on a treadmill, or you can do it the old fashioned way and run outside with natural wind on your face. Another option is to search for the best treadmills for home in 2018.

Many people who enjoy running have often wondered which of the two methods is best. Indeed, it has been a divide between athletes. Let’s look at the arguments from both sides and figure out which is best for us.

1. Which is best to get you fitter-quicker?

A common misconception is that running outsides is more strenuous. This is as a result of natural wind resistance. I tended to think that since the treadmill is partly helping your feet to move, then it is a bit simpler.

There was a study done by Exeter University however that disputes a part of this claim. Part of becoming fit is expending energy. Through increasing the treadmill’s inclination by 1 degree, you get the same energy expenditure as someone who is running outside.

2. How fast do you run

You might think that you run at the same speed when you are on a treadmill as when you are running outside. But you will be interested to know that this is not the case.

People running outside have been show to run faster than when on a treadmill. A study that was done in Singapore provided evidence of this with participants working harder when outside.

The conclusion was that being indoors removes the visual cues. This in turn gives you the impression that you are exerting the same energy and running at the same speed which is not at all the case.

3. Which is safer?

Of course the common belief is that treadmills are safer to use than running outside and indeed there is truth to this. You ware not going to trip over a rock or some dog poo or step on a sharp stone and twist your foot.

However, treadmills come with their own types of challenges. Due to their even surfaces, your feet are exposed to the same type of repetition when running. This can cause strain on your ligaments and eventually injuries.

When outside, the fact that you are running on uneven ground means that you ligaments are constantly being challenged resulting in improved balance and allowing you to work on a greater variety of muscle groups.

4. A better experience

It goes without saying that it is better for the mind when running outdoors than when doing so on a treadmill. But is there evidence to support this or is it simply a hypothesis?

Exeter University conducted an experiment to find out the benefits of running outdoors. The researchers found out that the mental stimulation resulted in less depression, greater revitalization, less tension and anger.

When running outside you also have the option of changing the route you use. This offers your mind the stimulation it requires to stay motivated. You can also opt to pick a different route depending on how you are feeling. For example a less crowded road when you are feeling like you need to be alone.

People who run outside will tend to run again thanks to the greater enjoyment that they experience. You are also exposed to the sun which means you get vitamin D.

However this will also depend on your location. In the UK for instance, the constant rains means that you need to take a few measures if you want to run outside. First you will require to check the weather forecast and in case it’s drizzling, wear the right clothes.

5. Expenses

Compared to running on a treadmill which requires you to pay for a gym membership or buy your own equipment, all you need to run outside is to get yourself a good pair of sneakers. It is absolutely free.

Yes you can always add in some extra accessories when running outside, but there is really no need for that.

6. A way to leave technology behind

It seems that technology has been with us for a long time and continues to be a major part of our daily lives. Everywhere we look there is a gadget or a tool or equipment. Treadmills are another type of running equipment.

Sometimes you simply need to get away from it all and have your personal and private time. Running outside provides the opportunity for just that.

7. Comfort

If this is a major concern of yours, then without a doubt, treadmill running is the most comfortable type of running. For one you are not concerned about changing weather patterns and being caught out in a storm. You can exercise in a constant environment.

8. Determination

Sometimes you simply lack the motivation to keep going and you can slowly feel your feet begin to give up on you. By increasing the pace of your treadmill, you can push yourself that much further and get yourself closer towards achieving your goals. Running outside simply doesn’t provide for this.

9. Injury Recovery

If you recently suffered a joint injury and you have been receiving therapy, one of the ways that you can start to get back to normal running is to take it slow and easy on yourself. A treadmill can help you achieve this. The flat surface is easier on your joints and will help you slowly build up strength while gradually recover from the joint injury.

10. Display

Some runners prefer to have their stats with them. It works to keep you motivated by constantly getting updates on the speed, time, duration and calories burnt.

You can then adjust your running accordingly. This is something that you wouldn’t normally get with running outside unless you are using a fitness tracker.


Running outside for me seems like the better option. You are more motivated and you get to achieve better results in terms of balance while preventing leg injuries. However, the treadmill also has some benefits. Pick the one that will work best for you and stay with it and remember you can always find some great treadmill options under $1500.


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