Treadmill vs Outside Running: Which is Better For You?

Treadmill vs Outside Running

Treadmill vs outside running – which is better? Are confused between these two options for running. This guide will help you to decide to select the best for your health.

Running is one of the best forms of cardio and an effective way of maintaining health and fitness. Traditionally, running has always been an outdoors activity or done on tracks. But with the advent of newer and more advanced technology, treadmills took over the gyms, and its popularity soared amongst athletes and gym-goers. 

So the question arises: what is better? Running on a treadmill or running outdoors. There are so many things to take into account before passing judgment. One needs to weigh the pros and cons of running outside and a treadmill, followed by considering the different terrains and their effects on the knees and spine. 

There is no right or wrong answer to this debate. But you can educate yourself on the strengths and weaknesses to choose what you need for your training.

Are the effects of running on a treadmill different from running outdoors?

Technically speaking, if the runner puts the same amount of effort on the treadmill outdoors, he will get the same workout. But then it is difficult to quantify the word “effort” since apart from the heart rate, a large part of the effort is psychological. There is a special term for this called perceived exertion. 

Let us say you are running outside on the afternoon of a hot summer day. Your body will perceive the run to be harder than, let us say, running on the treadmill in the shade and safety of your house or gym. While we have established that these perceived exertions are psychological, they can greatly affect performance and thus hinder the runner’s training. 

Therefore opting a treadmill for workout is good because it is far more unpredictable, and there are no perceived exertions to deal for you. In addition, a treadmill keeps your pace in check and pushes you to sustain your speed and effort throughout the workout. However, this is very hard to maintain on an outdoor run, and there is always some level of lag.

If, however, the psychological element is cut out of the picture and we look purely at the real benefits of running outdoors, some points could trump the benefits of a treadmill. Even if you run at the same pace on both, you will burn more calories on an outdoor run than an indoor one simply because you are putting an effort to run completely; the roads do not help you in any way.

Many people do not realize that treadmills have a floor that propels; a lot of the work is done for you. Plus there is the other factor such as wind, uneven and sloped terrains that contribute to how much more effort goes into the run.

Pros of Using a Treadmill

No weather and temperature-related constraints

Whether it is raining cats and dogs or the hottest day of the year, running on the treadmill doesn’t affect your training. Since you are not dependent on the conditions outside, you can always be on top of your game.

Running outside in bad weather can be uncomfortable, and on some occasions, even dangerous. Many athletes have hurt their ankles or injured themselves in some way by running on a rainy day or slipped on an icy morning. 

These risks are not there with a treadmill. In addition, there is no problem with exposing your skin to harmful UV rays and putting on sunscreen. This point, of course, is for those who are conscious. It is one of the important reasons while deciding between treadmill vs outside running.


At any given time of day, you can hop into the treadmill and get a quick impromptu workout. It is handy, especially if you have a hectic and unpredictable schedule, because if you have a random one-hour break in the middle of two appointments and can easily sneak in a little workout. 

And in these times of periodic lockdowns, jogging outside has become harder to do because of the restrictions. Plus, running with a mask on can be cumbersome. But at home, there is no compromise. You don’t need masks, and your plans do not change because of the lockdown.

You can do other things while running

To serious athletes, this point may seem like a con, but we aren’t snobbish. Who does not like to vibe to some good music to get into workout mode? One can listen to music while running outdoors too, but it can be a hassle at times. The wires get in the way, or the track changes to something you do not like. So the whole run is a bit fragmented and distracted. 

But on the treadmill, you can listen to music peacefully, without having to worry about the little problems. And these days, people even watch Netflix while running. While this can lead to working out without intention, sometimes people end up running for longer periods simply because they are engrossed in a show!

The pace is easy to maintain

The treadmill gives you the option of choosing the pace you desire. If you are recovering from an injury and need to break into the training slowly, you can set the pace from beforehand at an ideal speed without modulating it mid-run. 

The treadmill also makes it easier for you to track exactly how long your runs are, the time spent on it, and sometimes even heart rate information. You can also perform the exercise stress test with your treadmill. And if at any point you want to stop to catch a break, you can do so in the safety of your house, instead of somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

It is better for your knees

Running on asphalt or concrete is bad for the knees. Ideally, running on grass is best for your joints, but not everybody has those kinds of open spaces and facilities. Therefore running on a treadmill is a close second when it comes to joint-friendly runs.

Because of the shock-absorbing features on the treadmill, your knees and ankle suffer less. It is one of the major advantages if you are looking for a treadmill vs outside running.

Cons of Using a Treadmill

No variation

Running outdoors means the terrain is always unpredictable. As a result, your ankles get sturdier, and your muscles get exercised because of the elevation and slopes.

Though the treadmill has an option to create elevation, it is too predictable. It can never simulate going downhill, which uses a completely different set of muscles or constantly changing landscape.

No curves

A treadmill can only simulate running forward. But often, athletes need to practice running on the curves as it is an essential part of track races. Therefore a treadmill can be good for cardio, but the machine is not ideal for proper athletes if they wish to get the best results for their performance. Opting to run outdoors would be better in that case.

Pros of Running Outdoors


First and foremost, running outdoors is the most inexpensive way to get a good and effective workout. All you need is a good pair of shoes to support your ankles, and basically, you are good to go. 

Indoor running can be a more expensive affair. There is the initial investment to buy a treadmill. Or, if you go to the gym, there is a monthly or annual fee. Not to mention the money that goes into maintenance.

It is better for sports-related training.

It is better to train on the ground where your actual race will occur so that your body gets used to the environment. It can be a combination of weather, terrain, and body conditioning that a treadmill cannot simulate. It is also easier to do running-related drills outdoors than on a treadmill.

Fresh air

If you live in the suburbs or a park, you are bound to get a good dose of nature and fresh air. Working out on the treadmill in a gym, you inhale only stuffy, stale, and sweat-infused air. Running outdoors is like a breath of fresh air, quite literally!

More calories burnt

Due to wind and uneven terrain, running outside has added resistances that make you burn more calories than a normal treadmill run.

Cons of Running Outdoors

More likely to get injured.

People generally thought that outside running is best while looking for treadmill vs outside running, but it also has some cons. The same uneven terrain which helps burn more calories can also be detrimental to the runner’s safety. Often there are hidden ditches and potholes that are risky for the ankle. 

Apart from that, just the harsh ground with no shock absorbing features causes many joint-related ailments in runners. Knee injuries, ankle twists, and even tendon tightening are some of the leading problems caused by running on concrete or mud roads. 

Apart from joint injuries, there are other more serious hazards of running outside, especially at odd hours. Running late at night has the danger of being robbed or attacked by goons or creeps. 

Running in very isolated areas is once again not recommended for the same reasons. It is a problem for women especially, those who are more vulnerable to sexual attacks or even catcalling. Therefore a treadmill is a much safer option in this department.

In conclusion

We have covered all the pros ad cons of treadmill vs outside running to make an informed decision. you need to see what is good for you and what you are looking to get out of your workout. If you are running to be figure-conscious, then the treadmill is a good option. 

If you are more serious about sports and are training for something specific, going for outdoor runs would be a better idea. You have to consider all the pros and cons and decide based on your needs and lifestyle. 


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