Running Outside vs. Running Inside on a Treadmill: Weighing the Pros & Cons of Each

running outside versues indoors

Everyone has a personal favorite when it comes to running outside vs a treadmill. In truth, the amount of exercise you get is pretty much the same, although it might require a few adjustments where the treadmill is concerned. So, if you are a newbie to running, how exactly are you going to choose between the two? And what makes both of them so popular?

Running Outside

The Pros

Starting with the old-school way of getting fit, just thinking about running outside is like receiving a breath of fresh air. And there is nothing quite like fresh air flowing through your lungs. For many runners, it’s the overall atmosphere of nature that motivates them to keep going, which is why this is probably the first benefit anybody thinks about.

But the natural setting also prevents you from getting bored. Thanks to the consistent change in surroundings, it is much easier to keep the focus away from how tired you are feeling.

There is also the matter of getting used to your surroundings if you plan on participating in a marathon or competition of some kind. If you don’t run outside, or preferably on the same terrain as the marathon, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.

The best part about running outside is that it’s very affordable. All you need is a pair of comfortable running shoes and nothing can stop you.

The Cons

Unfortunately, there are a few challenges involved with running outside. For example, you are exposed to the elements. Given the state things, the longer you expose your skin to a harsh sun, the more you are putting yourself at risk for things like cancer. And what about heavy rain? If you live in an area where it’s constantly raining or the sun simply won’t let you run for more than a mile, running outside might get very unpleasant.

You are also at risk in terms of road safety. In other words, you are more vulnerable on the road and you always need to pay attention to your surroundings. Whether it’s considered a problem or not, some drivers just don’t respect other road users.

Running Indoors (Track, Treadmill, or Elliptical)

bowflex treadmills

The Pros

The first benefit that comes to mind when running on a treadmill is the convenience. You don’t have to look good when you feel like taking a run, and you don’t even need to leave the house.

But convenience isn’t the only thing putting treadmills or ellipticals in more living rooms. In fact, with many of the new models, you can create different running profiles so-to-speak. These profiles try to imitate different terrains, and many of them succeed.

Another big difference between running outside and on a treadmill is the wind resistance and the forward propelling motion of your body. For example, running outside will usually involve some wind resistance, and sometimes it will be stronger than others. Plus, your legs have to propel your body forward. But on a treadmill, there is no wind resistance and your legs don’t need to work extra hard to get the same efficient workout.

Treadmills also make it convenient to keep track of the calories you burn, the distance you are running, and the time you’ve been at it (if you don’t own wearable smart devices).

The Cons

Just like running outside, there aren’t many cons for using a treadmill, but they do exist. A good example would be the lack of distraction. Instead of seeing the nice scenery float by, you will see the same flashing lights, keeping your attention on every inch. This is not always a good thing because the constant reminder in front of you can actually break your stride.

Apart from being more boring than running outside, it is not recommended for exclusive long-term use. Instead, professionals suggest finding a balance between using the treadmill and running outside.

Then, of course, the price of treadmills can be high. Some of them are so expensive many runners don’t even consider buying one.

Last but not least, a treadmill can break at any moment. While they are created to stand the test of time, with mechanical structures you can never be 100% it will last a lifetime.

Final Thoughts: Which One Is Better?

If you are hung up on which one is healthier, there is not really straight answer. According to research, you can get the same efficient workout using a treadmill, although there are elements of running outside that give it a slight edge, in our opinion.

When it comes down to it, you can have them both. There are no rules saying you have to choose one or the other, and seeing as both of them have several benefits, you will only be adding to your healthy lifestyle if you decide to be versatile.

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