How Effective Is Treadmill Running Vs Outside Running?

treadmill running vs outside running
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Treadmill running vs outside running is a debate that is not new and have many conflicting findings.

Which is suitable for you depends on you and your goals of running.

Treadmill running is a good option if you just wanna do some home/gym running, or if you don’t want or can’t run outside.

Both treadmill running and outside running are equally effective, but it depends on your running needs and goals.

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The effectiveness of treadmill vs outside running

First and foremost, whether you are running on treadmill or outside, the benefits and effects on you and your body is the same.

It doesn’t matter you are running outside or on the treadmill. This is because you are still running regardless.

treadmill running vs outside running

However, treadmill running is slightly easier than outside running.

When running on a treadmill, the belt moving backwards assist your leg to move backwards and this makes it easier to run on treadmill.

Also, you don’t have wind resistance while running on the treadmill.

In contrast, outdoor running, the ground doesn’t move, you need to propel yourself forward. And at times, you can be running through strong headwind.

Don’t worry, you can offset this problem by setting 1-2% incline on the treadmill.

Furthermore, treadmill running is good to run at a constant pace throughout the training session and subsequently increase the pace for the last 1 km – simulating the “final kick”.

You can even use the treadmill features to vary your running routine, e.g., undulating run, tempo run, fartlek run and so on…

You may not know how to do tempo and fartlek runs. Therefore, this is where a treadmill will work best for you.

On the other hand, to run outside on an undulating terrain (uphill and downhill), you need to have an access to a hill.

And most treadmills have a limited speed, i.e., 24 km/h (not all, but most).

Of course you won’t be able to run at the treadmill’s max speed. Therefore, this doesn’t make much difference for you.

Lastly, both treadmill and outside running are effective to improve your fitness, overall health, running performance and to lose weight.

You can incorporate both treadmill and outside running into your running routine. Just remember to rest enough to prevent pain and injuries!

Continue reading to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of treadmill and outside running:

Advantages of Treadmill Running

treadmill running vs outside running
  • The weather isn’t a hindrance for you to begin your running routine.
  • You can improve your fitness, running performance, run faster and to lose weight.
  • You can run while multitasking i.e. watching TV while running.
  • The pace and incline is adjustable according to you and your needs.
  • You can set a specific and desired pace OR undulating pace and run for that set pace throughout the training session.
  • The softer and “bouncy” surface of the treadmill reduces the impact on your joints.

Disadvantages of Treadmill Running

  • You need to buy a treadmill OR go to a gym.
  • It is and will be boring in the long term as it just doesn’t feel natural for you and your body.
  • Unable to make any twist and turns (e.g. turning at a corner) as you are running in a straight line throughout your training session.
  • Running is a high-impact exercises and you are prone to joint pain and overuse injuries especially at the knee.
  • The treadmill speed and incline are limited to the quality and type of treadmill.
  • You are unable to run a downward gradient as treadmill usually only offer incline.
  • Changes in your running biomechanics as your body adapts to the belt pulling your leg backwards rather than using your legs propelling you forward.
  • As your foot “touches” the belt, it is swung backwards and your muscles, tendons and ligaments are only doing a small part of its job.
    When you are running outside, every time your foot “touches” the ground, your muscles, tendons and ligaments all work together to reduce the lower leg velocity to ZERO before attaining speed to propel your body forwards.


Advantages of Outside Running

treadmill running vs outside running
  • A very simple form of exercise.
  • You can do outside running anywhere you see fit.
  • You can improve your fitness, running performance, run faster and to lose weight fast.
  • Able to run at a variety of speed according to your perceived exertion.
  • You may find it easier to run outdoors compared to treadmill running.
  • Able to enjoy the nature and scenery around you while running.
  • You can use specific object(s) as a guide to push yourself (telling yourself to sprint to the next lamp post before finishing your run).
  • If you are running at a park, you may be motivated by other runners and you tend to keep up with them (this leads to fitness improvement as you are pushing yourself unknowingly).
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Disadvantages of Outside Running

  • Injuries for outside running and treadmill running is basically similar and mainly overuse injuries especially at the knee.
  • You are at the mercy of the weather i.e. is it raining, sunny or snowing?
  • Hard and unstable surfaces such as tarred road, grass path and muddy path are external factors to increase your risk of injuries.
  • It could be dangerous if you are running by the roadside or places with a lot of cars, motorcycle and cyclist. Also beware of snatch thief and robbers while running!

So which is better for me?

The effectiveness of treadmill running vs outside running is similar, but it depends on your running goals.

You need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both to answer the question suited to you and your needs.

This also comes down to your liking and whether which type is more convenient for you.

Furthermore, both have equal risk of overuse injuries and joint pain – this happens if you don’t take preventive action

Both are equally effective to improve your fitness and maintain your good health.

Lastly, it is for you to decide which is more suitable for you and which one you like most. You can do both treadmill and outside running anyway.

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