Treadmill vs. Running Outside

Is running on a treadmill the same as running outside?


By Fiona Leow


Many newbie runners often have this question: “what is the difference between running outside and on a treadmill?” Well, this article will give you a rundown of the benefits and drawback of each choice to help them decide which would be best for them.

Here are the main categories comparison between the two:

1. Accessibility

Treadmill Pros:  Gyms have been popping up everywhere lately and getting a membership to one isn’t that difficult. Most, if not all, gyms have a row of treadmills just waiting to be used.

Treadmill Cons:  True, gyms have been abundant lately. However, the membership fees that are needed to enter are also on the rise. As the fitness craze builds, more gyms are capitalising by charging more for their membership fees, causing gyms to be a little less accessible.

Outdoor Pros:

The outdoors is not only free to use, it is also easy to access! We are all amazing at making excuses about why we can’t possibly exercise today, but running outside requires little more than 20 to 30 minutes and a pinch of motivation to get you out of the door. It is one of the simplest ways to exercise and therefore it is easy to do it regularly.

Outdoor Cons:  Running outside offers more unpredictable surfaces than running on a treadmill. On uneven terrain you have to work unnecessarily hard to counterbalance that crack in the pavement or mound in a field.

2. Variables

Treadmill Pros:

One of the reasons I love the treadmill is the amazing functions it has. Its incline function is my favorite as it not only allows you to add a level of difficulty to your runs, but it has also been said to rival the idea of running on flat ground! Recent research has proven that setting the treadmill to a 1% grade reflects the energy costs and simulates outdoor running.

Therefore, you can offset the lack of wind resistance and the belt moving under you to make treadmill running the same or increased effort as running outdoors.

Treadmill Cons:  The treadmill offers a constant environment in which to exercise. Whether you are in the gym or your living room, the temperature, humidity and running surface remain the same and because of that, many people find it extremely tedious.

Outdoor Pros:  A great thing about road running is that you have an endless number of routes to choose from. Obviously some will be better than others, but you may like to do different routes depending on your preferences.

Outdoor Cons:

When you want to run outside, the weather is often the deciding factor. This would mean that your workout will depend heavily on the weather reports. For exercise to be effective you have to do it regularly; once a week is not enough. Jogging in unexpected and sudden elements can be discouraging and might deter one from jogging regularly.

3. Pace

Treadmill Pros:

The treadmill enables a runner to set a pace and to maintain it. This is useful if you are training for a specific event or just looking to improve your stamina endurance. It is also helpful to keep you going when your determination is wavering. Running on a treadmill can also allow the user to easily monitor your own progress with the speed, distance and calorie displays.

Treadmill Cons:  If one is used to running on a treadmill, they will become dependent on the numbers in front of them. This could introduce a subconscious need to keep glancing down at the board to keep track of your progress.

Outdoor Pros:

Being able to escape from the technology that we are constantly surrounded with nowadays is truly difficult as there are very few ways left of getting away from it all. Mobile phones and laptops mean that we are connected to everyone all of the time.

And not negating the obvious benefits of such an extensive system of communication, sometimes it’s good to get away from your boss, your mum and yes sometimes even your better half! This allows one to run at their own pace, be it at a leisurely or intense interval pace.

Outdoor Cons:  Being outside and not having any kind of device to help you keep track of your progress might reduce your pace in response to fatigue without even realising it. This will lead to a less effective workout due to the constant slowing of pace.

4. Effectiveness

Treadmill Pros:

If you tend to slow down as your run goes on, treadmill training can help you correct that. Treadmills are usually used to help new runners find their own pace and train their endurance. The rearward motion of the treadmill belt assists a runner with his rhythm and stride pattern, reducing the requirement to drive your weight forwards to cover ground.

Treadmill Cons:  The truth is, the real world isn’t as flat or as straight as a treadmill. When running on a treadmill, you run on the spot and wind resistance isn’t a factor.

Outdoor Pros:  Running is a practical way of exercising and our bodies are designed for this form of activity. It can be very satisfying to travel from A to B using nothing but your own steam. To increase your sense of achievement you can combine a run with other activities i.e. jog with your dog, run to the post box, jog with friends! This will not only keep you interested, but extremely motivated to keep going.

Outdoor Cons:

Cars, inattentive people, the wrong side of town—running outside doesn’t exactly leave you blissfully free of all of those hazards. Those hazards will slow you down on your run and it will be harder for you to get back to your pace every time you stop.

Whether it is done while on a treadmill or outside, there is no doubt that running is one of the best forms of exercise one could get. However, it is entirely up to you to decide which works best for you as everyone’s body responds differently to different exercises. I hope this article has helped and thank you for reading! Take care!

Fiona is a young adult who aspires to inspire others to work towards a healthy lifestyle and self-improvement. Her area of expertise ranges from healthy living tips to workout advice for mainly students or adults who have a busy work schedule, although she can occasionally write material for other types of audiences as well. she is currently writing a student blog on interesting Singapore articles and reflections for her polytechnic lectures.

Main Photo Credit, Second Photo Credit &  Sixth Photo Credit : Sergey Mironov/; Third Photo Credit: Jasminko Ibrakovic/; Fourth Photo Credit: Martin Novak/; Fifth Photo Credit &  Seventh Photo Credit : Vereshchagin Dmitry/; Eighth Photo Credit: lzf/

Oct 3, 2015

For sure, running outside

Oct 17, 2015

Out side

Nov 8, 2015

Running/walking outside are much better and more enjoyable- however it is not always feasible in bad summer weather, winter weather and of course, the shorter days right now in the northern hemisphere.