Running is best when you enjoy it and can do it long term.
Whether you prefer treadmill or outdoor running, you’ll experience many benefits, such as a lower risk of chronic disease and improved mental health.
Choosing which type of running best suits you depends on your budget, environment, and overall preferences. If you’re unsure, give both outdoor and treadmill running a try, or alternate between the two.
Either way, running is extremely beneficial for your health and well-being.
A treadmill is an exercise machine with a controllable rotating belt that you can walk or run on. Treadmills are available in most workout facilities, or you can purchase one yourself in stores or online.
One of the biggest advantages of using a treadmill is its accessibility. Since most treadmills are indoors, you can use it day or night and in any climate. This can make running more accessible for those who exercise at night or live in places with ever-changing weather.
Most advocates of treadmill running enjoy the various functions a treadmill can offer, such as precise control of their pace, incline, and intervals.
This is also helpful for those returning from an injury, as they can progress slowly on a treadmill in a more controlled environment.
For example, running outside may pose a greater risk to someone returning from an ankle injury because of factors like uneven ground and slippery sidewalks.
Finally, running on a treadmill may be better for your joints since most treadmills have cushioned belts to absorb some of the impact. In contrast, hard ground, especially sidewalks and roads, will not.
Unlike outdoor running, during which you can be surrounded by forests or beautiful greenery, indoor treadmill running involves staying in a fixed place where the treadmill is located. Some say this can become boring over time.
However, many modern treadmills provide screens to simulate an outdoor run, which may make the experience more enjoyable. Nonetheless, many argue this will never live up to running outdoors.
Additionally, treadmill running requires fewer muscle groups, such as the glutes and hamstrings, compared with outdoor running. That’s because when you run on a treadmill, you tend to run in a consistent linear motion with the treadmill belt propelling you forward (2Trusted Source).
A simple solution to this is to incorporate resistance training into your fitness routine a few times per week. This can help you work the muscle groups that treadmill training may miss.
Many runners report a less natural and shorter stride with treadmill running due to the limited parameters of the treadmill. However, this is controversial. A 2020 study found no significant differences in gait stride between treadmill and outdoor running (2Trusted Source).
Outdoor running involves running outdoors on a trail, path, sidewalk, or any other outdoor terrain.
Most runners find outdoor running far more enjoyable than treadmill running due to the changing scenery, fresh air, challenge of uneven ground, and unlimited options for running routes.
The increased variety can increase a person’s motivation to continue exercising (3Trusted Source).
Though both treadmill and outdoor running bring health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, greater endurance, and lower risk of depression, outdoor running may give additional benefits simply by helping you feel more connected to nature (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).
Interestingly, a 2016 study found that spending at least 30 minutes per week around outdoor greenery, such as parks and forests, could reduce rates of depression by 7% and high blood pressure by 9% (6Trusted Source).
Additionally, the various environments and barriers you may encounter while outdoor running can help you activate other muscle groups and develop better balance. Actions may include dodging other people on the trail, jumping over puddles, or running up hills.
Furthermore, research shows running outdoors can build stronger bones since you’re running on harder surfaces. This allows for greater gravitational force and stress on the bones, which is important for bone metabolism (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Finally, outdoor running is completely free, if you exclude the cost of running shoes and workout gear. This makes running more accessible to people of all incomes.
It’s best to run outdoors in dry, moderately warm temperatures. Meanwhile, it’s less ideal and riskier in the rain, snow, and extremely cold or hot temperatures. Though with proper clothing, training, and preparation, you can run outdoors in most weather conditions.
Additionally, running in the extreme cold or heat can increase your risk of dehydration. This can be life threatening if you’re not wearing the proper clothing and rehydrating (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
Finally, running at night increases the risk of injury and can be dangerous.
If you choose to run at night, be sure to wear reflective clothing and a headlamp to help you see. Tell a friend your route and when you expect to arrive home. Better yet, find a running buddy.