Running. It’s an athletic activity I’ve been doing as soon as I learned how. At first, it was chasing after my big brothers and their friends in flag football, baseball, flashlight tag, or hide-and-seek outdoors.  Next came running on organized sports. I played on basketball, softball, field hockey, lacrosse and track teams all through my schooling. And my competing running events began when I was still in high school.

To train and condition myself for the teams and events, I ran, I ran and I ran. I would run up to six days a week, weather permitting, until I purchased my first gym membership at age 18. I was then able to run despite the pouring rain, heavy snow, or wicked winds since I could now run inside on a treadmill.

What’s the difference between running on a treadmill and running outside? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Do you get the same results? While studies show running outside is the better choice, I am here to share with you the pros and cons of both running types.

First and foremost, running on a treadmill is easy and convenient. Perhaps there’s one in your home or you use a treadmill in the gym. Either way, you as the runner just needs to pop on an available one, set your settings, and off you go – no matter what the weather conditions are like inside and out.  An added bonus, you’re safe from possible strangers.

On a treadmill, you can control how fast you go and how far to run. You get to track how many calories you burn and even your pulse. Some treadmills have a variety of course works to choose from or different incline levels to challenge yourself. And to help pass the time away and prevent monotony, you can run alongside a friend, listen to music on your headset, or watch a show on a mounted TV.

Treadmills are great for speed work, pacing, and interval training. They are also good for injury prevention and rehabilitation since most have soft padded surface and are designed with a lot of “give” – all lessening the impact of your pounding body. Treadmills are additionally ideal for those who are overweight as it helps the body along and allows for slow gain momentums.

What is missing with treadmills is the lack of wind resistance, unchanged terrain, and lesser muscle exertion since the treadmill belt helps propel you along. Running bio-mechanics are also different when running on the treadmill. Runners run with less of a forward lean, stride lengths are either longer or shorter, and support time is longer for your support leg that is on the ground than outside running. All this equals less muscle work and fewer calories spent.

The lack of terrain is a huge difference. A treadmill doesn’t have any way to simulate running downhill or sharp around the corners. So to help amp up your running results on a treadmill, raise the incline to at least one percent or slightly more to better simulate the energy expedited when running outdoors.

So what are some of the other added perks to running outside? Well for starters, you can almost run anywhere and can alternate your course at any time – exposing yourself to different terrains. You can run on pavement, a track, grass, the beach, or even the bleachers at a nearby school, all aiding in greater muscular development and strengthening of your legs. You also get the added mental bonus of enjoying the change of scenery and inhaling the wonderful fresh air that – a clincher for me – while also soaking up your daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun.

Running outside prevents monotony and boredom. In an instant, you can dash into a sprint or switch to a side step to mix it up. You can run with a group of friends – training for an event – or take the family dog along. The best part, you can easily challenge yourself, exert your muscles more, and expend more calories versus when on the treadmill.

There’s no doubt that running on a treadmill and running outside both provide two very different experiences and two valuable workouts. To me, running outside is better physically. I see better results, personally, when I run outside versus on the treadmill. But you should analyze your own circumstances and decide which best fits your situation – running on the treadmill or running outside.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.