Treadmill versus outdoors running – which is better?

Running is an incredibly popular activity, providing a whole host of benefits to the mind and body. But, when it comes to carrying out this sport, many people ponder whether you gain more by running outdoors or using a treadmill.

treadmill running

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There’s no right or wrong answer as such to this never-ending debate. However, there are a number of factors to consider that could influence whether one way to run may be better than the other.


Effort and performance

Studies have shown that people who run outdoors tend to put more effort into their performance and expend more energy than those who use a treadmill. This is because when you run outside, you have to contend with resistance from the wind, which forces you to run harder and faster.

Equally, treadmill runners have been found to run slower than their outdoor counterparts. This is in part because they have a distorted perception of how fast they’re going indoors, due to a lack of visual cues.

In order to compensate for this difference, fitness experts reckon that treadmill runners should increase the gradient of their runs by 1% to achieve the same levels of speed, effort and energy output.


Safety considerations

Running outdoors exposes you to a whole host of potential dangers. You might trip over an uneven surface, get chased by an angry dog, or collide with another person or vehicle. Running in dark, unlit spaces during winter evenings isn’t always a wise idea either. You don’t have to contend with these issues if you choose to run on a treadmill, but that’s not to say it gets a clean sheet where safety factors are concerned.

Some experts claim that you’re more likely to sustain an injury running on a treadmill than outdoors, as treadmill running is less varied and involves more repetitive movements that could lead to strains. However, to counterbalance this, if you do use a treadmill, mix things up as much as possible by varying incline and speed.

However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that if you are recovering from an injury, running on a treadmill is often easier for your joints to cope with than on a hard surface outdoors. Crucially, you can always stop when you want to on a treadmill, if you experience pain, but you can’t easily do so on an outdoors run if you’re several miles from home.



It can be hard to motivate yourself to exercise so finding activities that won’t easily put you off is key to ensuring you stay on track.

Let’s face it, if it’s raining outside or blowing a gale, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is going for a run. This is where running on a treadmill scores highly, and if you have one at home, you won’t even need to make the effort to get to the gym.

Similarly, if it’s baking hot outside, running on a treadmill will prove more comfortable, and puts you at a lower risk of getting dehydrated from the heat.

However, the monotony of a treadmill may make it more boring than outdoors running. Not only are the movements less varied, for example, you can’t run downwards or make turns, but the lack of scenery can make the activity repetitive.

It’s far more appealing to run outside and enjoy the varying views, where you’re also likely to gain more mind and body benefits taking in the fresh air and being surrounded by nature. That said, you can make treadmill sessions more exciting by listening to an invigorating playlist of tunes.



If you’re keeping an eye on the purse strings, running outdoors is a cheaper option compared to paying a gym membership to use a treadmill, or even buying one yourself.

The important thing to bear in mind is that, whether you run outdoors or on a treadmill, your body stands to benefit either way. Include both in your repertoire and be aware of the limitations of each type to reap the most rewards.

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