Running on a treadmill vs running outside: Which is better?

According to Statista, over 7 million people in England opted to run at least twice per month between November 2019 – 2020, equating to just over 10% of the UK population.
But with Strava reporting an increase in new members following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, this percentage is now forecast to be far greater, with individuals opting to run both outdoors and from the comfort of their own homes.

In fact, there has long been a debate about whether running on a treadmill or running outside is better for you and your body. As with most things, there isn’t a right or wrong answer, but both have their own pros and cons:

Running on a treadmill

    No temperature constraints:

When running indoors on treadmills and running machines you don’t have to worry about bad weather or being stuck outside without the right equipment, meaning you can continue to achieve your exercise goals without rain running play.

    You can change the incline:

If you live in an area that’s very hilly or very flat, having access to a running machine enables you to simulate areas with alternate inclines. This proves particularly beneficial when training for trail-based events or marathons, as well as adapting exercise routines to help overcome injury.

    You can maintain a consistent pace:

When you train outside it can be challenging to stay at a constant pace. Running on a treadmill enables you to pick a pace and stick to it, whilst also allowing you to track your pace and mileage.
Convenience: With indoor running equipment you can run whenever you feel like it without having to leave the house. This is especially useful if you have children or caring obligations.
It’s safer: Running outside when it’s dark can be a very daunting for many people, particularly if you live in a rural location with limited streetlights. If you don’t have a running group or partner or would rather run alone, a treadmill allows you to do that while remaining safe in the comfort of your own home
You can’t go downhill: Unless you’ve forked out for a very expensive machine, the majority of treadmills don’t allow for downward inclines. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue regularly but if you’re training for a specific race, you might find this a problem.
It’s not as interesting: Even if you have the TV or your music on, running on a treadmill can very quickly become monotonous, particularly when compared to the changing outdoor scenery and satisfaction that comes with completing a new running route.
Running outside
It’s free: You don’t need to buy a treadmill or subscribe to a gym membership to go for a run outside – it’s a free form of exercise that you can undertake right from your doorstep.
You can do it anywhere: If you’re not relying on any equipment, you can continue to run even when you’re on holiday. This is also a great way to explore new places and enjoy the scenery.
It gets you outside: Research shows that getting outside and breathing in fresh air does wonders for your mental health, particularly when combined with endorphins released during exercise.
It can be dangerous: When compared to running in the comfort of your home or a gym, there are a lot of hazards to consider, ranging from the weather through to road and even people traffic.
Weather conditions: Although you have the freedom to run whenever you like, you are dependent on weather conditions when running outside, particularly during the winter months when rain or snow can make an appearance.
With so many pros and cons for running inside and outside, it can be hard to make the choice. In the end, it comes down to personal preference and the purpose of your training. If you’re training for an event, running outside is likely to be more beneficial, but if you’re running to improve your fitness or mental health, running inside is just as effective as hitting the pavement. And, besides, who says you can’t do both?

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