Running outside vs. running on a treadmill: Which exercise is right for you?

Running is a wonderful aerobic exercise that offers numerous health benefits. It can reduce stress, strengthen the bones, help burn calories, and improve heart health. Running can be done indoors (on a treadmill) or outdoors — depending on a person’s preference — and each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. If you can’t decide which one is better for you, here are the pros and cons of running outdoors and running on a treadmill.

The difference between running indoors and running outdoors

Running outdoors comes with more physical demands than running indoors. People who run outside have to deal with wind resistance and uneven terrains, which require more physical exertion. This means that your body needs to work harder when you run outside than when you run indoors. The good news is, the harder your body works, the faster you burn calories.

Another advantage of running outside is more muscle activation. Runners are met with various obstacles, such as other runners, trees, and even cars, when they run outside. Avoiding obstacles is a good way to make other parts of your body move as well. Fluid movements promote body alignment, which ensures that your muscles, bones, and tendons work optimally. So running outside not only makes your bones and muscles stronger, it also helps prevent future injuries.

On the other hand, running on a treadmill is more mentally strenuous. Because you’re running in the same place, it can get boring as you’re surrounded by the same objects and see the same things. However, according to treadmill runners, this can count as mental training. Running indoors can teach you how to stay mentally occupied, which can help you build the confidence needed to run longer distances in the future.


Muscle overuse is another problem people who run indoors might face. Running on a treadmill is often associated with overuse or repetitive strain injuries as the same muscles are used over and over again. Over time, overused muscles become more susceptible to injury.

Still, running on a treadmill has its advantages. As the treadmill belt rotates while you run, it can ease the shifting of weight between your legs and lessens the impact on your knees and joints. This is especially useful for people who’d just recovered from an injury as it allows the joints to rest and heal, making them stronger in the long run.

Other considerations

When choosing whether to run indoors or outdoors, you need to be practical. Besides the effects of either option on your body, you should also consider the following:

Environment (i.e., weather and location)

No matter how much you might want to run outside, if the weather is bad, you’ll have no choice but to run on a treadmill. Certain conditions can increase your stress levels, and they will not help you run better. On the other hand, running indoors offers a structured environment for you to exercise. You get to control not only the pace of your workout, but also its duration.

When weather conditions are right, running outdoors can be a wonderful experience. It can reduce feelings of anxiety and increases cognitive performance. According to a study, spending time in nature has a positive effect on the brain. (Related: Why running outdoors is better than using a treadmill.)

Time and money

Your calendar may be packed with meetings, deadlines, and other obligations. It can also be difficult to set a schedule for your workouts, so you have to consider time constraints. If you choose to run on a treadmill, you will have more control of your time. While running outdoors can also give you that, you have to be open to the possibility that something might interrupt your run, such as cars or pedestrians.

Another thing to consider is that treadmills and gym memberships cost money. If you run outdoors, you won’t have to pay any fees, and you’ll also get all the benefits associated with spending time in green space.

Running is a great exercise that benefits your health in many ways. You can choose to run outdoors or on a treadmill depending on your budget and your needs.

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