Treadmills Vs. Outdoor Running: Which is Better?

Female athlete running outdoors on highway

Here’s everything you wanted to know about the similarities and differences between using a treadmill and running outdoors. We are giving you all the benefits and hazards associated with each, and leave the decision to you.

There are a variety of opinions on whether using a treadmill for exercise or simply running outdoors is healthier. But what is the reality? Which option is better for one’s health and well-being? Or is there really a significant difference?

Here are a few things to take into consideration when determining which option is best for your needs.



Using a treadmill can be very convenient, especially when the weather is not ideal for outdoor activity. And some people prefer exercising in their homes as opposed to being outside.

Though running on a treadmill is similar to running outside, there are some differences. A study done by the University of Brighton shows that people who use treadmills experience a lower “cost” of energy, mainly due to the lack of wind resistance. This can be compensated for by adjusting the treadmill slightly, to approximately a 1 percent grade.

In addition, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore also published a study that shows that treadmills users experience an alteration in their perception of speed, leading to a slower pace. This may be a result of the distortion of visual inputs which occur when exercising indoors.

Treadmill users should be mindful of this tendency when adjusting the gait.

The movements used when running on a treadmill are also different in that the steps are repeated. Another difference in motion is that using a treadmill places more pressure on the middle and front of the foot as opposed to the heel. This may be beneficial for those who have problems with the back portions of their feet.

Treadmill users also have a lower risk of stress injuries.

Keeping all of these things in mind, running on a treadmill does not appear to be a bad option, and may be ideal for some.

Outdoor Running

Couple outdoor running

Outdoor running is often assumed to be the better of the two options, for a variety of reasons.

According to the New York Times, studies have demonstrated that outdoor running burns 5% more calories than using a treadmill.

Another benefit of running outside is that outdoor physical activity can create a more positive engagement and reduce tension as well as feelings of depression or anger. It can also increase one’s energy.

All of these things point to outdoor running as a benefit to one’s mental well-being.

Running outdoors can be more strenuous due to slopes, uneven ground and wind resistance. However, if one is a competitive runner, outdoor running can be an ideal way to prepare.

For outdoor runners, there is increased risk of injury, especially in the form of stress fractures. To many, the benefits of exercising outside far outweigh the negative aspects.

In conclusion, both running on a treadmill and running outside have positive and negative aspects. Each person must decide for themselves which option is best for their unique situation. For some, using a treadmill will be the ideal choice. Others may decide that exercising outdoors is much more preferable.


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