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Indoor vs Outdoor Running: Which Is Better?

Many runners have one question in common. Is running on a treadmill similar to running outdoors?

Many people have their opinion, but scientific research reveals that running on a treadmill and running outside can be the same if you make a few adjustments on the treadmill.

Running on a treadmill and running outdoors both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Read on to learn about these advantages and disadvantages.

Treadmill vs Running Outdoors

runners feet

One major difference between the treadmill and running outdoors is wind resistance.

When you’re running indoors, wind resistance is not a factor, making it easier to exercise on the treadmill.

When you are running outdoors, there are many factors you need to consider.

Running outdoors means your legs must propel your motion forward while simultaneously pushing through wind resistance.

When runners cannot run outside due to unfavorable weather or other reasons, running indoors is the only solution.

According to specific research, runners can set their treadmill to one percent grade to accurately simulate running outdoors.

Setting your treadmill to one percent grade enables you to simulate running outdoors by offsetting the way the belt of the treadmill moves under you, making your body put forth the effort it would have to exert while running outdoors.

Benefits of Indoor Running vs Outdoor Running

One of the most obvious benefits of indoor running is being able to run and exercise when weather and footing is not ideal.

Although weather affects each runner differently, running indoors is the best alternative to running outdoors.

Runners can easily avoid sustaining injuries due to running outdoors in weather or environment conditions that are not favorable.

Running outdoors means fresh air.

Fresh air means healthier skin and great overall health.

Your body requires fresh air and the sun to maintain a proper balance.

When you’re running indoors, especially a gym, air can become stagnant and produce a musty smell.

If you’re running indoors in your home, you can open windows and let in fresh air, but it does not compare to running outdoors, breathing in the fresh air and allowing your pores to soak up the sun and fresh air.

Disadvantages of Running Indoors vs Outdoor Running

Although running on a treadmill has many different favorable features and advantages, there is also a downside.

When you’re running on a treadmill, pacing yourself is easy, but when you run outdoors, pacing yourself is a lot harder.

When you’re running on a treadmill, you can set the machine to a target pace and continue with your workout.

When you are running outdoors, correctly finding and maintaining pace can pose many issues.

Another disadvantage of running indoors is being bored.

When you’re running on a treadmill, it’s the same scenery of your home or gym over and over.

When you’re running outdoors, you have the advantage of a change of scenery.

And probably the most important disadvantage of outdoor running is that it comes with certain hazards that you don’t have inside.

5 Reasons to Head Outside for Your Next Workout

The studies have been done and the resounding evidence shows that it’s time to put away the gym membership.

Getting outside for your workout provides a wide variety of benefits over putting in your time at the gym.

Boosting not only physical health but mental health as well, there are many reasons to hit the pavement rather than the elliptical.

With spring upon us and summer just around the corner, here are five great reasons to turn the treadmill off and head outside for your next workout.

1) Soak up some vitamins.

Getting your daily workout in under the sun’s rays can help boost your bodies vitamin D3 count.

This helps boost the bodies metabolism and improve your bone health.

As it turns out, the sun is the gift that keeps on giving.

Studies show that more sun exposure helps give you a better nights sleep and also increases your immune function.

Just remember to wear sunscreen before you head out to reduce the chance of skin cancer.

2) Extend your workout. 

Recent studies show that getting your exercise in outdoors feels easier than working out indoors, which can help you workout longer (or make it a little less painful to finish your normal circuit).

You also get a better work out when it is completed outdoors than you do when working out indoors.

So hit the pavement, get a good workout, and make it look easy while you do it.

3) It boosts your state of mind.

Decrease your feelings of depression, tension, and anxiety while you workout by getting some time in outdoors.

In a study involving over 800 adults, the results were conclusive that working out outdoors decreased all of these negative ailments while increasing energy and making participants feel rejuvenated post workout.

Those who participated in the study also reported that they enjoyed their workout more when it was done outside rather than inside.

4) Get with the program-and stick with it.

Recent studies were done on a group of older women in their 50’s and 60’s and the results reflected that those who got their work out in outside were more likely to stick with a routine.

This is likely due to being left in a better mode post workout, and feeling more accomplished by working out longer.

Set yourself up for success after your New Year’s resolution by completing your workouts outside.

5) Fend off gym time boredom.

“Nothing is more fun than staring at the same wall or monotonous TV show while running in the same place for an hour.” Said no one, ever.

Many people report that their gym routine kicks the bucket due to the absolute boredom and monotony inside the gym walls.

Break up your routine by getting outside for some new scenery.

With so many different areas to get your workout in depending on your region-the park, riverside, city, or mountains-you can fight boredom a little easier with the ever changing scenery.

The results from all of these studies have a pretty resounding result: people get a better, longer workout when it is completed outdoors.

They also report greater feelings of well-being and a decrease in feelings of depression and are able to stick with their workout routine longer than those who worked out inside.

Next time you need to get your workout in, give it a shot outdoors and see if you get these same results.



To sum it all up, especially if you are training for a triathlon, check out what Global Triathlon Network has to say on the subject.

Indoor Running – Treadmill

  • Nothing can stop you if you are running indoors, you protected from the elements and bad conditions and should therefore always be able to complete a session. –
  • To make running on the treadmill more realistic, set the treadmill to a 1% gradient to account for the lack of wind resistance when running indoors.
  • The treadmill is a great tool for completing a specific session at a desired pace due to the consistent nature of the surface.
  • With regards to injury, treadmills are smooth and cushioned so reduce the impact of running but the repetitive movement can led to injury.

Outdoor Running – Road, Track, Trails

  • It can be frustrating if you are not be able to do a proper run session if you the surface or weather conditions do not allow it.
  • One main difference with running outside is that you control the pace. On a treadmill you can’t slow down, but outside you can drift off without noticing and therefore you need to keep on top of your effort level and pace.
  • Completing a target route and exploring can often be very motivating and seen as an achievement.
  • With regards to injury, the uneven surface can cause issues. Beware for dangerous areas, sprained ankles and stay aware on trails.

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