Treadmill vs. Running Outside: The Pros and Cons for Every Runner

Treadmill vs. Running Outside: The Pros and Cons for Every Runner

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Most of the time, running experts face questions about whether it’s better to run on a treadmill or outside. Both are outstanding for improving heart health, strengthening the muscles, and reducing stress. This is the simple answer.

Running outside is not necessarily more than running on a treadmill, and inversely, there are significant differences between them. Awareness of these differences in health benefits, running techniques, and consequences for the body can help to choose the best option for the workout.

The key differences between running outside vs. a treadmill

1. Muscle activation

One major difference between running outside and on a treadmill is the number of muscles used while working out. Running on a treadmill’s flat, straight surface doesn’t work the muscles used when you avoid people, jump curbs, avoid difficulties, and run on uneven ground.

2. Impact

Many people have the wrong belief that running on solid surfaces is bad for the bones and joints. However, it needs to be corrected. As per the research from the University of Missouri, running outside is better for the bones than resistance training. The bones are strengthened by running on surfaces such as concrete and asphalt.

For injuries that are impact-related, such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis, running on a treadmill might be better for you. Treadmills are intended to exert impact and reduce the stress on the joints. While treadmill running doesn’t strengthen the body’s bones like outdoor running, it can help prevent injuries.

3. Technique

Strangely, a runner maintains a form that is mostly the same when running on the treadmill and outside. It does not matter where you run; it typically takes about 4-6 minutes to settle into your realistic walk. After that, the adopted running technique will be almost the same inside and outside.

The unique difference is that treadmill runners commonly take longer steps and have a slightly smaller rhythm. This is because, on a treadmill, there are no restrictions or changes in geography to interrupt your stride.

What are the pros and cons of running outside?

Running outside has many benefits, like social observation and the chance to mix up your training with off-road running, interval training, and more.


Considerably, it’s cheap—take a comfortable and good pair of running shoes and some running clothes, and you’re ready to start.

You can run any place—running is one of the great ways to explore new places, whether it’s your work trip or vacation. Running is a good way to explore new places.

It prepares you for race-specific training—outdoor running environments—and your muscles and joints for the mixed territory you’ll face.

Enjoy nature—research suggests that running outside, with a natural environment and social interactions, has greater psychological and physical benefits than indoor running.


There is always a risk of injury associated with any exercise. However, shifting landscapes and higher impacts make injuries more common when running outside.

Weather dependencies—hot, wet, icy, snowy, and very windy conditions—can impact the running and create difficulties and even danger.

There is an element of risk—activities such as tripping, cyclists, cars, and even other walkers can lead to accidents while running outside.

What are the pros and cons of running on a treadmill?

Treadmills are most popular for many reasons, such as in gyms and homes alike.


It’s dependable—irrespective of the weather, you can run easily on a treadmill for as long as you want.

Speed Management—Work out on a treadmill; it’s easier to monitor your distance and step. This is beneficial if you need to take a break from injury recovery or have specific training targets.

Gentle on your joints—treadmills engross shock better and reduce stress on your ankles and knees in comparison to running outside.

It’s convenient—you will be able to run safely on your own anytime, which can improve your lifestyle.


Risk of Muscle Alignments—The impact is lower in comparison to running outdoors; using treadmills consistently can lead to uneven muscle development and possible injuries.

There is no turning or various terrain—running in a straightforward line on flat land limits muscle energy and reduces opportunities to improve nimbleness.

You can’t run downward—most treadmills don’t have a downward feature, which limits the benefits for the muscles in the front of your legs, like the anterior tibialis muscle.

It can get boring—For short periods of workouts, treadmills are okay, but they can become dull during longer runs.

Which is better for weight loss?

The best exercise for weight loss is the one that gives you satisfaction.

It can be running on a treadmill or outside; aerobic exercise daily, such as running, burns calories and helps in forming a calorie deficit.

According to several studies, running a few times a week increases fat loss. The vast majority of people lost weight and gained muscle mass.

Two main types of running can help with weight loss:

Steady-State Running: 

This includes running at a constant, modest rate for a set duration

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) : 

With high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you run intensely for short periods and rest between them.

As per the study conducted in 2017, both HIIT and steady-state running support fat loss. The key factors were the effort you put in, whether you enjoyed the exercise, and how often you did it.

Pick the running type that you can perform regularly. Both HIIT and balanced running can be done on a treadmill or outdoors. If you prefer to run outside, ensure to run on the ground to avoid injuries.

For further weight loss, running can also help to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and symptoms of depression and anxiety.


While selecting between running on a treadmill or outside, there’s no right or wrong answer. Both have their pros and cons—you need to adjust them to your fitness goals.

If the goal is to enhance cardiovascular fitness, then working out on a treadmill works well. But if you’re planning for a race or aiming for better muscle strength, then outdoor running is more suitable for you.