Treadmill vs Traditional Running – Which is Better?

July 17, 2023

Treadmill vs Traditional Running – Which is Better?

If you’re a fitness enthusiast, you’ve probably pondered the question of whether running on a treadmill or running outside is better for your health and fitness. To answer this question, we need to look at the benefits and drawbacks of each option.

The Benefits of Running Outside

Treadmill vs Traditional Running - Which is Better?
Treadmill vs Traditional Running – Which is Better?

Running outside is an excellent way to improve your fitness levels and overall health. It offers a range of benefits, including:

Improved Muscle Activation

When you run outside, your feet have to grip the ground to propel you forward, which activates more muscles compared to running on a treadmill. The treadmill, on the other hand, does some of the work for you by feeding the belt to you.

Natural Gait Cycle

While biomechanical patterns don’t change when someone runs on a treadmill versus when they run outside, running outside is more suited to a natural gait cycle. That’s because you’re doing the work yourself, and you’re not limited by the parameters of the treadmill, which can cause some people to shorten their stride.

Activation of More Muscles

When you’re running outside, you’re not limited to a strictly linear path. You can dodge people on the sidewalk, hop over curbs, and move in different directions, which activates more muscles than running on a treadmill.

Reinforcement of Bones

Running on a stiffer surface like asphalt or concrete provides more ground reaction forces, which can reinforce your bones more than a treadmill. Treadmills are designed to absorb ground reaction forces, so they ideally save your joints from the impact associated with running.

Mental Health Benefits

Running outside is great for your mental health, as it lets you breathe fresh air and expose yourself to natural sunlight. According to research, exercising outside delivers a bigger energy boost and results in less tension, anger, and depression compared to running inside.

The Benefits of Running on a Treadmill

Treadmill vs Traditional Running - Which is Better?
Treadmill vs Traditional Running – Which is Better?

Running on a treadmill also provides a range of benefits, including:

Controlled Environment

The treadmill provides a completely controlled environment. You can accurately control the pace, incline, interval, and recovery. For example, getting used to running at certain speeds because you’re forced to is much easier to do while there’s a belt moving under your feet.

Weather Considerations

Running on a treadmill is an excellent option when the weather conditions outside are not suitable. Whether it’s hot, cold, rainy, or even snowy, a treadmill can help you maintain your fitness routine without compromising your safety and comfort.

Simulating Race Conditions

One unique benefit of a treadmill is the ability to simulate your goal race course. Many of the more advanced treadmills allow you to create your own unique course profile, which you can use to simulate the exact course you’re training for.

Injury Prevention

If you’re not quite ready for the ground reaction forces of running on concrete or asphalt, running on a treadmill can be a great way to ease into your training. Running on a cushioned belt is more forgiving than running on a hard surface, which can prevent injury.

When to Run Outside and When to Use a Treadmill

Both running outside and running on a treadmill offer benefits for your fitness routine. However, there are specific instances when one may be more appropriate than the other.

Running Outside

If you’re training for a race, running outside is the best option. It’s essential to train in the environment that the race will be in so your body can adapt to the conditions. Additionally, running outside is more suited to a natural gait cycle, which can prevent injury and build muscle.

Using a Treadmill

If the weather conditions outside are not suitable or you’re not quite ready for the ground reaction forces of running on concrete or asphalt, the treadmill is a great option. Additionally, if you want to simulate race conditions or control your pace, incline, interval, and recovery, the treadmill is the best choice.

Fitness Gains and Overall Health

Both running outside and running on a treadmill can help you achieve your fitness goals and improve your overall health. Here are some of the benefits of running for your health:

Weight Loss

Running is an excellent way to lose weight and burn calories. Running a 10-minute mile burns approximately 100 calories per mile, which can help you lose weight when combined with a healthy diet.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

Running is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular health. It can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

Increased Endurance

Running is an excellent way to improve endurance. By gradually increasing your distance and speed over time, you can improve your endurance and run longer distances.

Stress Relief

Running is an excellent way to relieve stress. It releases endorphins, which can improve your mood and reduce stress levels.

To Summarise,

Running on a treadmill and running outside both offer benefits for your fitness routine. While running outside is more suited to a natural gait cycle and provides mental health benefits, running on a treadmill allows you to control your environment and simulate race conditions. Ultimately, the choice between running on a treadmill and running outside depends on your fitness goals and personal preferences. Both options can help you achieve your fitness goals and improve your overall health.

Get Increased Motivation to Succeed with Fitwins

Whether you choose to exercise indoors or outdoors, Fitwins offers distance-based challenges through our app, which can be downloaded on Apple or Android devices. These challenges take you on exclusive routes through famous cities, such as Rome, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro.  

Developed by competitive long-distance runner Carl Ryde, Fitwins Virtual Running Challenges provide a unique and engaging way to track your distances covered and earn a well-deserved medal at the end of each month. It’s a fantastic opportunity to challenge yourself, stay motivated, and connect with a community of like-minded runners.   

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Not sure how virtual fitness works?

The easiest way to learn is to try Fitwins for yourself! The app is free to download, and you only pay for challenges you take part in, so why not take it for a test drive?

In the meantime, here are the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about how Fitwins compares to other virtual walking challenges.

No! We believe that flexibility is the key to fitness success, so instead of forcing you to complete a set distance, we let you set your own goal.  This means you can be flexible in how you complete YOUR challenge: so if you are smashing your target, you can raise the bar and aim for more. 

All entries into our challenge will receive a great medal, with a ribbon specific to the challenge type.

For our “iconic challenges”, your ribbon will have a unique design related to the challenge. For our regular monthly challenges, your ribbon will reflect the total distance you covered.

Running and walking ribbons are awarded based on 25, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175 and 200+ miles. Cycling ribbons are for distances of 50km, 100km, 200km, 500km, 1000km, 2000km and 3000km. 

Absolutely! Not only that, but all the distance you’ve covered since the start of the month will count, as the Fitwins App syncs with Strava and logs all activities from the start of the month, regardless of what date you sign up for the challenge. 

If you are hitting the streets with your app activated, verification is completed automatically by sycning with Strava. You can focus on completing your challenge, and we’ll take care of the rest.

If you’re using a treadmill, exercycle or other stationary equipment for some of your challenge, you’ll need to log this manually.


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