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TREADMILL VS. OUTSIDE RUNNING

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Tid Bits of Info

  • An average one-hour weight training session burns about 300 calories. A one-hour run burns about 600.
  • Running shoes should be replaced yearly or every 2-300 miles regardless of the surface.
  • Over 1 billion pairs of running shoes are sold every year worldwide.
  • Man can out run (distance) nearly every other animal on the planet.
  • If you suffer a “running” injury, seek the advice and treatment of a Physical Therapist.

Running improves cardiovascular health while reducing stress, alleviating depression, and even strengthening mental health. Over 500,000 people run for exercise every year in the United States. Some people choose to run on a treadmill to avoid extreme weather conditions or for convenience. This raises the question, “Is there a difference between running on a treadmill and running outdoors?” “Is one better than the other?”

Running outdoors can offer certain advantages but both forms of running are beneficial. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish with your workouts will partially determine what you should run on for an exercise routine.

The motorized treadmill offers a variety of reasons to promote itself as the best option for running.  It has been shown to provide a “softer” landing upon impact, and you can completely control the environment of the run.  The pace, incline, speed and time can be managed from start to finish.  Obviously, the weather does not come into play when using a treadmill.

Running outside, on the other hand, also has many advantages. Many people simply enjoy being outside, plus running on a sunny day can help improve Vitamin D intake. Outdoor running may involve a change of surfaces, varying patterns, moving around obstacles, and even running up and down hills. All the variables can heighten muscle activation and increase neuromuscular activity.

treadmill vs outdoor running

The need to overcome the friction of the ground is higher outdoors than on a treadmill.  The belt moves on the treadmill and this lowers the friction significantly.  Less energy is expended on a treadmill unless the speed and incline are adjusted to accommodate for the lower coefficient. Research has found that a simple incline of 1-2 degrees will increase the difficulty satisfactorily to increase the energy expenditure on a treadmill to equal running on flat surfaces outdoors.

Numerous studies have compared and assessed running mechanics on a treadmill vs outdoor running.  There does not appear to be a significant difference on either surface but the type of treadmill used can have an effect on the stride length.  When a powerful motorized unit is used the stride length is longer and more consistent with a natural stride length of outdoor running.  When someone becomes proficient and experienced running on a treadmill, the stride remains virtually the same as running outdoors.

The use of either surface can have great benefits.  If you want to get a cardio workout either surface is sufficient, but if you have a race to run that is outdoor you should spend the vast majority of your training time on the outdoor surfaces.  This will help to prepare the core and lower extremities for the upcoming impact forces that are associated with running outdoors.

Runners must remain strong regardless of the surface that they choose to run on. The impact force is greater when the foot hits the ground during an outdoor run, but any repetitive impact force can cause damage to the musculoskeletal system if it is not combatted with a well-rounded strengthening program.

If you have questions about your training or running choices seek out a healthcare professional who can assess your running gait and help you with a strengthening program.  Physical Therapists are well educated at treating symptoms that are associated with running regardless of the surface.  You can visit a Physical Therapist without a doctor’s prescription.  They will evaluate you and develop a training program specifically for you.

Running is a popular cardiovascular exercise and it appears that running on a treadmill or outside can be very effective.  Each individual needs to decide what their main goal of their running program is and then decide if the treadmill or an outdoor surface will be most beneficial to them.