Skip Nav
Beginner Fitness Tips
If You're Running and Aren't Losing Weight, Try This
Beginner Fitness Tips
After Years of Struggling, Here's How I Finally Learned to Do Push-Ups
Healthy Snacks
Beyond the Lattes: 30+ Healthy Pumpkin Spice Treats, Snacks, and Foods

Running on a Treadmill vs. Running Outdoors

You may opt to run on a treadmill because it is convenient but you may be choosing the treadmill because it is easier as well. Have you ever run three miles on a treadmill and thought, "That was a piece of cake," but then when you run three miles outside you think, "I thought I was in shape; that was so hard!"

The reason is that running on a treadmill is a lot different than running outdoors and here are several reasons why:

  • The rearward rolling treadmill belt offers help to your legs by pulling your feet back underneath your body, which means you could be exerting less energy to move your feet and legs than if you were running outdoors on a surface that doesn't give your legs momentum.
  • When you run on a treadmill, you do not have to overcome any kind of wind resistance, which means you'll use less energy than if you were running with wind resistance. More than just wind though, running indoors maintains or offers stable elements. Indoor runners avoid cold/hot air, rain or sand, gravel, dirt, natural increase/decrease in the gradients of the pavement and other outdoor obstacles. Your body’s natural efforts to acclimate itself to these varying elements requires much more energy than the flat, cushy treadmill surface.
  • Pace is steady on a treadmill because it runs on a set (or variable) speed and your body has ample time to adjust. When you run outdoors, it is a different story because you no longer have a machine keeping pace, so if you are not skilled at pacing yourself, you either under or overcompensate which could make you winded.

Fit's Tip: If you are training for a race, you definitely want to train outdoors to properly get your body (physically and mentally prepared).

justinmyoung justinmyoung 8 years
if you're interested in more treadmill discussion you may find this interesting:
lorioz lorioz 10 years
i love my treadmill, but I can see the value in using it and in going outside once and a while.
Bee87 Bee87 10 years
Living in The Netherlands I really love running on the treadmill because there is not a single mountain in this country. On the treadmill I get to workout my legs and behind because of the possibility of the incline. I can even do some serious climbing and I really love it!
Fitness Fitness 10 years
go4it, thanks for your comment. I want to clarify that in no way was that post supposed to be treadmill bashing post, but merely an explanation of why it may seem harder to run outside than on a treadmill (I get people asking me this question all the time), because it happens all the time. I agree with you on the benefits on the treadmill and I, for one, love the treadmill dearly. Maybe you missed my post about why I love it so much, if so check it out here.
go4it go4it 10 years
what is with the treadmill bashing? there are so many benefits, including the ability to change speed and incline on command, safety, better for joints etc. Also, i have been instructed that if you run at a 1% incline, it's virtually the same as running outside. so as a committed runner, that does both inside and outside workouts, i would say, the treadmill can be just as beneficial as running outside, if you are aware of what one needs to do to make the workout most effective for you. How about congratulating people that get to the gym and run or walk everyday on the treadmill, instead of telling them its not good enough?
lickety-split lickety-split 10 years
i don't run i walk, but i like the treadmill because of it even surface, no weather worries and the safety factor.
From Our Partners
Latest Fitness
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds