Running Indoors With A Treadmill vs. Running Outside

Running Indoors With A Treadmill vs. Running Outside

The choice between purchasing a pricey treadmill or strapping on your runners and hitting the road every day is definitely a tough one. There are naysayers on both sides of the “treadmill vs. running outside” discussion.

Each form of exercise offers their own unique set of benefits to according to people’s individual needs. As you continue reading, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that many of the so-called disadvantages you’ve heard about treadmills are false.

Keep reading to learn more about how these two running methods stack up against each other.



A big advantage of running indoors on a treadmill is that you never have to miss a run because of a snow/rain/ice storm, or because the temps suddenly soar or dip to levels that threaten basic survival. You set your thermostat to what’s comfortable during your runs, turn on a fan if needed, and never have to worry about weather variables ever again.


Everything mentioned above is a definite factor when running outside. Where you live will also influence how unpredictable the weather can be day-in and day-out when planning your routine.

Running Surface:


This can be a big issue for some of us, since you’re running on a rubber belt and a cushioned deck which has some “spring” to it with each stride taken. The belt is also coming toward you, instead of you “pulling” the ground toward you like you would on pavement or dirt.

Some people just can’t get used to the sensation, which is why you always want to go out and try one before you make the decision to buy.


There’s a variety of surfaces to run on including pavement, asphalt, dirt, sand, gravel, grass, and mud. Some of these may seem attractive, but they’ll wear out your footwear faster and there is a degree of increased injury risk associated with running on a non-cushioned, uneven surface.



You can set a fine pace on a treadmill. The only issue that comes into play with this factor is if you’re training for outdoor events. While the resistance level is the same to outdoor running (to an extent), the pacing isn’t nearly so over equal distances ran.

Since the tread is coming toward you, you’ll run a mile on your treadmill much faster than you would outside. Pacing isn’t an issue if you plan to spend all your time on the treadmill and have no desire for competitive running, or any expectations that when the readout on the machine says you ran 5K in 22:05 that you’ll be able to accomplish the same feat outdoors.


Your pace outside is more accurate only because that’s how running speed and performance has always been measured. This is only a factor for competitive running.

One disadvantage of misjudging your pacing outdoors is that you might end up hobbling (or even crawling) home if you gas out 5k from your house!

Excitement Factor:


You have to be focused and have your mind set on getting a good run in with the treadmill. It’s so easy to keep glancing at the clock, or allowing your focus to drift to an annoying stain or spec on your wall or carpet, eventually getting so aggravated you to dismount your treadmill and get to work ridding yourself of that spot, stain, or whatever’s caught your focus!

A treadmill offers plenty of options to keep you busy such as inclines, speed adjustments, and different random programs that keep you guessing about what the machine will throw at you next. However, you don’t get the excitement offered by running in new scenery whenever you like, as you would with outdoor running.


Running outside is only just slightly more exciting than indoor running. You do get the advantage of getting a change of scenery whenever you want. However, much like treadmill running, there will always be distractions: cars trying to run you over, cute puppies staring out at you from the pet store window, or dangerous bears chasing you through the woods (i.e., the wrong kind of excitement!)

In the end, excitement isn’t the reason we continue to run. For newbies, excitement factor might seem important, but your decision has to come down to the physical challenge and overall convenience you’ll get from your chosen method of running.

Physical Challenge:


Read the information provided in the following link:

Though it might come as a shock, the study shown above was completed way back in 1985! Yet everywhere you go, you’ll hear contradictory opinions from so-called experts stating that treadmill running doesn’t make your body work as hard as running outside does. Keep in mind that in order to get your VO2 max in line with that you’d experience outdoors on a reasonably flat surface, it’s recommended you set the incline level to 1% on your treadmill.


Even though you can set the grade on your treadmill to 1% or higher and get the same challenge as you would when running on pavement; you cannot simulate the exhaustive effort required to run through sand, water, mud, long grass, deep snow, etc. You also can’t simulate running up a steep 30° incline while exercising on the treadmill, as most machines only go up to a 15° setting.



The only way to make a treadmill more convenient would be to make them fit in gym bag so you can take them anywhere!

The treadmill’s always there in your workout area waiting. Provided the electricity’s on, it will always be readily available to use.


Running outside can be inconvenient due to any of the factors already mentioned: weather, surface preferences, excitement level in your workout, or even if you have an illness aggravated by the outdoors such as asthma, allergies or sensitivities to sunlight.

To others, lacing up your shoes and hitting the road isn’t a hindrance at all. Women in particular may find treadmills make it easier to schedule their workouts around their schedule. Running outside in certain areas at night can be very dangerous, and work/school schedules during the day may make it hard to get a run in before the sun goes down.


We could have mentioned that running outdoors is generally free (unless you have to drive to where you run). If you decide to purchase one, you’ll do so knowing that you could run on the road for next to nothing. But prefer the options offered by a treadmill for your usage preferences.

Only you can decide what type of running is right for you and your personal needs. As you’ve learned, there are definite advantages to using one or the other, but those benefits are based largely on preference and not on one being necessarily better than the other.

Hopefully, we’ve helped to dispell the myth that treadmill running falls in 2nd place to running outdoors. If you’re looking for physical fitness and a great calorie-burning workout, a treadmill workout is definitely equal to roadwork in that regard.