Is The Treadmill Easier Than Running Outside?

male-legs-treadmill-running-resized-600The treadmill definitely has its advantages – not the least of which is convenience. But when it comes to running on the treadmill versus running outside under comparable conditions, are exercisers cutting their results short? And if exercising on a treadmill is easier, how can runners account for the difference?

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research set out to answer those questions. Researchers enlisted the help of 14 participants ages 20 – 26 and tracked the amount of energy that they burned on a treadmill. Then, participants completed the same walk outside.

Researchers discovered that running outside requires about 10% more energy. This increased energy requirement, according to researchers, can be attributed to breezes, slightly uneven terrain and other variables that come into play outdoors. If the wind becomes stronger, the amount of energy required to maintain a given speed increases even more.

This doesn’t mean that the treadmill is a bad choice. However, if you’re training for an outdoor run such as a 5K or marathon, you need to take this disparity into account. The researchers recommend adding a 3% incline to the treadmill to simulate the energy requirement for outdoor running.

Did you prefer running outside or on the treadmill? Why? Let me know in the comments below!


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  1. My preference is outdoor running. I’m 68 years old with a BMI of 23. I live at one mile above sea level. I run outdoors for one-mile six mornings per week. I skip running on garbage day. If the wind is too strong or the streets look slick or icy, I use my treadmill. It is a manual treadmill so I supply all of the power with my legs. I will run for 20 seconds then walk on it for 40 seconds.

  2. Hi Davey,

    Yes, definately more exhausting running outside, but I think one should always prefer to run outside for three reasons:
    1) YOU set the speed rather than setting the machine to set that up for you.
    2) Outdoors are awesome, and makes it more exciting as the landscape changes.
    3) You get to see cute people passing by ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I certainly agree with you on points one and two, but I think you see far more cute people in the gym.

  3. Hi Davey, hope you are well!!
    When i started to go back to the gym, i used to set the tredmill to match that of a real environment, however, find it more hard to run outside at my local park than on a tredmill, maybe doing something wrong at the gym!!

  4. The treadmill is great when it’s cold or too hot. Other than that it’s outside. I love getting lost in the music as I’m running.

  5. i was training for months on the treadmill with nothing but leg aches and shinsplints. i found that the constant speed and not having the ability to make subtle changes that the body needs was causing more strain. as well i did feel like i was just “keeping up” with the device. taking it outside seemed much easier for me. maybe it was all the distractions that the outdoors provides, such as terrain, traffic etc, but i found i was able to train harder, further and with less pain outdoors than inside.

  6. christopher says:

    i sweat on treadmill-no sweat outside.treadmill is better.

  7. I get so bored running on a treadmill. There is nothing to see, not many guys to cruise. But, now I live in Manila and there are not enough sidewalks and no parks near me to run. So, I have to use a treadmill, but I haven’t solved the boredom problem.

  8. I am a stocky guy who sucks at running, so for me it’s treadmill each and every time. I also prefer doing a steep incline at a slow pace (15% gradient at 3.0mph). I like my knees, tyvm.

  9. While outdoor running is more stimulating I can push myself much more on the treadmill. I know my pace and incline on the treadmill, outside I tend to run slower.

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