The biomechanical movement involved in running on a treadmill verse running outdoors is almost identical, and both are great for cardiovascular health.
However, there are some subtle differences between the two.
- Treadmill running
Treadmill running is easier as a smooth belt is moving underneath you and there are no challenging surfaces or wind resistance to contend with. With water close at hand, treadmill runners also tend to do a better job keeping fluid intake up.
However, repeating the same movement over and over again without incline, decline and surface variations increases risk of joint damage… and it can be boring!
- Outside running
Running outside on uneven terrain activates a greater variety of muscles and challenges your balance, resulting in greater work load (and calorie burn!).
As well as being cheaper than the treadmill option, running outdoors is also good for your mental well-being – don’t underestimate the power of fresh air, scenery and sunshine to lift your mood and invigorate your workout.
Scenery can also encourage you to run faster (without visual cues, people on a treadmill tend to ‘set and forget’ when it comes to pace).
However be cautious – running on an uneven surface increases your risk of injuries like rolled ankles.
Both forms of running have their advantages.
Personally, I love to get outdoors and away from the hamster wheel on longer runs, but I prefer the treadmill when it’s raining or when I’m doing sprint interval work.
If you’re a regular treadmill user, remember to mix up the incline and speed. If you set a treadmill on an incline (even a small one, at 1%) you will more closely mimic outdoor running and your energy expenditure will be largely the same.