What’s better for you: Running outside or on the treadmill?

What’s better for you: Running outside or on the treadmill?

Is there a way to get a better workout from your run just based on where you do it? The short answer is yes.

Many people use running as their main form of exercise. After all, all you need is a good pair of running shoes and the will to push through. The versatility of running makes it a great go-to exercise for plenty of people.

Although running in any setting has its benefits, running outside on a road or trail, as opposed to running inside on a treadmill, has been proven to burn more calories and allows for a more effective workout.

“Running outdoors gives you a better bang for your buck,” says Dr. Jacqueline Ivey-Brown, an internal medicine physician at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “If the goal of your workout is to lose weight and burn calories, then you might want to ditch the treadmill and take your run outside. You burn about three to seven percent more calories running outdoors as opposed to a treadmill. This distinguishing feature of outdoor running has everything to do with the wind resistance and varying inclines. These factors make your workout just that much harder, even when going the same distance.”

In addition, after running or jogging in the heat, your body uses more effort to regulate its temperature again. Because of this, you will burn slightly more calories when running on a hot day versus a cooler day.

Dr. Ivey-Brown warns, “Do not risk heat exhaustion or dehydration in the hopes of burning more calories. Be sure to listen to your body and know when it has had enough. Remember to drink plenty of water and stop exercising if you feel that your body is overheating.”

Running in the heat also makes most people feel fatigued more quickly. This is due to an increase in your body’s rate of perceived exertion (RPE). It can be very dangerous to push your body to extreme limits such as this.

Dr. Ivey-Brown recommends, “Instead of risking dehydration and heat-related illnesses on those super-hot days, take your workout inside to the treadmill. You can bump up the incline slightly and add about 5 minutes to your run. This will allow you to mimic the benefits of outdoor running while enjoying the air conditioning.”

Please note: The extra calories burned from taking your run or jog outside shouldn’t make a huge difference in the short term. If you see your weight drop drastically after a run, you can most likely link that to depleted fluid levels, which is not beneficial to your health and is something that should be addressed immediately.

Whether you’re an indoor runner or an outdoor runner, one last tip Dr. Ivey-Brown suggests is proper footwear.

“Proper footwear is extremely important to prevent injuries that could result in knee, shin or ankle pain,” she says. “A good rule of thumb is that footwear should be changed every 400-500 miles of use. If you notice the midsole is starting to feel soft, it is time for a new pair of running shoes.”

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for your article, but, I would like to share my thoughts on why I disagree and feel a treadmill workout is much safer than taking it outdoors. Firstly and foremost, the hard pavement of the outdoors is damaging to your joints. I ran for four months outside and knew I was done if I wanted to avoid knee replacement surgeries. And, while there may be inclines and terrain variations, the inclines will not be constant as you would have set on your treadmill thereby making the workout easier. And the terrain variations also do a number on your joints. I do agree with the fresh air point, but, you can always set up your treadmill near a patio door or a window! I chose to stick with my treadmill workout and it has worked for me all of my life…

    • In my opinion, treadmill is not any different in its effectiveness when it comes to burning calories and losing weight with the settings provided. Although I prefer nature with just the right temp, sunny and cool, it’s still safer to be on a treadmill. I agree, hard pavements are not good for the joints. Wearing the right pair of shoes is a must.

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About the Author

Kristen Bainbridge
Kristen Bainbridge

Kristen Bainbridge, health enews contributor, is the marketing and public affairs intern for Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, IL. Kristen is a senior Marketing major and Public Relations minor at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio., and will graduate in the spring of 2018. During the school year, Kristen will be the Marketing and Communications intern in Xavier’s Career Development Office. In her free time, Kristen loves dancing, traveling, and cheering on the Xavier basketball team. Go Musketeers!

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