The treadmill: convenient…but effective?

The treadmill: convenient…but effective?

Running on a treadmill may be more convenient, but is it effective?

New research shows that you may actually need to run 15 percent faster on your treadmill to achieve the same results as running outdoors.

Dr. Mark Neault, an Advocate Medical Group orthopedic surgeon with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., offers more insight into the automated vs. self-propelled running conversation.

“Running outdoors is a completely different experience than a treadmill…. both for the mind and the body. Outdoor running is often less monotonous and can prevent boredom sometimes experienced on a treadmill,” he says. “Running outdoors may be more efficient in some ways, as your body is propelling itself forward against the ground. You are not simply keeping up with the motorized belt under your feet on a treadmill.”

He adds that the change of terrain and direction of running outdoors can help limit some repetitive stress injuries seen during running.

A different study was conducted to detect the possible injury risk for running on the treadmill. The study tested and compared the force to knees and the force to ankles.

While it found there was no observable difference for the knees, the treadmill running resulted in 14.2 percent more force on the Achilles tendon than outdoor running. This force may take a serious toll on a runner’s ankles over time.

Dr. Neault has noticed more patients come in with running-related stress injuries stemming from consistent treadmill running.

“Treadmill running may result in some repetitive stress injuries. In addition, we see more muscle and tendon tightness in the treadmill runners, such as hamstrings. This tightness can come from the fixed gait that one sees on a treadmill in absence of the geographic variations of an outdoor path,” he says.

He suggests the following ways to help prevent some of these treadmill issues:

  • Avoid setting a fixed speed for a long period of time on a treadmill. Do not set the speed at 6 mph and run for 30 minutes.
  • Try to vary the speed and timing of a run by using intervals when running on the treadmill, such as slightly boosting the speed or ramp increase throughout the run.
  • Beware of the incline! Even though the incline is enticing to help speed up your workout, using the incline on your treadmill is not easy on your knees, and frequently results in anterior knee pain.

Sharon Kuhn, certified running coach and personal trainer at Advocate Condell Centre Club, emphasizes, “As with any physical activity, start slow and gradually build.  Listen to your body.  If you have any trouble breathing, or feel any pain stop or slow down.”

Overall, remember that while the treadmill is a great way to squeeze in a run with limited time or alternatives, the better option is to lace up and hit the path or road.


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One Comment

  1. Thanks for lovely tips. Sometimes I feel boredom from treadmill. This article help me to avoid
    setting fixed speed for a long period of time on a treadmill.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.