"Going for a run" might mean lacing up your running shoes and hitting the road, or it could mean hopping on the treadmill at the gym. Both suffice when it comes to getting in your cardio, but they certainly have their differences.
Despite those differences, though, both the treadmill and running outside can have a place in your running routine — as long as you make modifications and take precautions to make your training the best it can possibly be.
There's one obvious difference, of course — a treadmill is indoors, climate-controlled and allows you to take in fluids or fuel whenever necessary. It also lets you go on a run when it's too dark outside or there's ice on the ground.
Beyond that, running on a treadmill lacks the challenge of wind resistance that outdoor training features. However, according to research in the Journal of Sports Science, you can mimic the wind resistance by setting the treadmill's incline to 1 percent.
Additionally, research published in Perceptual and Motor Skills in 2014 found that stride timing differed between treadmill and outside running. It determined that treadmill running required more control than running outside, particularly at speeds that aren't comfortable to the runner.
Finally, the treadmill isn't capable of simulating a downhill run or the effort it takes to make turns — important if you're training for a race outside that could have hills or twisty turns.
There are definitely some advantages of the treadmill over running outside, though — the surface of a treadmill is cushier, so it doesn't impact your joints like the street or a sidewalk can. While there's no research that shows that one surface is more likely to cause injury than another, according to Outside, you might feel a little better when you've finished a long run on the treadmill versus outside on pavement.
And, the treadmill gives you the safest option at night or in packed cities where you're competing with cars for space.
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No matter where you do it, a run is still a run. According to RunnersConnect, running on a treadmill is just as effective as running outside, as determined by the aerobic requirements.
On top of that, you'll burn the same number of calories. While the specific number that you burn while running depends on your size, it's generally about 100 calories per mile.
You'll also get the same type of cardio benefits, no matter where you run — that is, the potential for weight loss, a stronger heart and lungs, increased bone density, reduced risk of heart disease, better sleep and a better mood.
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