Treadmill or Running Outside – What’s Best for You?

Treadmill or Running Outside – What’s Best for You?

What’s better, a treadmill or running outside? If you folks had a choice, which would it be? Treadmills are a bit boring, right? It doesn’t seem to make sense that more and more people are putting treadmills in their homes. Given the choice, why would anyone use a treadmill? Well, this deserves more thorough investigation.

Treadmill or Running Outside – The Downside of Buying a Treadmill

The Cost.

Well, if you are deciding between a treadmill or running outside, you need to know that treadmills range in price from £25 at a garage sale to more than £2000 retail for a club quality machine with all the bells and whistles. However, if you buy at the bottom end, your treadmill won’t be any fun whatsoever and it won’t last long. You want to buy a machine that’s going to last. The good news is that there are some very high quality treadmills that can be had for not too far north of the £700 mark. We’re talking bullet proof tanks here.  So if you haven’t yet already made a decision, let’s talk about the rest of the issues.

Maintenance and Breakdowns.

Treadmills require maintenance (well, I guess the streets do to, but that’s not your problem). The big concern is keeping the walking belt adequately lubricated. If you don’t, two things will happen. First, the belt will start balking while you’re running. I can tell you from experience that that is disconcerting. The problem here too is once it gets to that point, you’ve probably done some damage to the belt. If damage to the belt is great enough, you will have to replace it. Replacing a belt on a treadmill is not a task for the layman. You’ll want to get a pro to come out to your home to do the job. So between a treadmill or running outside, the street wins from a maintenance standpoint.


When it comes to choosing between a treadmill or running outside, safety is a critical issue. Treadmills are dangerous on a couple of levels. A fall that can result in injury or in a  rare case death. All modern treadmills are equipped with safety devices that will stop the machine in the event of a fall. However, the person using the treadmill must insert one end of the safety string into the treadmill and the other end must be attached to the users clothing. In the event of a fall, the end in the machine is detached cutting off the electricity and the treadmill stops. However, the safety device does no good if not attached. That’s why falls frequently result in severe injury or death. The other part of the treadmill safety issue is children. Let’s face it, a treadmill is an attractive nuisance. It’s food for thought if you have children.

Ever wondered which is really easier?

Well, it is far tougher running outside. What? Working out on a treadmill is way easier than running on the street. Ever heard of wind resistance? You are not going to have much of that in your home. If you are running against the wind you are going to burn more calories. When you are running on streets, paths, the beach, etc., you are constantly having to adjust to the surface. When you are on a treadmill, you’re just putting one foot in front of the other because you know there are no surprises coming.

When deciding between running on a treadmill or running outside, there is also the running surface that needs to be considered. If you are running outside, you are going to be running on asphalt, concrete, sand, dirt, grass, mud, etc. All of these surfaces are much tougher to run on than the very soft, very forgiving belt and deck of a treadmill. Again, this is tougher on your body and causes you to burn more calories. Lastly, there is also a mind body disconnect that takes place when you run on a treadmill.

Running on a treadmill requires so little concentration that you can do things like watch TV. That lack of concentration is an indicator of the fact that you are really not working all that hard. Try relaxing like that when you’re out running on a trail somewhere. You’ll quickly find yourself flat on your face.

Fresh Air

If you’re running indoors, your missing out on the fresh air and the beauty of the great outdoors. Likewise, running on a treadmill can be downright boring sometimes. I mean, how many reruns of The Golden Girls can you watch?

Treadmill or Running Outside – Reasons You Might Want a Treadmill


Of course, it’s far more convenient to get a nice workout in without ever leaving your home. No nasty weather to deal with. Let’s face it, in some parts of the country this is just about the only way you are going to get to run several months of the year. If you can’t afford a treadmill at home, you’re going to have to go to a gym. Gyms cost money and you’ll waste a lot of time going back and forth. Likewise, I’ve been to gyms that certainly didn’t offer the best customer experience. Gyms don’t offer a lot of privacy and they all have signs warning you that they are not responsible for someone stealing your stuff.


If you are really out of shape and trying to figure out which would be best for you, a treadmill is a great way to get started again. Remember, you have a very soft running surface which will reduce impact and therefore cushion joints and muscles. Remember too that there is a motor moving the belt (and you) along so you are using less energy than you would on the street.


When you think about the choice between a treadmill or running outside, there are some safety concerns that come with using a treadmill and there are just as many to worry about when running outside. If you are running outside in an urban or suburban setting, you’ve got to be concerned.  If you are a woman, there are obvious risks running in bad neighborhoods. You also need to worry about traffic.  If you run out in the country, you run the risk of attack by wild animals.

So what’s better if you have some injuries, a treadmill or running outside? Already have injuries or problems with feet or joints. Again, the soft ride of treadmill can make running possible again for those with bad hips, knees ankles or feet.

Overall Progress

Treadmills have pretty sophisticated computers that allow you to closely monitor heart rate, calories burned, distance run, laps run, time, distance, etc. This allows you to really keep track of what’s happening during any particular workout and your overall progress at the same time.


So, if you are still trying to figure out what’s best for you, remember, there will be trade offs not matter what you decide. You need to consider safety, cost, convenience, and maintenance among other things. Myself, I use the treadmill far more often than running outdoors anymore. My hips just can’t take the pounding anymore. However, I also put a lot of variety in the way I work out. I enjoy swimming, hiking, biking, golf and skiing on a regular basis. I like to keep it fun. So, do what keeps you happy and fit. An remember, running on a treadmill or running outside are not mutually exclusive; both can be part of a healthy work program.

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