- Pros: Aside from the aforementioned safety and measurement concerns, treadmills also offer some advantages over trails. Controlled climate, lack of pests, fewer potential allergens, and protection from the elements are just a few. Treadmills are also great for those who are just getting into running, and who need a little distraction or incentive (like watching America’s Next Top Model on TV). Additionally, treadmills are largely regarded as a little easier on the joints, because they’re built to offer some support and cushioning to the foot, ankle, knee, and hip during landing. They’re also less likely to result in, you know, you falling over, and offer the most comprehensive feedback.
- Cons: I’ll admit it: I’m a lazy treadmiller. Which means I almost always, in the interest of distance and speed, forgo much of an incline. Unfortunately, that really cheats me out of a challenging workout–and I’m not alone. One often-cited 1996 study demonstrated that a 1% incline is the best match for an outdoor run. So as long as you’re actually challenging yourself with incline, you can thwart this little drawback. Treadmills are also, for many distance runners, just plain less fun. Training for a marathon? Good luck trying not to go crazy with boredom on your 20th mile basically standing in the same place.
What’s the consensus? It turns out, it’s really just down to your preference. One 2008 study echoed findings of previous studies which indicated that the kinetics of running was pretty much the same regardless of whether it was done indoors or out, because people would adjust to wherever they were.
No matter where you actually end up sweating it out, as long as you’re doing it regularly (one study demonstrated that long breaks from exercise can be the most detrimental) and you’re doing it safely, correctly, and at distance and pace that results in an increased heart rate (I promise to give up my 0% incline if you do, ok?), you’re getting the benefits of a combined cardio and strength workout. Just run whichever way you’re less likely to excuse your way out of, and rest assured that you’re doing something great for your body.
Image: Blazej Lyjak via Shutterstock