Running On A Treadmill vs Running Outside | A Detailed Guide

When it comes to running, there is no right or wrong way to do it. They are all good as long as you are consistently running. Now the topic of Running on a Treadmill vs Running Outside is a very interesting one.

The main difference between running on a treadmill and running outside is that treadmill running is convenient, lower-impact, and precise but comes with a bigger overall cost while running outdoors is more engaging, closer to nature, and is cheaper overall.

Running outside has overall more benefits but there are some factors and circumstances that make running on a treadmill better.

For instance, if you are interested in targeting certain muscle groups, machines like treadmills will come in more handy. There are 5 different types of treadmills and you can choose one or many of them depending on the fitness goals.

You can easily focus on the lower body and cardiovascular system on a treadmill. But usually, this is not a goal that people have.

Most people want to gain maximum benefits from their cardio workouts and they are more interested in finding a way that is easier to do and will help them achieve their fitness goals.

Be it machines or outdoors, usually the concern is which one is more beneficial overall and what are the expected results from both of them?

Is Running outside better than Running on a Treadmill?

Running outside for sure is better than running on a treadmill. You get more fresh air, and you’re not confined to a running track or a short path.

However, there are certain benefits of running on a treadmill that you may not have considered. To determine whether one is better than the other, we need to dig the topic much deeper.

Running outside requires less effort than running on a treadmill. Your body is freer to move around which means a larger set of muscles can get targeted. Also, the wind direction, the inconsistent level of terrain, and in some cases the temperature outside and more fresh air makes running outside better than running on a treadmill.

Anything that is natural and organic will almost always beat the artificial and man-made. People prefer running outside but it also doesn’t mean we can totally neglect the machines because look at the modern-day athletes. Why do records get broken so often in modern-day athletics? Swimmers, runners, and overall athletes in any sport are faster than they were in the past.

A part of that performance enhancement can be credited to a better diet and more research in the field of science but surely the indoor activities with machines and the training programs have made the athletes of today better than of any past times.

Running on Treadmill (Benefits vs Drawbacks)

you can control and adjust the room temperatureodds of getting injured are higher compared to outdoor running
pace is linear and in controldifficult to maintain uneven downhill uphill kind of terrain on a treadmill
convenient because of indoor availabilityno option of taking turns, side running plus not very convenient to take a pause to stretch or take a breath
targets specific muscle groups you want to work oncan get boring, not a natural way of running

Running Outside (Benefits vs Drawbacks)

won’t cost anythingdifficult to measure calorie burns with no screen like ones installed on treadmills
prepares you for road races like marathonsdependency on weather conditions
more calories burnedcan be dangerous if your track is beside a dangerous road
you can take turns, run sideways and pause to stretch easilynot good for targeting only certain muscles
good for full body workout

Which one is better for you? (Running Outside vs Treadmill)

Running Outside is better for youRunning on a Treadmill is better for you
if you are training for a race event or a marathonif the goal is meeting and maintaining cardiovascular fitness goals
when you don’t want to stay limited to a single place of trainingwhen you want to control the pace and go linear
when you are more used to training outdoorswhen you prefer a more private environment
when your focus of training is not limited to certain muscle groups and jointswhen your focus of training is certain joints and muscle groups

Making a Choice (Running Outside vs Treadmill)

If you are OK with both running outside and running on a treadmill, we advise making use of both of them. It will benefit you in a way that you can reap the rewards of both of them.

And since you will drop the time on a treadmill, there is a lesser chance of getting injured because it’s the intensity and testing your limits for a long time that leads a discomfort to pain, which can convert into an injury.

Our advice is to use both options for maximum benefits of running workout.

Do you burn more Calories Running Outside or on the Treadmill?

On average running outside burns 5% more calories than running on a treadmill. More environmental factors are involved in running outside, which makes running outside more effort consuming and as a result running outside will burn more calories than running on a treadmill.

But this is not the general case. Up to a certain speed, running on a treadmill and running outside statistically will give you similar kinds of results and the table below is Illustrating it very well.

ParameterRunning on a TreadmillRunning Outside
Distance3.04 mi3.04 mi
Avg. Speed6.5 mph6.5 mph
Avg Pace9.16 min/mi9.17 min/mi
Calories269 C268 C
Moving Time28.1028.11
Elapsed Time28.1028.33
Avg. Moving Speed6.5mph6.5mph
Avg. Moving Pace9.16 min/mi9.17 min/mi
Max Speed7.5 mph8 mph
Best Pace0.08 min/mi0.08 min/mi
Elevation Gain0 ft13 ft
Elevation Loss0 ft13 ft
Min Elevation581 ft574 ft
Max Elevation581 ft584 ft
Avg HR155 bpm155 bpm
Max HR165 bpm170 bpm
Avg Run Cadence170 spm170 spm
Max Run Cadence183 spm181 spm
Avg Vertical Oscillation10.4 cm10.0 cm
Avg Ground Contact Time249 ms238 ms
Avg Stride Length1.02 m1.02 m

But as we said in the beginning, there is no right or wrong way when it comes to running. Run whichever way you feel more comfortable.

But do remember that run outdoors is better. Because when you run on a free surface, it’s a natural way of running. Your body is naturally used to this sort of running, for foot touching the ground is more natural, and your muscles and joints are also much more used to running on a ground than to run on a treadmill.

Running on a treadmill on the other hand is good for setting targets. Same muscles and joints get targeted at a consistent pace and terrain, which can lead to better targeted results. It can get you injured but if you don’t run on a single level on a treadmill, the chances of getting injured goes minimum to nothing.

That’s why it is recommended to keep changing the level of terrain and run speed on a treadmill every few mins or seconds to get that natural feel of running. You can watch more of it in the video below:

How long do you have to run outside to burn 500 calories?

It is impossible to measure the time it takes to burn 500 calories for an individual. Prior knowledge of variables like body weight, metabolism, body fat age and genetics is very important to determine how much time it will take to burn 500 calories for an individual.

An average human is supposed to eat 2000 calories a day, but that number is very vague… does it apply to men, women, athletes or anyone else?

Same is the case of targeting to burn a certain amount of calories. There is a lot of Math involved in How many calories a runner burns in a single run. To get know-how of what numbers will work for you, watch a short video below, it will give you a better idea of how long do you have to run outside to burn 500 calories…

How long do you have to run on a treadmill to burn 500 calories?

Treadmills are loaded with screens that show statistical data based on body weight and temperature. Now without knowledge of metabolism, body fat age, and genetics, it is impossible to determine the amount of time it will take to burn 500 calories on a treadmill. And the machines can pretty much lie in those numbers.

But the numbers are there, and it doesn’t need to be fully accurate.

If the machines say 500 calories burnt, just accept it. Don’t look for perfection unless you are an athlete and perfection matters a lot to you… In that case, you will need a trainer who is an expert in taking care of the variables involved that can accurately determine things like how long do you have to run on a treadmill to burn 500 calories.

If you are doing things on your own, there are some good practices to follow that will help you burn more calories on a treadmill. Watch them out in a video below:

How much harder is running outside than on a treadmill?

Running outside is harder. More effort is needed to run outside but if you set the treadmill on 1% grade, it pretty much emulates the outdoor running experience at a pace like 7.9 or faster, offsetting the lack of air resistance and the moving belt will give you the same experience as running outside.

But you can’t replace what is natural and outdoors with something indoors and human-made. The bodies we have is a result of evolution that took place between hundreds of thousands of years. And our bodies do change their shape, size and other things according to nature and environment with every new generation coming, there are things that will still take a lot of time to evolve and comparison of running outside and running on a treadmill is one of them. Outdoors is hard but better…

Activities that are fine to do in Outside running but not on a Treadmill:

Running Sideways on Treadmill vs Outside:

Running sideways on a treadmill is a dangerous form of running. There is absolutely no benefit in holding onto the rails of a treadmill while running sideways. You can get yourself injured if you missed a step or couldn’t hold the balance.

Unlike Treadmill, running sideways in outside running is absolutely fine and beneficial for your health.

The benefits of running sideways include:

1. Reduced impact on joints: Running on softer surfaces like sand and grass in a sideways position can reduce the impact on joints and bones and make for easier running;

2. Muscle building: Running on an uneven surface like hills or uneven terrain in a sideways position will force muscles to work hard, which builds muscle;

3. More calorie burns: Running sideways is said to be more demanding compared to straight running, because gravity will pull your body and it will require extra energy to stay up and running, resulting in more calorie burns;

4. Greater range of motion: Running sideways is one way to improve your range of motion, which is all about how far you can stretch or bend.

It can be done easily on the ground. For example, if you are sitting with your legs stretched out in front of you, walk sideways to the left and then to the right for about 20 steps each way, or until it starts making your hips hurt. Repeat this five times every day.

A more challenging version involves walking sideways up a set of stairs while holding onto the railing.

Walking Sideways on Treadmill vs Outside:

Walking sideways on a treadmill is also dangerous and can get you injured if you missed a step or lost your balance.

You can do it in outside walking to gain any benefits, but on a treadmill, it is recommended not to be done.


That’s all in running on a treadmill vs running outside. This article provides a detailed comparison of both. It covers the pros and cons of both methods and helps you decide which is right for you.

After reading this article, you should be able to decide whether running on a treadmill or running outside is best for you. Please share this article on social media to help others make the best decision for their fitness.

Also Read:

Why you can Run on a Treadmill but not Outside?

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