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Why Running Outside is Better Than the Treadmill

Running is an exceptional activity for both the body and mind, and there are many benefits to undertaking this exercise. One of the main ways people incorporate running into their fitness routine is through the use of a treadmill. While running on a treadmill has its advantages, outdoor running provides unique benefits that cannot be replicated indoors. From physical and mental health benefits to a connection to nature and the environment, here are all the reasons why running outside is better than the treadmill.

The Physical Benefits of Outdoor Running

Improved Muscle Activation and Strength

Running outdoors offers a unique challenge to the body that can lead to improved muscle activation and strength. When running outside, the muscles of the legs, hips, and core are engaged to a greater extent than when running on a treadmill. This is because outdoor surfaces, such as roads and trails, have varying degrees of incline, which actively engages the body’s muscles. The uneven terrain of outdoor running also requires more balance and coordination, strengthening muscles that are often neglected during treadmill sessions.

Furthermore, running outside allows you to take in the fresh air and natural scenery, which can help to reduce stress levels and improve mental wellbeing. Research has shown that exposure to green spaces can have a positive impact on mood and cognitive function, making outdoor running a great way to improve both physical and mental health.

Better Balance and Coordination

Another benefit of running outside is the improvement in balance and coordination. The various surfaces and terrain of outdoor running require a bit of flexibility, agility, and balance to be able to maintain your footing. This can also help to reduce the risk of falls and sprains, making outdoor running a safer option.

Moreover, running outside provides a great opportunity to explore new areas and discover new routes. This can help to keep your workouts interesting and prevent boredom, which is often a common issue with indoor workouts.

Increased Calorie Burn

For those looking to burn more calories, running outside may be a better option than the treadmill. The activation of more muscles during outdoor running results in a higher calorie burn than on a treadmill. This is because the body has to work harder to navigate uneven terrain and integrate different muscles. Studies have shown that running outside can burn up to 5-7% more calories than running on a treadmill.

Additionally, running outside can help to improve cardiovascular health and endurance, which can lead to better overall fitness levels and a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Reduced Impact on Joints

Finally, outdoor running is also easier on the joints than running on a treadmill. The varying terrain allows for a more natural stride than the consistent motion of the treadmill, which can help to reduce the risk of injuries. Additionally, treadmills have a reputation of being harsh on the knees, hips, and ankles. Running outside provides a change in terrain that leads to lower joint stress and a lower risk of injury over time.

Overall, running outside offers a range of physical and mental benefits that can help to improve overall health and wellbeing. So, lace up your running shoes and hit the great outdoors for your next workout!

The Mental Health Advantages

Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Running outside has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improving overall mood and well-being. Fresh air and sunshine, which aren’t available indoors, helps to reduce inflammation and stress levels, improving mental health. Outdoor running is also an easy way to disconnect from technology and connect with nature, providing a sense of calmness and relaxation.

Research has shown that spending time in green spaces, such as parks or forests, can significantly reduce stress levels. The natural environment has a calming effect on the mind and body, reducing the production of stress hormones and increasing feelings of relaxation.

Furthermore, running outside can also help to reduce symptoms of anxiety. The rhythmic movement of running can have a meditative effect, helping to calm the mind and reduce anxious thoughts.

Improved Mood and Well-being

Outdoor running stimulates the production of endorphins and other mood-boosting chemicals, leading to an increased sense of well-being. The feeling of freedom while running outside can help to decrease negative feelings like depression and anxiety. Sunshine also helps stimulate vitamin D production leading to improved overall health.

In addition to the physical benefits, running outside can also have a positive impact on mental health. Research has shown that spending time in nature can improve mood and self-esteem, leading to a greater sense of well-being.

Moreover, running outside can provide a sense of accomplishment and boost self-confidence. Setting and achieving goals, such as running a certain distance or completing a challenging route, can improve self-esteem and overall mood.

Increased Focus and Creativity

Running outside has been shown to improve focus and stimulate creativity, leading to new ideas and solutions to problems. Exposure to nature and fresh air can help to alleviate mental fatigue, leading to a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm for life.

Research has shown that spending time in nature can improve cognitive function, including attention and memory. Running outside can provide a mental break from the demands of daily life, allowing the mind to recharge and refocus.

In addition, running outside can stimulate creativity by providing a change of scenery and new sensory experiences. Being exposed to different sights, sounds, and smells can inspire new ideas and ways of thinking.

Greater Motivation and Enjoyment

Outdoor running can be more enjoyable than running on a treadmill, making it easier to stay motivated. Running outside provides a change of scenery, and you might encounter different natural habitats or wildlife, providing motivation to explore your surroundings.

In addition to the physical benefits, running outside can also be a social activity. Joining a running group or running with friends can provide motivation and accountability, making it easier to stick to a regular exercise routine.

Furthermore, running outside can provide a sense of adventure and exploration. Discovering new routes and exploring different areas can make running more enjoyable and exciting.

The Connection to Nature and Environment

Running is not just a physical activity, it is also a way to connect with nature and the environment. When you run outside, you get to experience the beauty of the world around you, and this can have a positive impact on your overall well-being.

Exposure to Fresh Air and Sunshine

Running outdoors provides exposure to fresh air and sunshine, two things that are often missed while running on a treadmill in a gym. Fresh air can help to clear the mind and improve respiratory health, while sunshine helps to increase vitamin D levels, improving overall health and well-being.

Additionally, being outside in nature can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your mood. The sights, sounds and smells of the natural world can have a calming effect on the mind and body, leaving you feeling refreshed and energized.

Varied Terrain and Scenery

The varied terrain and scenery of outdoor running make for a more interesting and challenging workout. Each outdoor run is different, depending on location, season, or time of day, making it more engaging than the constant monotony of a treadmill. This also provides a sense of accomplishment as you explore new trails and routes.

Running on different types of terrain can also help to improve your balance and coordination, as well as strengthen different muscle groups. For example, running on a hilly trail can help to improve your leg strength and endurance, while running on a sandy beach can help to strengthen your feet and ankles.

Opportunities for Social Interaction

Running outside provides opportunities for social interaction that aren’t available on a treadmill. You can join a running group, run with a friend or family member, or even meet new people during outdoor runs. Social interaction can improve motivation, accountability, and make running more fun and enjoyable.

Running with others can also help to push you out of your comfort zone and improve your performance. When you run with someone who is slightly faster or more experienced than you, you may find yourself running faster or farther than you thought possible.

Environmental Awareness and Appreciation

Running outside connects you to your local environment and allows you to appreciate natural surroundings. This can increase environmental awareness and appreciation, leading to mindfulness about conservation and environmentalism.

By running outside, you can become more aware of the impact that humans have on the environment, and take steps to reduce your own carbon footprint. For example, you may choose to run to work instead of driving, or participate in a local park clean-up event.

Overall, running outside is not just a way to improve your physical health, it is also a way to connect with nature, build community, and make a positive impact on the environment.

Tips for Transitioning from Treadmill to Outdoor Running

Gradual Transition and Adaptation

If you’re used to running on a treadmill, transitioning to outdoor running can take some time, so start with short, easy runs and gradually build up your endurance and distance. Your body will adapt to the new surfaces and demands of outdoor running over time.

It’s important to note that outdoor running can be more challenging than running on a treadmill. The uneven terrain, hills, and wind resistance can all impact your pace and endurance. So, don’t be discouraged if your first few outdoor runs are slower or shorter than your treadmill runs.

Proper Footwear and Gear

Wearing proper footwear and gear is crucial when transitioning to outdoor running. Trail shoes with good tread or road shoes with enough cushion should be worn to avoid any unnecessary accidents. It’s also important to replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles to ensure adequate support and cushioning.

In addition to proper footwear, dressing appropriately for the weather is key to a comfortable and safe outdoor run. In colder weather, layer up with moisture-wicking clothing to stay warm and dry. In warmer weather, wear light-colored, breathable clothing and apply sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

Safety and Precautions

When running outside, safety should be your top priority. Be sure to stay aware of your surroundings, especially near traffic. Consider wearing a reflective vest, especially in low-light settings, to increase visibility to drivers. If you’re running in a secluded area, bring a whistle or personal alarm with you for added safety.

If you’re running alone, let someone know your planned route and expected return time. It’s also a good idea to carry your phone with you in case you need help or directions if lost.

Finding the Right Running Route

Exploration while running outside on a new route can be fun; ensure you plan your route ahead of time, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar area. Google Maps, AllTrails, and MapMyRun provide different options to plan your routes to your liking.

When selecting a running route, consider the terrain, traffic, and safety. Look for routes with a mix of hills and flat terrain to challenge your body and improve your endurance. If you’re looking for a scenic route, consider running in a local park or nature reserve.

Remember, the key to a successful transition from treadmill to outdoor running is patience and persistence. With time and practice, you’ll be able to enjoy all the benefits of running in the great outdoors.

Overcoming Common Outdoor Running Challenges

Outdoor running is an excellent way to stay fit and healthy. However, it comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some tips to help you overcome common outdoor running challenges.

Dealing with Weather Conditions

Running in different weather conditions can be a challenge. In hot weather, it is essential to keep hydrated and wear lightweight clothing to prevent heat exhaustion. On the other hand, in colder weather, layering up is crucial to keep warm. Wearing reflective clothing is also important when running in low-light conditions. In extreme temperatures or inclement weather, it is best to run indoors or take a rest day.

Running in the rain can be a refreshing experience, but it is essential to take precautions to avoid getting sick. Wearing a waterproof jacket and shoes can help keep you dry. It is also crucial to dry your shoes and clothes after running to prevent bacteria and odor buildup.

Navigating Uneven Surfaces

Uneven surfaces can be a challenging part of outdoor running. Watch out for potholes, tree roots, or rocks that can catch your feet and potentially cause injury. Running with an upright posture and landing on the ball of your feet will reduce the risk of tripping or falling. Running on different surfaces like grass or sand can also help improve your balance and stability.

Staying Motivated and Consistent

Motivation and consistency are crucial for success when transitioning to outdoor running. Set achievable goals for yourself and track your progress. Joining a running group or getting a running buddy can provide accountability and motivation. It is also essential to be flexible and adaptable and incorporate outdoor running into your routine along with your treadmill workouts when running outside is not possible.

Listening to music or podcasts can also help you stay motivated during your runs. You can also try changing your route or exploring new trails to keep your runs exciting and challenging.

Balancing Outdoor and Treadmill Running

The best way to balance outdoor and treadmill running is to combine them effectively. Outdoor running should be incorporated into your routine regularly, while treadmill running can be helpful on days when running outside is not possible, or when weather or schedules make it challenging.

Running on a treadmill can also be beneficial for improving your speed and endurance. You can adjust the incline and speed to simulate outdoor running conditions. It is essential to maintain good posture and form while running on a treadmill to prevent injury.

Remember to take rest days and allow your body to recover after intense workouts. Incorporating stretching and strength training exercises can also help improve your running performance and prevent injuries.


Outdoor running provides many physical, mental, and environmental benefits that cannot be replicated on a treadmill. Improved muscle activation and strength, reduced stress and anxiety, increased exposure to nature, and opportunities for social interaction are just some of the many benefits of running outside. While treadmill running has its advantages, incorporating outdoor running into your routine can take your running experience to the next level, providing an exciting and enjoyable way to stay fit and healthy.