Treadmills vs. Outdoor Activities

Treadmills vs. Outdoor Activities Is One Better Than the Other? 

We all know one; the exercise person. The guy or gal who’s always posting “Oops, I didn’t know I was sexy” gym selfies on Instagram, extolling the virtues of the latest protein drink on Facebook and perhaps, worst of all, insisting that you just have to try the latest fitness craze with them. (Since I have the coordination of a newborn baby deer with an inner-ear problem, I think I’ll pass on the aerobic pole-dancing, thank-you-very-much.)


For those of us who are not exercise people, it’s hard to understand why someone would willingly run if they’re not A) trying to catch a train or B) being chased by a swarm of killer bees. Or is that just me?

The truth is, whether we like it or not, the vast majority of Americans could use more physical activity, especially when temperatures drop and the temptation to stay home and binge-watch Netflix is strongest. And it’s not just about weight either. Regular physical activity has myriad benefits, including but not limited to, better cardiovascular health, improved mood, and decreased levels of stress. So with that in mind, let’s have a chat about one of the most common debates amongst exercisy-types and wannabes.

Treadmill vs. Outdoor Activity

Many people want to know which provides a better workout; an indoor treadmill or elliptical machine exercising outdoors? Well, it depends on how you define a “better” workout. In short, a treadmill or elliptical is likely to be easier on your joints since the surface is more forgiving and predictable, especially for those of us returning to exercise after an injury or a long period of being sedentary.

On the other hand, outdoor activities provide other benefits that simply cannot be recreated in an indoor setting. Taking your workout outdoors gives you the chance to exercise not just your body, but your mind. Unlike working out on indoor equipment, a run, a hike, or even a gentle stroll in the park offers your brain the chance to practice proprioception – i.e. responsiveness to uneven terrain and other stimuli. The other benefit is that a walk outside requires no special equipment other than a good pair of shoes and weather-appropriate clothing (of which there are many stylish and sometimes affordable options).

If you’re still wondering which of the two options is the better workout, the answer is simple: it’s the one you can do with the most consistency. In other words, whatever gets you off the couch! And while one is not a one-size-fits-all fitness solution, a little variety is always a good thing.


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