As the weather warms up, many of us will turn to the great outdoors to get some fresh air and exercise. If nothing else, you will likely notice more walkers, joggers, or runners during your commute or around your neighborhood. Running is a great choice of exercise as it provides wonderful benefits, inside and out.
If you were to ask a runner which they prefer, to run indoors or outside, we can guarantee they will have an opinion about it. However, did you know that choosing between running indoors on a treadmill or bracing the great outdoors for your workout can impact your feet differently?
Benefits of running outside
Many athletes believe that it is a more effective workout to run outdoors as you use more energy to propel yourself forward as you run. Depending on whether you are running on grass, the beach, a track, or trail, the terrain will vary your every step. The changing slopes and uneven surfaces of varying terrains can strengthen multiple muscles and ligaments within your legs.
For many, it is hard to beat the appeal of a beautiful day outside as opposed to monotonous scenery if you choose to workout indoors. If you are a competitive athlete, working outdoors or along the race route allows your body to better adapt. You are also able to maintain a more natural gait by running outside as you are not limited to the parameters of a machine.
Benefits of using a treadmill
When using a treadmill, everything is controlled. The temperature, environment, speed, and incline are unchanging. This can be beneficial if the weather or temperature is not in your favor or if you prefer to workout indoors. Running on the cushioned belt can be more forgiving on your joints compared to running outside on harder surfaces such as ashplant or a track.
For beginners or those recovering from injury, a treadmill is a great option as it is low impact and can be entirely controlled. It is also a great option if you just want to incorporate fast cardio into a larger indoor workout regimen.
Risks associated with a treadmill
There is a misconception that running on treadmills is bad for you. This is not true, but there are limitations to indoor workouts. A treadmill will eventually max out on incline and speed and it cannot simulate downhill running. The controlled feature of a treadmill may be nice, but it does not vary your steps which may lead to certain muscle overuse injuries.
Risks associated with running outside
The varying terrain and steps can prove more dangerous in terms of injuries that can result in a twisted knee or broken limb. Other common injuries for outdoor runners include knee ligament wear and tear. Outdoor exercise relies on you to push yourself forward. This can put more strain and stress on your legs, increasing your risk for stress fractures and injury.
Which should you use?
If you want to become a stronger runner, we recommend doing a combination of both indoor and outdoor workouts. This enables you to build well-rounded muscles while still getting great cardiovascular workouts. By varying your surfaces, you provide an opportunity for bored muscles to gain more experience. Using multiple surface alternatives to your workout can provide different benefits for whatever improvement a runner may be seeking.
When the weather is unfavorable or you are short on time, using the treadmill can be a great use for cardio workouts. Be sure to vary your speed and incline to resolve the issue of overused muscles. If you have time for a nice run outside, do it! Avoid running on the pavement to limit the impact on your legs when possible. Rubber tracks, grass, dirt, trails, and sand are all great options for your course.
No matter which option you choose, the benefits of regular exercise greatly outweigh the risks. Consult with your doctor on which terrain is best for you if you have certain health conditions. For more information on running and which surface is best for you, contact Loren Miller, DPM today.