Treadmill Vs. Walking Outside – Which is Better?

Written by: Tim Bura

Just a couple of decades back this question would have been irrelevant. Back then we were physically active, outdoor oriented, beings. In the absence of modern amenities we used to indulge in a lot of a walking and other physically exerting activities. That’s all changed now, we lead sedentary lives and are mostly comfortable indoors than outdoors – so much so that we are now looking at indoor walking equipment like a treadmill as a viable option to walking outdoors. So treadmill vs. walking better, which is a healthier option? The answer is not “black and white”, so let’s look at it in detail.

Is Walking Outside and Using a Treadmill the Same?

Both are physical activities, both burn calories, both test your leg muscles and stamina – but no, they are not the same. Walking outside is a very different workout than using a treadmill. For starters, walking outside involves that use of many different muscles that a treadmill walk does not involve – like the glutes and hamstring muscles.

Some other notable differences between using a Treadmill Verses Walking outside are as below

  • When you walk outside you are faced with wind resistance, which causes you to exert your balance muscles and your stamina. This is not possible on a treadmill.
  • Walking outside causes you to exert a lot of forward force to move your body, this exercises your hamstring muscles, glutes and your calves in a much stronger way than the relatively easy movement on a treadmill (because the machine moves the ground for you)
  • Most roads or pathways have an incline, either downhill or uphill, this causes you to bring more muscle groups into play to adjust to the incline, this is not possible on a treadmill (you can set an incline on the machine but it does not simulate the same effect)
  • When walking outside you need to dodge puddles, pits, stones and may be stop at traffic signals – this causes you to frequently “stop and start”, this change in momentum tasks the muscles in a much greater manner than a smooth sailing on a treadmill

If you have been training on a treadmill for long, just try a long walk outside and see if you don’t end up with a lot of muscle pain (especially around the hamstring and back) the next day. This would show the number of muscles that got activated on the long walk outside, which were not activated during the treadmill training.

The Benefits of Walking on a Treadmill

Walking outside has a lot of benefits over the treadmill, but it’s not so black and white. There are several advantages to working out on a treadmill that walking outside can’t match. Here are a few to consider.

  • A treadmill allows you to set the pace, the distance and calculate the number of calories you look to burn. This sort of a calibrated and organized “calorie burning” is not possible on an outside walk.
  • Walking outside is not always a viable option. You may not be living in a very safe neighborhood, there might be a lot of pollution around, the roads and pathways may not be conducive to walking plus there is always the “weather” to consider. With treadmill you don’t have any such issues; this makes it far more convenient.
  • You have easy access to the restroom when you are training indoors on a treadmill; it can be uncomfortable to be stranded on a long walk when you really need to use the restroom.
  • Some people set fast paces on their treadmill, and more speed = more calories burnt for the same distance. While walking outside you may not be able set fast paces for your walk because of the crowd or path conditions.
  • If you use the right posture, avoid using the hand grip and exert a forward force with each movement, then you will be able to exercise a lot of muscles even on a treadmill.
  • Let’s face it, there are lot fewer excuses to avoid a workout when you have a treadmill at home than when you have to gear up for an outside walk.

So there you have it, Treadmill Vs. Walking outside, is walking outside better than using a treadmill? The answer would be – No, treadmill offers several benefits which walking outside does not, and vice versa. So you can get the best of both worlds by working out on a treadmill in the morning and going for a brisk walk outside in the evening.

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Author Info
I went through an extremely unhealthy period in my life after which I decided to change my lifestyle completely. And I am glad I did. I believe in natural living and positive thinking through inner awareness. 1.) Eat traditional natural foods. 2.) Avoid processed foods. (Once in a while is okay). 3.) Walk everyday. 4.) Eat lots of fruits and drink lots of water. 5.) Snack healthy - Raw veggies, nuts etc. 6.) Be in nature and get lots of sunlight. 7.) Meditate daily for 20 minutes. 8.) Practice relaxation.