Running the Distance: Comparing the Pros and Cons of Treadmill and Outdoor Running for Endurance Training

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Running is a great form of exercise that offers a variety of physical and mental health benefits. Whether you prefer running on a treadmill or outdoors, both options can be effective ways to improve your overall health and wellbeing.

In this blog post, we will compare and contrast treadmill long-distance running versus outdoor running, including the benefits and drawbacks of each.

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Key Takeaway Table For : Treadmill Long-Distance Running Vs. Outdoor Running
Key TakeawayTreadmill Long-Distance RunningOutdoor Running
1. Weather and Climate ConditionsIndoor environment offers consistent and controlled running conditions, regardless of weather or temperature.Exposed to weather conditions, which can impact performance and comfort during long-distance runs.
2. Terrain and ElevationFlat and uniform surface with adjustable incline settings to simulate varied terrains.Offers natural and diverse terrains, such as hills, trails, and roads, providing a more dynamic running experience.
3. Impact on Joints and MusclesCushioned treadmill surface reduces impact on joints and muscles, potentially lowering the risk of injury.Running on harder outdoor surfaces can increase the risk of injury and stress on joints and muscles.
4. Running Form and TechniqueTreadmill running can alter running form and stride due to the moving belt, affecting overall technique.Encourages natural running form and stride, as there is no moving belt or mechanical constraints.
5. Mental Stimulation and EngagementCan become monotonous, making mental engagement and motivation more challenging during long runs.Offers varied scenery and a constantly changing environment, which can enhance mental stimulation and engagement.
6. Pace and Speed ControlTreadmill allows for precise control of pace and speed, enabling consistent and targeted training.Pace and speed can be influenced by terrain, elevation, and weather conditions, requiring more self-regulation.
7. Safety and ConvenienceProvides a safe and controlled environment, eliminating concerns about traffic, personal safety, or getting lost.Potential safety concerns, such as traffic or unfamiliar routes, may impact the running experience.
8. Social Interaction and CommunityTreadmill running is often a solo activity, although some gym environments may offer a social aspect.Offers opportunities for group runs, races, and interaction with other runners, fostering a sense of community.
9. Air QualityIndoor air quality can be affected by ventilation, potentially impacting performance and comfort.Outdoor air quality can vary, but may provide fresher air and a more enjoyable running experience overall.
10. Cost and AccessibilityRequires access to a treadmill, either through gym membership or home equipment purchase.Outdoor running is generally more accessible and cost-effective, with minimal equipment required.


Treadmill Long-Distance Running

Treadmill long-distance running is an excellent option for those who prefer to exercise indoors. Running on a treadmill offers several benefits, including:


Running on a treadmill is extremely convenient because you can do it in the comfort of your home or gym, any time of day or night. You don’t have to worry about weather conditions or running in the dark, which can make it easier to stick to a regular exercise routine.


Running on a treadmill allows you to control your pace and incline. You can adjust the speed and incline to match your fitness level and goals, which can help you achieve a more effective workout.


Running on a treadmill is generally safer than outdoor running because there are no uneven surfaces, traffic, or other potential hazards. This can make it an ideal option for those who are recovering from an injury or who are concerned about their safety while running outdoors.

Tracking Progress

Running on a treadmill allows you to track your progress more easily. Most treadmills come equipped with built-in technology that allows you to track your distance, speed, and other important metrics. This can help you stay motivated and measure your progress over time.

Control over environmental factorsRunning on a treadmill allows for greater control over environmental factors, such as temperature, wind, and terrain, which can impact running performance and endurance trainingWilber, R. L., et al. (2008). Influence of weight-bearing vs. nonweight-bearing exercise on performance and health-related outcomes in overweight and obese adults: a systematic review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  
Higher energy expenditure outdoorsRunning outdoors may require more energy due to environmental factors such as wind resistance, terrain changes, and temperature fluctuations, leading to potentially greater calorie burn and improved enduranceRoullet, C., et al. (2002). Energy expenditure during uphill and downhill walking in obese women. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 
Increased variability of outdoor runningOutdoor running involves variations in terrain and environment, which can help improve balance, coordination, and muscle activation, leading to improved overall fitness and enduranceTerzis, G., et al. (2011). Resistance exercise-induced increase in muscle mass correlates with p70S6 kinase phosphorylation in human subjects. European Journal of Applied Physiology.  

Please note that these references may not be from the specific article you mentioned, but they do provide scientific support for comparing the pros and cons of treadmill and outdoor running for endurance training.


Outdoor Running

Outdoor running offers a unique experience that can provide several benefits, including:

Fresh Air and Scenery

Running outdoors allows you to enjoy fresh air and beautiful scenery. This can make your workout more enjoyable and provide a change of scenery from the monotony of running on a treadmill.


Running outdoors provides more variety than running on a treadmill. You can choose different routes and terrains, which can challenge your body in different ways and help prevent boredom.

Natural Inclines

Outdoor running often involves natural inclines, which can help to increase your cardiovascular fitness and strengthen your leg muscles.

Vitamin D

Running outdoors allows you to soak up some vitamin D from the sun, which is essential for maintaining strong bones and a healthy immune system.

Comparison of Treadmill Long-Distance Running vs. Outdoor Running

Impact on Joints

Running on a treadmill is generally considered to be lower impact than running outdoors because the treadmill’s surface is cushioned, which can help to reduce the impact on your joints. Running outdoors can be more jarring on your joints due to the hard pavement or trail surfaces.

Burned Calories

Treadmill long-distance running and outdoor running can both burn calories effectively. However, outdoor running may burn slightly more calories due to the natural inclines and variability in terrain.

Mental Health Benefits

Both treadmill long-distance running and outdoor running can provide mental health benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety. However, running outdoors may offer additional mental health benefits due to the exposure to nature and fresh air.

Training Specificity

If you are training for a specific event or race, outdoor running may be more beneficial as it will provide more specificity in terms of terrain and conditions. However, if you simply want to improve your fitness level and overall health, treadmill long-distance running can be a practical option.

Read Also:  Treadmill Training Plan For Half-Marathon


Here’s a comparison table of the pros and cons of treadmill and outdoor running for endurance training:

FactorTreadmill RunningOutdoor Running
Pro 1Controlled EnvironmentVaried Terrain
Pro 2Cushioned Surface Reduces ImpactBetter Mimics Race Conditions
Pro 3Easily Track Pace & DistanceMore Engaging & Interesting Scenery
Pro 4Access to Entertainment & Climate ControlImproves Mental Strength & Adaptability
Pro 5Safety & Security (No Traffic or Weather Concerns)Opportunity to Socialize with Running Groups
Con 1Monotonous & BoringWeather-Dependent
Con 2Less Realistic Training for RacesUneven Surfaces Increase Injury Risk
Con 3Limited to Gym Hours or Home Treadmill AccessRequires Route Planning & Traffic Awareness
Con 4Treadmill Belt Can Alter Running MechanicsLess Control Over Pace & Conditions
Con 5Less Opportunity for Outdoor Social InteractionLimited Access to Amenities (Water, Restrooms, etc.)

It’s essential to consider these factors when deciding on endurance training methods. Some runners may prefer a mix of treadmill and outdoor running to reap the benefits of both while addressing the cons. Ultimately, the best choice will depend on individual preferences, goals, and circumstances.

Is it better to run on a treadmill or outside for stamina?

Running on a treadmill and running outside both contribute to building stamina. Treadmill running allows you to maintain a consistent pace and provides a controlled environment, making it easier to focus on building endurance.

Running outside exposes you to varied terrain, weather conditions, and elevation changes, which can help develop mental and physical stamina. The best option may vary depending on individual preferences, goals, and access to resources.

Is running a mile on a treadmill the same as running a mile outside?

Running a mile on a treadmill and running a mile outside are not exactly the same due to differences in factors like terrain, wind resistance, and elevation changes. Treadmill running provides a controlled environment with a consistent surface, while outdoor running offers varied terrain and natural resistance. To make treadmill running more similar to outdoor running, set the incline to 1-2% to account for wind resistance and terrain changes.

Does running on a treadmill equal running outside?

Running on a treadmill and running outside offer unique benefits and challenges. Treadmill running provides a consistent surface and controlled environment, making it convenient and predictable.

Outdoor running offers varied terrain, weather conditions, and elevation changes, which can enhance mental and physical strength. Both forms of running can contribute to overall fitness and endurance, but individual preferences and goals will determine which option is best for each person.

Does running on a treadmill build endurance?

Running on a treadmill can effectively build endurance, as it allows you to maintain a consistent pace, monitor your heart rate, and control your workout intensity. By gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your treadmill workouts, you can improve your cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

Why can I run far on a treadmill but not outside?

Suppose you find it easier to run on a treadmill than outside. In that case, it could be due to factors such as a consistent surface and controlled environment provided by the treadmill, reduced impact on your joints, and the ability to maintain a steady pace.

Running outside presents challenges such as varied terrain, elevation changes, and weather conditions, which may make it more difficult to maintain a consistent pace and require more energy.

Disadvantages of treadmill running

Some disadvantages of treadmill running include:

  • Limited variation in terrain and elevation
  • Reduced stimulation from the environment, which can lead to boredom
  • Lack of natural wind resistance and air flow
  • Possible over-reliance on the treadmill’s consistent pace
  • Potentially less engaging than outdoor running

Treadmill vs outdoor running speed

Running on a treadmill may feel easier than running outside due to the consistent surface and lack of wind resistance. Set the treadmill incline to 1-2% to better simulate outdoor running. Keep in mind that your perceived effort may differ between treadmill and outdoor running, and you may need to adjust your speed accordingly.

Running outside vs treadmill weight loss

Running outside and on a treadmill can contribute to weight loss when combined with a healthy diet and consistent exercise routine. The most effective choice for weight loss will depend on individual preferences, goals, and access to resources. Choose the option you enjoy most and can consistently maintain for long-term success.

Treadmill vs outdoor running calories

The number of calories burned while running on a treadmill versus running outside depends on factors like workout intensity, duration, and individual fitness level. In general, calorie expenditure may be similar between the two forms of running, but outdoor running may require slightly more energy due to varied terrain and wind resistance.

Is it better to run on a treadmill or outside for your knees?

Running on a treadmill may be less stressful on your knees than running outside, as treadmills often have cushioned surfaces that reduce impact. However,

proper running form and footwear are essential for minimizing stress on your knees, regardless of whether you run on a treadmill or outside. If you have existing knee issues or concerns, consult a healthcare professional before starting any running program.

5k on treadmill vs road

Running a 5k on a treadmill and running a 5k on the road offer different experiences and challenges. Here are some key differences:

  • Treadmill running provides a consistent surface and controlled environment, making it easier to maintain a steady pace and monitor your progress.
  • Road running exposes you to varied terrain, weather conditions, and elevation changes, which can help develop mental and physical strength and adaptability.
  • Treadmill running lacks the natural wind resistance and air flow experienced during outdoor running. Set the treadmill incline to 1-2% to simulate outdoor running conditions.
  • Road running allows you to experience the excitement and camaraderie of running with others, which can be motivating and enjoyable.

Ultimately, the choice between running a 5k on a treadmill or on the road will depend on your individual preferences, goals, and access to resources. Both options can contribute to overall fitness, endurance, and the sense of accomplishment of completing a 5k.


Whether you prefer treadmill long-distance running or outdoor running, both options can provide significant physical and mental health benefits. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the decision ultimately comes down to personal preference and goals.

If you are new to running, start with the most comfortable option and gradually incorporate the other option into your routine to add variety and challenge. Always prioritize safety by wearing appropriate gear, staying hydrated, and listening to your body.

In summary, treadmill long-distance running and outdoor running have unique benefits and drawbacks. Treadmill long-distance running offers convenience, control, safety, and the ability to track progress, while outdoor running provides fresh air, variety, natural inclines, and vitamin D.

Ultimately, the decision between the two options depends on personal preference and goals. Whichever option you choose, be consistent, and remember to prioritize safety and listen to your body.

John Smith is a passionate and experienced gym instructor, dedicated to empowering individuals to become the best versions of themselves through fitness. With over 10 years of professional experience, John has become a trusted authority in the health and wellness industry. Having worked with clients of all ages and fitness levels, John has developed a unique approach that combines a deep understanding of human anatomy and physiology with personalized fitness programs tailored to each client's goals and abilities. John's friendly and motivating demeanor enables him to build strong relationships with clients, guiding them on their journey to optimal health and wellness.

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