Is It Better To Walk Outside Or On A Treadmill?
By Simon Gould
Walking is great exercise. The CDC says brisk walking is moderate physical activity which forms part of what you need to do regularly to lead a healthy lifestyle. You can walk anywhere and that includes inside on a treadmill. Walking is great to get you fit and to help you lose weight in addition to a healthy diet.
The health benefits of regular walking can't be underestimated. It's an exercise anyone can do and it helps the body deal with a lot of diseases and prevents them occurring. The cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) do the most work and get the most benefit. But how do those benefits compare with walking on a treadmill or outside? We answer that here.
Advantages of walking on a treadmill
For walkers the best feature a treadmill has is the incline. This can increase your fitness and calorie burn to lose weight. You can set it anywhere up to 15% and you can specify the amount of time you're walking on that incline for. This can be quite an intense workout. On a treadmill there is no traffic or people to worry about. You're in your home, so you're safe.
No where in nature can you manufacture inclines like you can on a treadmill and this helps you do power walking. Another advantage is you can stop at any time and you're still where you started from. Do this outside and you could be miles away from home. You have a console that keep track of your time and distance. We've created some treadmill walking plans you may find useful:
Disadvantages of walking on a treadmill
It's easier to walk on a treadmill. This means you have to walk for longer to burn the same calories and have the same fitness benefits. This is especially the case if you don't use the incline. Current sports science advice is to walk with a 1% or 2% incline to replicate walking outside. Holding onto the handrails makes the treadmill walk even easier.
While you can replicate walking uphill, you can't replicate walking downhill on a treadmill. The different terrain you encounter outside benefit your balance and the different muscles you use. You don't get that indoors. It's far cheaper to walk outside. Treadmills are expensive and all you need outside is a pair of walking shoes.
Advantages of walking outside
The cost is the main advantage where it doesn't cost anything apart form the price of some walking shoes. There is no treadmill to buy or pay for a membership to a health club or gym that has one. The beauty of the scenery around you, there's nothing better than to exercise in the open air, there may be a popular route you could walk round.
Walking outside is something you can do with your family or friends so the health benefits can be shared. It's also a lot more fun doing it with others than on your own. The sunshine will give you vitamin D. You get to see some beautiful scenery depending where you live. You can actually get somewhere whereas on a treadmill you're walking on the same spot.
Disadvantages of walking outside
Walking on concrete or asphalt can cause injures, especially if you do it for long periods. Shin splints aren't just the preserve of runners. Walkers can get them too. A treadmill is cushioned and so is kinder on your joints. They absorb shock and you don't get this outside on hard surfaces. You could lose your balance on the different terrain and fall.
I've mentioned safety as a benefit of treadmills and they are a great disadvantage to walking outside. Sometimes you may not have someone else to walk with and you may not feel safe on your own, especially if it's dark. You're also dependent on the weather. If it snows or is icy at certain times of the year where you are, this can make walking outside difficult.
Benefit by Walking on a treadmill and outside
Take advantage of the benefits of walking on a treadmill and outside. When the weather is too bad or your local area makes it difficult to walk outside then a treadmill is a great alternative. If a treadmill becomes your only option take advantage of the incline and other workouts you can do on it. The aim is regular exercise to almost daily so get into a routine and do both.
Beyond walking you can start running. If you've got your weight down to a suitable level, you might like to take things further then try running. The treadmill is ideal for this because you can set a pace that's good for you. Many running plans involve a walk/run routine to get you into running slowly. Our couch to 5k on a treadmill does just that and we recommend it to get you taking fitness seriously and improve your health even more.
How long you should walk for
The CDC says you should be doing 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of brisk walking. This seems like a lot and it is, but you don't have to do it all in one day and any walking is better than none. Try walking to stores instead of using the car. Try walking up stairs instead of using the elevator. All of these things will count toward your exercise time.
The best way to divide the 2 hours and 30 minutes is 30 minutes per day for 5 days a week. Perhaps there's a nice park near you that you could walk in. You could listen to your favorite audio book or music as you go and this could pass the time nicely combined with some beautiful views. Either way it's good to bring walking into your life.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? See my top 3 recommended treadmills for 2022