Treadmill VS Outdoor Running: Which is Better?

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Animation by Health chronicle explaining which is better – Running on a treadmill or running outside and why.

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Is running on a treadmill as good/ healthy as running outside?

Let’s face it, sometimes getting a good, brisk walk on a treadmill, or knocking out a 5K in the gym is all we can manage to stick to our fitness goals. Are we missing out on some key benefits by running on a treadmill instead of taking our run outside, though?

Running on a treadmill would seem to offer the very same benefits. If you run at the same pace for the same amount of time, even adjusting the incline to match the challenge of running an actual hill outdoors, you’re still going to burn the same number of calories and build the same number of fast-twitch fibers in your muscles. You’ll improve your cardiovascular health just the same, too, but here’s what you aren’t getting out of your treadmill workout in the gym:

1. Being outdoors improves your mood. Any cardiovascular exercise helps to create feel-good endorphins that contribute to the “runner’s high” we’ve all heard about, but mother nature offers a color palate – blues and greens – known to help us feel happy. Then there’s the sunlight. The last time I checked, most gyms are lit with grotesque fluorescent lights which make even the most fit athlete look like death warmed over. They also don’t expose us to Vitamin D – an important nutrient which helps us feel great, but that also fights against cancer, bone deterioration and even seasonal depressive disorder.
2. Being outdoors can help attention restoration. There is a disorder named for our inability to focus on anything. If you’ve noticed your attention span is about as long as a flea, then you likely need to restore your cognitive abilities. Taking your run, and other physical activities outdoors gives your brain a rest. So, though might be able to watch the next episode of your favorite television program while on the treadmill, simply being outside will give your mind the rest it truly deserves. Your body also gets what it craves too – movement!
3. Being outdoors reduces the incidence of cardiac arrest, Running outside can help decrease inflammation, spurs weight loss, and can even help you sleep better.
4. Exercise already slows aging by helping the body scavenge free radicals, but being outdoors increases anti-aging factors by at least 35%. Research published by the Journal of Aging health found that spending time outdoors even helps people suffering from dementia and other diseases more commonly found among the elderly.
5. Being outdoors will inspire you to run farther. Boredom is a big reason we don’t make it that extra mile when we’re clocking them. Researchers have found that simply being outside can inspire us to run a little farther, or challenge our bodies in a new way. Maybe we take a different route or run downhill instead of uphill for a change. The added variety is good for muscle confusion, and the sights and sounds of being outside can make running much more interesting.

The next time you think of driving to the gym, finding your favorite treadmill, and knocking out a few miles, reconsider taking your workout outdoors. You’ll be smarter, happier, and live longer for it.


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