When it comes to walking for exercise, there are two main routes that you can choose: you can either get outside or hop onto the treadmill. Each mode presents its own unique benefits, but is one form of exercise better than the other?
Comparing Walking Outside Vs. On a Treadmill
The physical benefits of walking outside or walking on a treadmill can vary widely based on a couple of different factors.
Walking outside will generally give you more terrain variety, which increases the difficulty and can lead to an increased caloric burn. For example, if your walking path includes some incline and decline, it will present more of a challenge than walking on a flat treadmill.
On the other hand, some treadmills will give you more control. You can generally adjust the incline and decline, and some treadmills even have options that automatically change the incline settings throughout your workout to mimic outdoor walks.
The calories you burn depends completely on the intensity of the walk. As an estimate, walking outside for an hour at a moderate pace can burn roughly 314 calories, while walking at the same pace on a treadmill would burn slightly fewer calories unless you adjusted the incline settings.
One interesting thing to note about walking outside vs walking on a treadmill is that the forward motion is created differently. If you’re walking outside, you are creating the forward moment; on the other hand, when you walk on a treadmill, the track creates that forward movement for you. This doesn’t necessarily change the physical benefits of either, though. Whether you’re walking on a track or heading outside, you’ll be working your muscles about the same.
On the other hand, the impact on your muscles will vary slightly, which is important to note for the sake of potential injuries. Without changing the track inclines, treadmill exercise will stress the same tendons, muscles, and joints more. On the other hand, walking outside puts you at more risk of tearing knee ligaments because of the hard pavement, plus you are more at risk of injury from other obstacles.
4 Benefits of Walking Outside
Some benefits of choosing to walk outside include:
- Walking outside might be more enjoyable. One study found that people who walked outside were more likely to walk faster and feel less tired after their exercise. This could be a real advantage for making walking part of your exercise routine. If you enjoy it, you’re more likely to do it more often!
- Being outside has been shown to boost your mood. Getting outside and into nature might also be a major benefit for your mental health. Research has shown that being outdoors can be therapeutic and lead to lower blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- You don’t need any special equipment. If you choose to walk outside, rather than using a treadmill, you don’t need much more than a good pair of walking shoes and weather-appropriate clothing.
- In current times, it may be a safer and more accessible choice. This depends on how you would access a treadmill, but walking outside may be a safer option to avoiding cross-contamination and illness. If your treadmill is at a gym, for example, walking outside may be a better option for social distancing and avoiding potential exposure to viruses.
On the other hand, if your treadmill is in your own home, this would not present the same challenges.
3 Benefits of Walking on a Treadmill
On the other hand, treadmills come with their own share of unique benefits.
- More control over your walk. Many treadmills come with several settings so you can customize your exercise. If you were looking for a more difficult exercise, you would be able to simply walk at an incline or decline the entire time, whereas you wouldn’t be able to control that setting in nature unless you specifically chose a more difficult trail to walk.
- Better for exercising during bad weather conditions. One major benefit that treadmills have over walking outside is that you are better protected from the elements. During storms or extreme weather conditions, treadmills allow you to get a good workout without being exposed to the outdoors, so you can use them year-round.
- Digital displays give you an idea of calories burned, distance walked, etc. Treadmills are very useful in that you have a digital display in front of you that can give you a good idea of how strenuous your activity was. Many even have heart-rate monitors so you can see just how hard you’ve been working
In conclusion, there are significant benefits of both walking outside and walking on a treadmill, so you can do a little bit of each to get the best of both worlds.