Outdoors or on a treadmill? What's the best way to get up and running?

·4-min read
Running lowers blood pressure, improves endurance and strengthens the immune system, all while working multiple muscles at the same time.

Should you run outdoors or on a treadmill? That is the question. If you want to get back into running before the summer getaway but you can't decide whether to pound the streets or head to the gym, here's a look at some of the advantages -- and disadvantages -- of these two different ways of running.

Which is better for your health? Running outside or indoors on a treadmill? Whatever your choice, it's important to keep in mind the many benefits of running. As well as lowering blood pressure, it improves endurance and strengthens the immune system. Plus, while evidently working lower body muscles (calves, hamstrings and quadriceps), running also uses the abdominal muscles.

Nothing beats the great outdoors...

Among the many sports we might have practiced at school, there is one that is universal: running. Synonymous with suffering for some, or an easy way to a good grade for others, running or jogging in adulthood is full of benefits. Even before you take a step, outdoor air quality can be up to 10 times better than the air in your home*, which could be motivation enough to get you out of the house.

Plus, if the sun is shining, getting out for a run can help you can fill up on vitamin D. Exposure to the sun twice a week for 15 to 30 minutes is enough for your body to metabolize vitamin D, according to the French anti-cancer association, La Ligue Contre le Cancer.

If you're running to lose weight, an outdoor session can be a good way to boost results, because the temperature is generally lower than in your home or gym. To warm up, your body will burn more calories.

Running is a sport, but it's also a way to get around and explore. Covering slopes, heights or even uneven ground can work your joints and boost your motivation, as well as your balance. And, if you have a park or a forest nearby, running in a green space can make you feel connected to nature, while leading to improved self-esteem, lower stress and increased creativity, according to a series of studies.

… except, perhaps, a treadmill?

Run for miles in the comfort of your home or gym. Treadmills let you run without going out or planning a route, which can be very practical in terms of organization. Plus, they usually have built-in programs for simulating hills or intervals, and controls to change the difficulty and duration of a run.

Treadmills can also help better track or manage your performance. In fact, running at a moderate speed -- which can be set and kept constant on a treadmill -- can help you lose weight and build strength. Here, there's no need to think about controlling your pace, as the machine does it for you.

And you can even catch up on your favorite shows while exercising, since some treadmills -- especially in gyms -- have built-in screens. While some offer access to video platforms, others feature interactive games to help keep boredom at bay, or show landscape scenery.

For an optimal session, it's recommended to set the treadmill to a 1% incline in order to get muscles working and up the effort.

Watch your back (and your legs)

However, whether outdoors or on a treadmill, running is a high-impact sport that can cause trauma to the body. The repeated shocks from your footsteps can damage your back and potentially cause pain. Each time your foot hits the ground, the body absorbs up to three times your weight. To limit the impact on your body, it's important to get kitted out with a good pair of running shoes, which support the ankle and ensure proper positioning of the foot. In addition, taking the time to warm up and stretch will limit the risk of injury.

In the end, both ways of running have their advantages and disadvantages, and choosing just one could limit your opportunities for a great workout. In fact, the takeaways from this endless debate seem to be that both ways complement each other, and that the most important thing is probably just to get up and running.

*according to a study published in the journal sciencedirect in 2016

Louis Tardy

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