The Treadmill Myth

Exercising can be a great and healthy way to release stress and ensure you don’t gain that dreaded freshman 15. While running outside can give you all the cardio you need for the day and can give you a break from all the pressures of school and work, this may soon not be an option. If the weather continues to get colder, then we will soon be having to find alternative ways to exercise. While heading to the gym is great, and lifting weights is very beneficial, I have wondered what my alternative to outdoor running will be. This has led me to one question: Is running on a treadmill helpful or harmful? Now while I don’t mind running on a treadmill, I am curious as to whether it is as beneficial as running outdoor, or even on the indoor tracks. If it indeed does more harm than good, I will have to switch my training, so I need to know.unknown-1

I thought the best way to answer this burning question would be to do a cost benefit analysis and decide which form of exercise is truly going to be the best.

The Benefits:

Running on a treadmill can be useful because of the technology. An obvious benefit to using a treadmill is the ability to control the speed at which you run. When you run on a treadmill, you don’t face the obstacles that running outside can bring. There is no need to fight the wind current, or worry about the sturdiness of the ground. When running on a treadmill you have the luxury of the belt tracking your mileage, and being a constant surface. Also, if the weather is bad, it is safer and easier to go for a nice, paced run on the treadmill. Also if we compare the effect on the body, it may actually b better to run on the treadmill. A study was done by the University of Delaware that came to this conclusion. The study was published on the Huffington Post and after having the participants run at a speed of 3.5 m/s while they measured the knees, hips, and ankles, they found that there was very little difference between running on a treadmill and running outside. Meaning there is really no negative effect to running on a treadmill, as opposed to outside. Another study shows that running outside can put more strain on your knees, which can cause people to lean towards running on a treadmill. This was helpful for me because I have struggled with knee problems, due to a heavy gait, in the past and being able to run on a treadmill is very beneficial.


However, another article makes the claim that running on a treadmill can be harmful to your knees because unless you move the dial, you are forced to run at a constant speed. They argue this puts an increased amount of strain on your knees. Also, many people tend to hold the bars while running on a treadmill which can hurt your form and thus make you more susceptible to injury. Another struggle people face, at least I know I do, is boredom. This can make it difficult for people who aren’t the greatest runners to lose interest and thus run a shorter distance, or even worse, look at their phones. A study done by Kent State that showed a negative correlation between those who used cell phones and those who were the most fit. More than 300 students were tested and 49 of them were tested for fitness, which showed that those who used their cell phones for around 14 hours a day, were less fit than those who only used it for around 90 minutes.

So, as you can see, there are many varying opinions on whether or not running on a treadmill is beneficial or not. When looking at the effects on joints, like the contradicting knee studies, it was very difficult to find sufficient evidence backing either claim. The studies were not done as well as they could have been, which made it hard to really decide if it is better to run outside or on the treadmill. However, personally I am going to continue with the training I have now, and will continue running on the treadmill. With the weather starting to get colder, I think that is the best decision. I do hope this question is tested better in the future and that we can start to understand the best way to train our bodies.




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4 thoughts on “The Treadmill Myth

  1. David Ross

    While I hate both forms of running, I think the choice of which is better (outside or treadmill) is based on personal preference. Whenever I get on a treadmill and start running, my shin splints get really bad, but when I run outside it isn’t as bad. Same thing with my knees. My knees have always been in bad shape and I often find it better to run outside on the grass rather than on the treadmill. I could just be the rare outlier in that sense but I think treadmills will continue to improve and eventually decisively surpass outside running. Would you find treadmill running more fun if you could put yourself in a little simulator goggle thing that allowed you to run on trails around the world?

  2. Matthew Hogan

    I used to run cross country, so I would run a fair amount and I was never a fan of running on a treadmill because I would get much more bored. I would much rather prefer to run outside, but this is not always possible because of the weather. I knew that a lot of people got bored on treadmills, but I was unaware of the possible harm to people’s knees. This is definitely something I want to look into to see if I should maybe not run on the treadmill or not run as much.

  3. lkr5215

    I did not think of the possible side effects of running on a treadmill until it was addressed in this blog. This topic is very unique and caters to a large number of people who love going for a run as a form of exercise. i was not aware of the straining on the knees as well as the holding the bar effects your form. This was a interesting take on the treadmill and your ideas about it.

  4. Kate Billings

    Hi Claudia! I have always ran outside and thought it was better than running inside on a treadmill. The idea of being inside running without fresh air or my surroundings changing bored me. I always felt that running outside made me feel better than running inside. Although how that I go to Penn State and will be living through these extremely cold winters I will have to get used to the idea of running on a treadmill. I did not know that running on a treadmill can be bad for your knees but after reading about it it does make sense. I know there is not really a solid answer as to whether running outside or inside on a treadmill is better for you but I can say fro experience that running outside far surpasses running indoors. Even if there is no scientific proof that states that running outside if definitely better for you I would rather run outside.

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