The days are getting colder: shall we hit the treadmill or stick to running outdoors?

Posted in Fitness

With the change of season just around the corner (no, we can’t believe it either), it’s time to say goodbye to those cool summer evening runs.

No more balmy breezes as we power through a 5K: breathable tank tops are being swapped for therma-fit hoodies and we welcome the return to slippers after a long day.

But does it have to be that way? Can’t we just swap outdoor running for the treadmill when the temperature plummets?

The allure of the convenient, climate-controlled gym is certainly appealing, especially in winter - but is it as beneficial as taking in all that fresh outdoor air? It’s a question fuelling mixed debate - so what’s the truth? We examine which is best.

Which burns more calories?
It goes without saying that we want to shed those pesky calories. The very nature of outdoor running - more wind resistance and changes in terrain - allows movements that a treadmill restricts; in turn providing a more strenuous workout which focuses on a variety of muscles.

But studies have shown that this lack of air resistance can actually be compensated on a treadmill by adding a slight incline (1%) to the gradient. If you can’t quite leave the warmth and comfort of the gym, this adjustment is the best way to replicate outdoor running.

It’s also useful to consider the environmental changes of running outdoors - particularly in urban areas. While those street crossings serve as a welcome pause for breath, they wouldn’t bother you on a treadmill. Then again, dodging bystanders and excitable dogs can hone your swerving technique.

Which is better for our physical form?
Physically, running on a treadmill is easier because the ‘ground’ is pulled under your feet, resulting in less strain on your muscles. It also prevents those energy-draining long strides. Running outdoors creates a different stride to running on a treadmill: people generally flex their ankles more when they run on natural terrain, creating less strain that way.

With both variations, using the right running technique is all a matter of knowing what you’re doing; it’s easy to get wrong. Try to land on the midsole of your foot rather than the heel, work in intervals (more accurate on a treadmill) and run for time, not distance.

Which is better for us mentally?
We all know nature is a wonderful medicine - and surveys have shown that jogging in the great outdoors can cut the risk of mental health problems and is twice as good for you as working out in the gym. Stressed out? Sweat it out with mother nature - the invigorating outside air is much more stimulating.

In a nutshell?
As with any form of exercise, doing what you really enjoy is always effective: so long as you’re raising your heart rate and breaking a sweat, you’re releasing those crucial ‘happy’ chemicals which help you focus and aid sleep. Whether that’s in the company of the hills and forests or watching your favourite show on a treadmill - the choice is yours.

Posted in Fitness