Treadmill walking – why is it so popular for indoor walking?

Doing your walking on a treadmill is a great way to get your steps indoors no matter the weather. Treadmill walking allows you to get your steps in the summer heat or walk in the winter cold, plus watch a show or listen to a podcast while you’re doing so. You can also adjust your walking speed, and in many cases add an incline to your walks, whenever you want to. As fitness equipment continues to improve, there are more options for a fun, varied indoor walking workout.

Like any kind of fitness activity, there are pros and cons to using a treadmill. Many people are much happier skipping the treadmills and getting some fresh air with a nice outdoor walk. Others have trouble staying focused without new sights and things to do. If you’re interested in doing some treadmill walking, here’s how to make it fun and productive!

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Quick Pacer Note: If you do decide to walk on a treadmill, make sure you carry your phone on your body – either in your pocket or on an armband. If you put your phone on the treadmill, Pacer won’t pick up your body motion and won’t count your steps!

So What’s the Big Deal About Treadmills?

Woman and 2 men running on treadmills
nd3000 / Shutterstock

They say when you’re in Rome, do as the Romans do, and some Romans got their steps in by hitting their treadmills. Seriously. They referred to it as a ‘tread wheel‘ and like the name, it resembles a hamster wheel. The tread wheel first showed up in the 1st Century AD and wasn’t used for walking. It was all part of a crane that could lift up to 13,227.74 lbs or 6,000 kg. One person would get in the wheel and power the crane by running.

While modern-day treadmills won’t help you lift astronomically heavy weights, they can help you get your steps in even if the weather is bad outside. Many people like walking on a treadmills because:

  • When the weather is bad outside, you can still get in a nice, long walk indoors by using a treadmill
  • Allergies or outdoor pollution where you live may prevent you from enjoying outdoor walks on some days, but you can stay indoors and walk on the treadmill.
  • Many treadmills can keep track of heart rate, speed, time, calories burned, etc.
  • You can program the treadmill to set the speed, incline, and difficulty of your walk and change this up whenever you want
  • If you’re already paying for a gym membership, why not use the equipment?

Indoors or Outdoors?

If you’re wondering whether it’s better to hit the treadmill or the trails, the answer is simple: Whichever one you like! There are certain health benefits associated with walking outdoors and being in nature, but on the other hand you might feel more relaxed or have an easier time exercising indoors.

You also don’t have to pick just one! If you have access to a gym or other area with a treadmill, you can always go for a walk on it to supplement your regular outdoor walking!

Pros and Cons of Treadmill Walking:

Man and woman running on treadmills
GP Studio / Shutterstock

Treadmill Pros:

  • Many treadmills are designed to be easier on your joints.
  • You can stop whenever you want without worrying about how to get home.
  • You’re indoors, which means the temperature is normally always great for walking.
  • You can watch TV, read a book, listen to an audiobook, or watch your kids play while walking.
  • You can put your water bottle, towel, keys and more on the treadmill instead of carrying it.
  • Treadmills allow you to walk at a constant speed, which can be helpful if you tend to walk too fast and tire yourself out.
  • The handrails are great for stability if you have balance problems.

Treadmill Limitations:

  • Some people find walking or running on a treadmill more difficult than walking normally.
  • You’re not getting fresh air or seeing natural sights as you walk.
  • Treadmill walking may take some getting used to.
  • It’s easy to become bored, especially since you aren’t physically going anywhere.
  • You aren’t getting your Vitamin D from sunlight.
  • Treadmills aren’t free – whether you join a gym or buy a treadmill at home.
  • You may develop bad walking posture due to watching or reading, or due to poor treadmill design.

Pros and Cons of Walking Outdoors

Couple on a nature hike in spring
Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock

Outdoor Walking Pros

  • You can view some beautiful natural scenery as you walk. Even if you choose to walk the same trail, the changing seasons will give you plenty of new things to look at.
  • Natural scenery can give you additional mood and health-boosting benefits.
  • You get your daily dose of Vitamin D.
  • Fresh air is great, especially if you’ve been cooped up indoors all day.
  • You can walk a different route every day and change things up.
  • You can bring your dog along for company and safety.
  • It’s free.
  • You can take care of errands or other tasks while getting steps
  • You can walk anywhere, any time without having to go to the gym.

Outdoor Walking Limitations

  • You have to finish your walk or find another way to get home. If your leg starts hurting, you still have to walk back to your car.
  • You’re at the mercy of the weather, which can make it impossible to walk outside some days.
  • Indoor walking locations may not have enough space to get a good, long walk in.
  • You have to carry your things, like a water bottle, keys, and more with you.
  • You have to be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re walking alone.
  • In case of an emergency, you may not have a cell phone signal.
  • If you’re going for a hike, the trail may be uneven or you could potentially get lost.

Walking on a Treadmill and Walking Outdoors Share Many of the Same Benefits

People running on treadmills at the gym
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

When trying to decide which is better for you, it’s important to keep in mind that both share many of the same benefits.

Tips for Walking on a Treadmill

Coach showing woman how to run on treadmill
Pavel Vinnik / Shutterstock

If your curious about treadmills and are ready to give treadmill walking a try, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t jump on while the treadmill going full speed. Get on when the treadmill is stopped, then start out slow and increase your speed when it feels natural.
  • Make sure you maintain good walking posture – even if you’re watching a show or reading a book.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Listen to audio-books or podcasts so you don’t get bored.
  • Small towels are great for staying cool when you break a sweat.
  • Slow down and then stop the treadmill before getting off. Jumping off can lead to injury.
  • Most treadmills have an emergency stop system in case of injury. It could be a button to press or a clip to attach to yourself in case you slip off. Use it!

There’s no rule, unspoken or otherwise, that says you have to choose, so don’t be afraid to do both. Having the option to change up your workout will keep you coming back for more, so don’t limit yourself to only choosing one.

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And, if you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.

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