If you’re a fan of walking indoors, you’ve probably at least considered walking on a treadmill. Technology is evolving swiftly, giving us more options than ever – including new ways to exercise. There’s equipment to help us track our steps as we walk, do the perfect sit up, lift weights, monitor our heart raw, row like we’re on a boat, and of course, the treadmill.
If you’re not used to treadmill walking, you may be wondering why anyone would want to walk on one. Like everything else in life, there are pros and cons to walking on a treadmill versus walking outside. Many people are much happier skipping the treadmill and hitting some dirt trails for a nice hike to get outdoors. Here are some considerations to think about when deciding whether to give treadmill walking a go.
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?
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 walk long distances 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 good reasons to walk on a treadmill and walk outside, and each has its drawbacks in certain situations.
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:
- 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 a podcast, 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.
- 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
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
When trying to decide which is better for you, it’s important to keep in mind that both share many of the same benefits.
- You’re still getting steps and meeting your physical activity needs.
- You’re still burning calories. Walking outside typically burns more calories, but increasing the incline on your treadmill will make up for the difference. For more info on incline walking, check out our piece on it!
- Both increase your heart rate.
- The health benefits of walking, such as reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and cancer, weight management, and bone health are the same.
Tips for Walking on a Treadmill
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.
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.