Treadmills are effective substitutes for outdoors running, giving you most of the health benefits with the fewest safety risks. Running on a treadmill burns a similar amount of calories as running outdoors, allowing you to burn fat and lose weight. It can also improve stamina by strengthening your heart and lungs.
Furthermore, running on a treadmill lowers the risk of developing a wide range of cardiovascular conditions. It can also help lower cholesterol, which can help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Running has also been shown to positively influence mental health, lowering the risk of depression and anxiety. It can also boost mood and energy levels, as well as help you sleep better.
Research has also shown that regular running can help build up bone density, lowering the risk of fractures and osteoporosis as you age. There are a few safety risks and downsides to using a treadmill. If you have a heart condition, speak to your doctor before running on a treadmill, as you could be at an increased risk of a cardiac event.
1. Treadmills put less strain on your joints. Running outside can put a lot of strain on your joints, as cement and paved surfaces don’t have much cushion. Over time, these impacts can wear down your knees and cause back problems.
While treadmills can’t get rid of joint strain entirely, they help reduce it. The surface is designed to absorb impacts as you run, providing cushioning to your joints.
2. Treadmills help you exercise no matter the weather. Many runners who live in areas with unpredictable weather struggle to get exercise every day. They may also stop running during the winter, leading to weight gain.
Treadmills make it easy to run no matter the weather. They also make running much more convenient, so sticking to a workout plan is easier. You’ll be much less likely to skip a run if you can’t use the weather as an excuse. This leads to faster improvement while training and more weight loss.
3. Treadmills help you burn fat. Running is one of the most effective ways of burning excess fat stores. As you exercise, your body uses up fat as energy, helping you slim down.
You also continue to burn fat after you’re done running. This period, known as “afterburn,” can last for up to an hour after you stop exercising.
4. Treadmills can help increase bone density. As people age, their bones begin to weaken, increasing the risk of fractures. Studies have shown that exercise is the most effective way of preventing bone weakening (1).
The force exerted on your legs as you run increases bone density, which makes them stronger and more resistant to breaks.
Although running on treadmills is an effective way of increasing bone density, it’s not quite as useful as running outdoors on hard surfaces.
5. Treadmills can help improve lower body muscle tone. Running on a treadmill engages most of the muscles in the lower body, helping improve strength and tone. Treadmills work the quads, glutes, and calves, and you can also change the incline of the machine to challenge muscles even more. They can also help you work your core, increasing abdominal, and lower back strength.
6. Treadmills can help strengthen joints in the body. Conventional wisdom says that running is bad for your knees. However, research indicates that running may actually help to strengthen joints and muscles in the legs, and can lower the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Although running may help strengthen joints, it can also weaken them if done in excess.
7. Treadmills can improve mood. Runners often say that they feel happy as they exercise. Research has shown that this “runner’s high” is real, caused by a rush of endorphins that boost mood and make you feel happier. Studies in rats have shown that running has a noticeable antidepressant effect, increasing energy levels, and improving mood (2).
Research in humans indicates that running may have a similar antidepressant effect for people with severe depressive disorders (3).
Furthermore, running has been shown to improve concentration. One study found that teenagers who ran half an hour were better able to concentrate throughout the day.
8. Treadmills can help prevent and treat diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic health condition where the body cannot regulate blood sugar levels. It can cause obesity, as well as cardiovascular problems and vision loss (4).
Studies have shown that exercise is one of the best ways of helping the body regulate blood sugar levels. As you run on a treadmill, your blood sugar levels drop, which can help keep them at healthy levels (5).
Diabetic patients who exercise regularly have fewer symptoms and health complications and are also less likely to gain weight. They are also often able to take fewer medications to manage their condition (6).
9. Treadmills lower the risk of anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental illnesses, affecting millions of people every year. They can affect your social life and your performance at work, and significantly increase the risk of suicide.
Exercise has long been known to help improve mood and boost energy levels. Studies have begun to confirm this, showing that people who exercise regularly are much less likely to develop depression or anxiety (7).
10. Treadmills can improve heart health. Regular aerobic exercise is one of the best ways to improve heart health and strengthen the circulatory system.
Running on a treadmill helps strengthen your heart, improving circulation and ensuring that your muscles and brain get enough oxygen. It lowers blood pressure, which puts less strain on your cardiovascular system and helps prevent heart attacks (8).
Studies have also shown that running on a treadmill can help regulate cholesterol levels in the blood. It lowers HDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), while at the same time raising levels of LDL cholesterol, which is beneficial to circulation (9).
This can lower the risk of a wide range of cardiovascular diseases, as well as help, prevent heart attacks and strokes. Treadmills are often used as a way of diagnosing heart problems. Doctors will put people under a “stress test,” monitoring their heart as they exercise.
11. Treadmills can lower the risk of injury. Running is the most popular form of aerobic exercise. But running outdoors also comes with a number of safety risks.
There are hundreds of thousands of injuries every year that are due to trips or falls while running. Uneven surfaces can cause ankle and knee sprains, and pavement puts a lot of strain on the joints (10).
Treadmills, while not risk-free, are safer than running outdoors. As you run in a straight line, there is a much lower risk of spraining your ankle. You’re also much less likely to trip and fall. Furthermore, treadmills put less strain on the joints in your knees, which reduces injury frequency and soreness after exercise.
12. Treadmills can help you keep a steady pace. It can be hard to keep track of your time while running outdoors, and your pace may drop throughout your workout. Treadmills make it easy to run at the same pace throughout your workout, helping you hit your target mile times.
Since you can track your pace throughout your run, it’s easier to slowly cut your times as you gain stamina.
13. Treadmills can help you avoid the heat. Many people stop running during the summer, as temperatures reach dangerously high levels. Treadmills allow you to continue your training regardless of the season, ensuring that your fitness and weight aren’t affected by high temperatures.
Less exposure to summertime heat can help prevent heat strokes. You also lower the risk of skin cancer, as you won’t be exposed to the sun for long periods (11).
14. Treadmills help you simulate different conditions. Most treadmills allow you to change the incline so that you can recreate different race conditions as you train. Running at an incline can help further develop strength and stamina, as well as burn more calories.
15. Treadmills allow you to multitask. Although running outside does come with its benefits, you won’t be able to multitask during your workout.
Running on a treadmill allows you to multitask as you exercise, making the most of a busy schedule. Most treadmills come with a stand where you can place a book, magazine, or tablet.
16. Treadmills can improve sleep quality. Research has shown that regular exercise can improve sleep quality, reducing the number of times you wake up throughout the night, and increasing the amount of rest you get each night.
One study in older adults found that regular exercise helped treat symptoms of insomnia, leading to better sleep quality. It also helped reduce fatigue throughout the day (12).
Improved sleep lowers the risk for a wide range of health problems, and it can also help prevent depression and other mental health conditions.
17. Treadmills are easy to use. Treadmills are one of the easiest pieces of exercise equipment to use. Most will only require you to push a few buttons to start your workout. You can also easily customize settings to set the desired speed and incline.
Many treadmills also come with preset workouts designed for different fitness levels. You can recreate race conditions by changing the incline, and track your progress as you advance to more challenging workouts.
18. Treadmills allow for circuit training. Research has shown that circuit training, where you alternate periods of intense exercise periods of moderate exertion, is one of the most effective ways to build strength and burn calories (13).
Treadmills make it easy to circuit train, as you can quickly change settings as you run. This makes them well suited to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), where you sprint for short periods and then run at a moderate pace.
1. Treadmills don’t engage as many muscles as running outdoors. When you run outdoors, your hamstrings are very active, helping you push off at the end of each stride. On a treadmill, you hamstrings aren’t as engaged, with more of the work being done by the quads. Some users also find running on a treadmill less engaging than running outdoors. Boredom often leads to people skipping workouts or cutting them short.
2. Treadmills are not as effective for building bone density. Treadmills absorb a lot of force as you run, helping prevent knee injuries. However, the softer surface makes treadmills less effective for building bone density than running outdoors on pavement.
3. Treadmills may alter your walking. Some studies have also shown that running on a treadmill can interfere with your natural gait (14). Although this won’t be a problem for most users, it could cause issues for competitive runners.
4. Treadmills may be dangerous for those with health issues. If you have a history of cardiovascular problems, speak to your doctor before using a treadmill. Although exercise on a treadmill may be safe, you should monitor your heart rate as you work out.
5. Treadmills may be too slow for some individuals. Most treadmills have a maximum speed of around 12 miles per hour. Although this is more than fast enough for most people, it may not be fast enough for competitive runners. Many people also won’t be able to run at a full sprint, which can limit their workouts.
6. Treadmills can be noisy. Treadmills are also quite loud, so they aren’t the best option if you’re working out at home around other people. They can also cause the floor to raddle if they are kept on the second story.
7. Treadmills are usually pricey, with many treadmills costing well over $2,000.
Treadmills vary in terms of added features and settings, so consult the instruction manual to get the most out of your machine. Many treadmills have built-in runs that are customized to your fitness level. As you progress, you can choose more challenging workouts.
Experts recommend that you get around 150 minutes of moderately paced cardio exercise per week if you’re trying to lose weight. For general health, studies have shown that as little as 10 minutes per day on a treadmill is enough to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of mortality.
To recreate outdoor running conditions, increase the incline slightly. This will make runs more challenging, as well as burn more calories. If you have a heart condition, speak to your doctor before using a treadmill. They will likely ask you to monitor your heart rate as you exercise to prevent it from rising too high.
Running on a treadmill while pregnant is usually safe, and it may have health benefits for both the mother and baby. However, you should speak to your doctor about your exercise plans. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids throughout your workout, as running on a treadmill can quickly dehydrate you.
Are treadmills as effective as outdoor running? For most users, yes. Treadmills will burn a similar amount of calories and help you improve overall fitness.
However, treadmills aren’t a full substitute for regular outdoors running, especially if you are training for a marathon or other long run. They don’t engage as many muscle groups, so your legs won’t get as strong as they would from running outdoors.
Treadmills don’t let you quickly change pace, which means that you won’t be able to improve agility. If you are only running for general fitness, this won’t be much of an issue. But if you’re a runner, treadmills won’t do as much to improve race performance as outdoor running.
Are treadmills better for your knees than running on pavement? In most cases, yes. Treadmills are designed with soft surfaces that cushion your feet as they run. This helps absorb shock and prevents wear to your joints over time. Since you’re running in a straight line, you’re also less likely to tweak your knee or sprain your ankle.
The same features that make treadmills safe for your joints can cause problems long term. Since the surface provides more cushioning, you won’t build up as many of the muscles in your legs that help prevent injuries when running on hard surfaces.
Experts recommend that you mix treadmill running with exercise on hard pavement. This gives your knees a break from pavement, while also helping you build up strength in your legs.
Can you train for a marathon on a treadmill? Yes, although you should also mix in outdoor running. Treadmills are a good way of building up heart and lung capacity and improving stamina. However, they cannot fully replicate the conditions of outdoor racing.
Treadmills also don’t engage all of the same muscles as outdoor running. If you only train on a treadmill and then run a marathon, this could affect your performance.
You can mix treadmill training with outdoor running so that your body gets used to both conditions. Running on a treadmill will put less strain on your knees and speed recovery times, while outdoor running will prepare you for race day.
How much do treadmills cost? Treadmills vary widely in cost. Basic machines with limited features can be found for less than $1,000. These treadmills often don’t have as much cushioning as more expensive options, and they also tend to wear out much more quickly.
High-end treadmills often cost around $3,000, although you can find a number of machines that sell for significantly more than this.
Do treadmills accurately track how many calories you burn? The number shown on a treadmill is usually the total number of calories your body burns during exercise. This counts the calories that you burn at rest, so the number is a bit higher than what you’re burning from exercise.
The calories shown by the treadmill are only rough estimates, although they can give you some idea of how hard you’ve been working out.
How long will a treadmill last? This will depend on the machine. Cheaper treadmills that cost less than $1,000 often will only last for a few years if used frequently. Better built treadmills will often last over a decade if they are kept clean and stored properly.
How much effort is required for treadmill maintenance? For most machines, you won’t have to spend much time on maintenance. They are designed to work without regular maintenance, although you should occasionally clean off the surface to prevent odors and to keep the gears from sticking.
What type of warranty do treadmills come with? That will depend on the manufacturer. Treadmills will often have different warranties for different parts. For example, the frame may have a lifetime warranty, while the track may only be covered for a few years.
Many cheaper treadmills will only have 90-day warranties, after which you’ll have to pay full price for any repairs. Try to find a treadmill with a warranty longer than 90 days, as you can find many companies that offer full coverage for up to 6 years.
Treadmills are an effective substitute for outdoor running, offering most of the same health benefits while helping protect joints.
Studies have shown that as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise per day is enough to lower the risk of mortality from cardiovascular diseases.
Since you can use treadmills no matter the weather, they make it easy to get your daily exercise and stick to your training regimen.
Running on a treadmill can help lower bad cholesterol while raising levels of good cholesterol, improving overall cardiovascular health. This also lowers the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Additionally, treadmills can help protect your knees. They have a padded surface that absorbs force as you run, which leads to less wear on joints throughout your body.
Studies have shown that running has a positive impact on mental health. It can improve concentration and energy levels throughout the day, as well as help you sleep better.
Regular exercise also significantly lowers the risk of developing depression and anxiety. It can boost mood and can make you more optimistic.
Treadmills are also one of the best exercise machines for people trying to lose weight. You’ll burn a lot of calories throughout your workout, and you can also increase the incline to make workouts more challenging.
Although there are benefits to using a treadmill, there are also a few downsides. Treadmills don’t engage as many muscles as running on a non-moving surface. They also won’t help build up bone density as much as running on hard outdoor surfaces.