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Do I get a better workout by running outdoors or on the treadmill?

April 1, 2018

Ask the doctors

Q. I often run on a treadmill rather than running outdoors, to avoid bad weather and save time. But am I getting a lower-quality workout?

A. Die-hard runners sometimes swear by outdoor runs, claiming that the treadmill can't come close to an outdoor workout featuring wind, hills, and uneven terrain, which they say makes outdoor runs more challenging. But that doesn't mean you can't get the same quality of workout on a treadmill indoors. If you run slower on the road and faster on the treadmill, or if you put the treadmill on an incline, you may be able to burn as many calories indoors as out. One study in the Journal of Sports Sciences found that putting the treadmill on a 1% incline could erase the differences in resistance between indoor and outdoor running. This put the two workouts on an equal footing — so to speak.

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