Walking is one of the simplest, safest and least expensive ways to stay fit. All you need is a good pair of shoes and some comfortable clothes. But which is the better place to walk: on a treadmill or outside? A treadmill provides a predictable and consistent walking environment, but may not burn as many calories. Walking outside offers a varied environment and terrain, but could be unpredictable or hazardous.
Ultimately, the best option for you is the one you enjoy the most and that most easily fits into your routine. However, there are some considerations for each method of walking for exercise, courtesy of Megan Spurling, manager of Sharp’s employee wellness program, Sharp Best Health.
Benefits of treadmill walking
- Workout programs: Pre-programmed workouts offer a controlled workout challenge. The treadmill may also have readouts for heart rate and calories burned, although these are more estimates than completely accurate reports.
- Safety: A treadmill is a good substitute when well-lit, safe walking routes are difficult to access.
- Climate control: Weather is never an excuse when it comes to accessing a treadmill.
- Entertainment: Watching TV or listening to motivating music can help keep you entertained while you walk.
Benefits of outdoor walking
- Accessibility: No gym membership or equipment is necessary.
- Mental benefits: Studies show that even 10 minutes of time outdoors reduces stress and can increase creativity and critical thinking.
- More calories burned: Overcoming wind resistance and walking without the benefit of a motor provides a greater calorie burn.
- Opportunity for companionship: Walking outside is a good time to catch up with friends and loved ones. Safety in numbers can also compensate for concerns about being active during the shorter days of the coming months.
Which burns more calories: walking on a treadmill or outdoors?
When walking on a motorized treadmill with no incline, you may burn fewer calories per mile than you do walking outdoors. The moving tread does some of the work and you may not be giving yourself a good push off with your back foot. You can compensate by adding a slight incline — as little as 1 percent — to your treadmill, which will increase the intensity of movement and your calorie burn.
Which is better for walkers with weight-bearing injuries?
A treadmill pad is more forgiving than asphalt. You might prefer a treadmill if you would like to reduce strain on joints, although this is much more relevant if you are running.
Should you use the handrails on a treadmill?
If possible, you should avoid holding the handrails on a treadmill, which can further reduce calories burned and will misalign walking posture. Unless you have a physical impairment that requires you to hold the handrails for balance while exercising, let them go. Instead, pump your arms just as you would when walking outside.
For more exercise tips, visit the exercise and fitness section of Sharp Health News.