At Body Designs West, we offer a wide variety of cardiovascular equipment. We have stair climbers, a stepmill, a recumbent and an upright stationary bike, several ellipticals and five treadmills. While all of them get used at some point each week, the machines that get the most use are, the treadmills. As in gyms all over the world, most clients walk on them at varying speeds and inclines; while others run intervals or just log time, miles and or calories. While there are many Pros of “convenience” to using a treadmill such as; neutralizing weather issues; proximity to restrooms and water, it’s ready when you are, and no fear of being mugged, Body Designs 211: Treadmill vs. Outdoors…Pros and Cons may surprise you with some food for thought.
- One can create the same difficulty as if running outdoors. Research shows that running on a treadmill at a 1% incline uses the same energy expenditure as running outdoors.
- The “deck” under the moving belt is engineered with cushioning that allows for less wear and tear on the body’s joints.
- You can create a variety of environments exercising on a treadmill. Most people who run outdoors find the “terrain” boring after a while if they need to keep the same course for whatever reason. However, with course programs the options are practically unlimited.
- Speaking of terrain…the extremely smooth landing area the treadmill is known and appreciated for, is also what is the cause of one of the machine’s biggest detriments. Sometimes going unrecognized or even often miscategorized, there are benefits to running on an uneven terrain. Doing so will allow the muscles in your feet and legs to make small foot striking and planting modifications that prepare them for surfaces changes out in “the real world” which translates to improved balance and helps avoid falls.
- Because the machine is powering the belt which is “catapulting” your body into the air and not really forward, your quadriceps (the front part of the legs) do the work. However outside, because your body is moving through the air and forward, the hamstrings (the back part of the legs) finish the stride and lift your legs behind you towards your butt. Therefore, if you only run on a treadmill and never outside, your hamstrings remain pretty inactive and you are setting your body up for muscle imbalances that will eventually lead to poor posture, unbalanced movements and most likely leg and or back pain. So, if treadmill running is your go to, be sure to adequately strengthen your hamstrings and glutes with other exercises.
- Of course, many people complain that running on a treadmill is boring and that time seems to “stand still” (pun intended) even with the TV or music playing. Obviously, opinions differ as to what is boring. However, for whatever reason, time does seem to go faster when you are actually moving outside from one place to another.
How about Treadmill Walking?
Well, for starters, the same Pros and Cons exist as with the running comparison. However, there are two additional CONS that are associated with walking on a treadmill:
- Believe it or not, the starting and stopping, bobbing and weaving of walking outside actually helps the effectiveness of your body’s stabilizing muscles. Avoiding small obstacles like puddles, passersby and puppies, forces other muscles to activate and respond. It is also beneficial to your proprioceptive skills because your mind’s eye has to quickly measure distance between those obstacles that move, including bicycles, cars and now Birds (those motorized scooters that have now littered practically every corner of West LA). The intermittent starts and stops common with neighborhood walking are a challenge to muscles to go from”no” to “go”. Ups and downs of curbs, steps or short stairways are good little intervales for your lungs and climbing muscles.
- As mentioned above, exercising on a treadmill with less than a 1% incline burns fewer calories than if “treading” it outside. However, many people hold onto the side rails of a treadmill when walking. And even though they go faster than they would if they weren’t holding on, studies show that support the body receives from holding on further reduces calories burned. Also, the poor walking position created by holding on wreaks havoc on one’s walking posture. Walkers end up with a more leaned forward stance and gait resulting in poor balance. It is suggested that even if one has to walk at a greatly reduced pace, it is better to walk without holding on and build up the speed with good form over time.
So, when considering what to do for cardiovascular exercise, remember what Body Designs 211: Treadmill vs. Outdoors…Pros and Cons and choose accordingly!
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