Woman runs on Peloton Tread at home

The Benefits of Running on a Treadmill (Plus, When to Head Outside Instead)

Here’s how to use both indoor and outdoor runs to your advantage.

By Emily LaurenceDecember 5, 2023


Running is great for both your body and mind no matter where you do it. But choosing whether to fire up your treadmill or head outdoors for your run makes a difference. Some of the benefits you’ll get will overlap (including getting that almighty runner’s high), but treadmill running and outdoor running both have their advantages and disadvantages. 

If you want to get the maximum health benefits out of your runs (while also minimizing your risk for injury), it’s worth it to know how they compare and when to choose your Peloton Tread+  over running outdoors. Keep reading for everything you need to know.

Treadmill Running vs. Outdoor Running

When you’re deciding whether to do your next run on the Peloton Tread+, Peloton Tread or go outside, there are several factors to consider, including weather, time of day, and the type of workout you want to do. Just like with indoor cardio in general, there are pros and cons to treadmill running versus running outside. Some of the benefits of treadmill running are the same as indoor cardio in general (such as not having to worry about the weather or how dark it is outside), but it’s also important to consider what you want to get out of your run too. 

Peloton instructor Jon Hosking says that some running workouts are best suited for the treadmill while others are preferable to do outdoors. Here, all three running experts lay out the benefits of running outside versus running on the treadmill.

7 Benefits of Running on a Treadmill

The weather can’t hold you back

Eric Orton, a running coach and the co-author of Born to Run 2, says that one obvious advantage to choosing indoor cardio is that you don’t have to think about what the weather is like. Sure, running outside when there’s a slight chill in the air is nice, but it’s a whole other story when it’s raining, scorching hot, or bitter cold. Peloton instructor Matt Wilpers adds that choosing indoor cardio can be especially beneficial when it’s super cold out. “When you’re running outside in the cold, it takes longer to warm up [your muscles] and there’s a higher risk of injury,” he says.

You can safely fit in a run when it’s still dark out

Orton also points out that with the treadmill, you don’t have to worry about running in the dark. This is a huge advantage in the winter when the days are short and if you like to get your run in early in the morning or in the evening. He adds that running inside when it’s dark is safer than outside because you don’t have to worry about cars seeing you.

There’s a wider variety of what you can do

If you have a treadmill, you have a wider variety of workouts that you can do, especially if it’s on a Peloton Tread or Tread+ with countless options for programmed runs, running classes, and training plans. This means you can vary the type of workouts you do too, a big advantage for people who find just running a little dull.

You can run uninterruptedly

“On a treadmill, you don’t have to stop at traffic lights or anything else because it’s a controlled environment,” Orton says. He says that this is especially beneficial for building endurance. “You can look at the data in front of you and know, for example, what it feels like to run a seven-minute mile pace for 40 minutes,” he says.

You can stop whenever you want

“With the treadmill, you don’t have to worry about getting too far out and not being able to make it back,” Orton says, adding that this is especially beneficial for new runners who aren’t sure how far they feel comfortable running yet. And if you’re short on time, you can easily clock a quick run without spending the extra effort it takes to head outdoors. In fact, the Peloton App has 10- or 15-minute treadmill classes designed just for that.

You’ll build mental stamina

Orton says that, often, running on the treadmill takes more mental stamina than running outside surrounded by the beauty of nature. “Long runs are probably more fun outside. But occasionally doing a long run on a treadmill at a constant, steady pace can really help you mentally for racing,” he says. After all, running is largely mental! 

It’s easier to measure your progress over time

Let’s say you want to shave off 30 seconds on your mile time or how long it takes for you to run three miles. Orton says that consistently running on the treadmill makes it easier for you to track and see your progress, especially with the real-time stats you get during your workout on the Peloton Tread and Tread+ including output, speed, pace, and split. He explains that how long it takes to run a specific distance outdoors can vary for all sorts of reasons including having to stop at traffic lights, changes in weather, and varied terrain. But on the treadmill everything is controlled so you are running under the same conditions every time.

You can avoid starting your run out too fast 

Orton says that one common mistake runners make during races is beginning the race at a speed that’s too fast to maintain. Setting the speed on the treadmill helps with maintaining a certain speed all the way through the run, from the beginning to the end.

Running on a treadmill can be more stable

“On a treadmill, you don’t have to worry about stepping on a curb or anything else that can cause your landing to become unstable,” Orton says. He says that this is especially beneficial for new runners who are worried about getting injured. 

You can go for a low-intensity walk

Especially if you live in a hilly neighborhood, Jon says that one benefit of choosing the treadmill instead of running outside is that as long as you keep the incline at zero or one, you can ensure that your treadmill walk won’t be too intense, which is great for if you’re tired or just getting back into exercising after being sick or recovering from an injury. “Being able to manage the intensity of your running so specifically will not only help beginners gain full control of their training intensity and all the other variables but also allow them to take stock of their progress with detailed breakdowns of their performance,” Jon says. “I like to think of it as a real safe zone for beginners to get comfortable in and to feel at ease in their running journey, which is priceless.”

Woman runs outside while holding phone

When to Head Outside for a Run

You want to be in nature 

Orton says that one big pro of running outdoors is getting to be in nature. For many people, he says, it’s a lot more enjoyable and fun than being on a treadmill. While no matter where you run, it’s linked to supporting mental health, there are countless studies supporting the psychological benefits of being in nature, which means that running outside may be even more beneficial for combatting depression and anxiety than running inside.

You want your run to feel as natural as possible

“When you’re running on a treadmill, the treadmill pulls you back a little bit, which can be unnatural at first. When you run outside, you don’t have that pull from the treadmill,” Orton says. Running outside is so natural that it might make you feel like a kid again, the feeling of running as fast as you can during a game of tag on the playground.

You want the chance to overcome real-world running obstacles 

Encountering wind, temperature changes, how the ground feels beneath your feet as you go uphill or downhill. Orton says these are all nature-given obstacles that are part of running outdoors. If you are training for a race, he says that dealing with these conditions on your practice runs will go a long way.

You want to run as fast as you can while interval training

In Matt’s opinion, interval training is best done outside. You can run as hard and fast as you can without worrying about adjusting the speed of the treadmill.  

Best Treadmill Running Workouts

Running on the treadmill doesn’t have to mean simply hitting “go” and running for a certain amount of time—although it certainly can. There are different types of running workouts you can do, including interval training, tempo runs, and incline challenges. Peloton offers a full library of treadmill running classes that cater to different goals, needs, and preferences including beginner runs, interval classes, endurance classes, themed running classes, and more. Here, the running experts explain what these types of running workouts are, and more:

Low-intensity walks 

As Jon mentioned earlier, if you want an easy walk with no incline or weather-related difficulties, hopping on the treadmill is a great option. You can set your walking speed and keep your incline at zero or one for a low-intensity walk that is still greatly beneficial for health. Scientific studies have found that walking regularly decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and dementia.

Speed work

Jon says that speed work is another type of running workout you can use the treadmill for. Speed work is key for becoming a faster and stronger runner. To do it on the treadmill, spend three minutes running as fast as you can followed by two minutes of recovery. Then, ramp it back up to run two more minutes as fast as you can followed by another two minutes of recovery. Finish it out by running one minute as fast as you can and then in your recovery speed for two minutes. Repeat one to three times.

Timed-distance efforts

As Orton said earlier, the treadmill is a perfect tool for timed-distance efforts. If you want to shave time off a certain distance, you can set the speed to whatever you want your pace to be and maintain it for your entire run. 

Varied-incline runs

Orton says that one benefit of the treadmill is that you can use the incline dial to mimic the terrain of a race you’re training for. Before your treadmill run, look up how the incline varies on the race course. Then, use your incline dial to copy it so you can train at the exact inclines the course will have. “Some treadmills also let you decrease the incline from zero so you can practice running downhill too,” Orton adds.

Tempo runs

A tempo run is a run that feels a little strained; it’s harder than a light jog or recovery pace but not a sprint either. Hosking says that this type of running exercise works great on the treadmill because you can set the speed at just a little faster than what you’re used to. 

Incline challenges

Incline challenges are another type of running workout Hosking recommends trying on the treadmill. Using the incline will make your run more challenging and can also prepare you for the varied terrain of running outside.

How to Track Your Progress on the Treadmill

One reason many people love running on the treadmill is because they can look down and with a glance know how far they’ve gone, how long it’s taken them, and how many calories they’ve burned. Many treadmills allow users to save their workouts to their profile on the machine, so they can see how they’ve progressed each time they log in. 

If you have a Peloton Tread or Tread+, there are a few different ways you can track your progress. In every run, the Peloton Tread tracks your distance and total output. For many runners, the Leaderboard inspires them to challenge themselves and push their limits. You can also sign up for the Peloton 8-week running program, working your way up to a 45-minute endurance run.

You can also track your progress using a wearable, such as an AppleWatch, Google Pixel Watch, Fitbit, Garmin, or other wearable. All of these wearables log how far you run, your time, and energy expenditure.

Safety Precautions to Follow While Using a Treadmill

There are a few safety precautions to keep in mind while you use the treadmill. First, Orton says to make sure your shoelaces are tied tight. Otherwise, you run the risk of one coming loose and tripping on it, which can cause you to fall while the treadmill belt is still moving—not fun. 

Orton also suggests practicing hydration. “If you’re not used to running on a treadmill, drinking water while you run can be challenging,” he says. Before attempting this while running, first try it while walking and wait until you feel comfortable until trying it at a faster pace. Or, Orton says you can practice jumping off the treadmill to take a water break, again by first starting at a slow speed and then working your way up to a faster one. Some other key safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep children, pets, and objects away from the treadmill at all times.

  • Don’t get on or off the treadmill while it’s still moving—always make sure it is fully stopped. 

  • Avoid wearing loose clothes while on the treadmill, and if you use a towel, keep it away from the belt. 

  • For more information on safety for Peloton treadmills, you can find safety information in user manuals here for the Tread and Tread+.

Whether you run outside or on the treadmill, both your body and mind will benefit— either choice is a win. When deciding where to run, think about what will be most enjoyable to you, what’s the safest, and what you want to get out of your run. Then, lace up your sneakers and get going! 

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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