Most fitness buffs own many pieces of exercise equipment. While there are certainly disadvantages of running on a treadmill, it is one of those pieces of equipment that is oftentimes purchased first. In fact, according to a poll on Instagram, 30% of fitness-minded people had some treadmill use in the last 4 weeks.
The good news is that treadmill running helps burn calories and improve your cardiovascular health right from the comforts of their home.
Other pros to running on the treadmill are that they have cool computerized programs, work your quadricep and hamstring muscles when you might not otherwise be able to, and can help you reach your fitness goals. In fact, at times, long treadmill runs can be quite enjoyable.
- Watching TV
- Flat, consistent running surface for beginners
- Health club comradery (if you don’t run at home)
- Aids in weight loss
- Consistency in your workouts – not affected by weather
- Give you an easy opportunity to work on your running form
While there are pros to treadmill running, there are also definitely cons. Understanding these cons can help you to know how or when to use your treadmill and make the best of it.
Ready to roll? Let’s dig in.
What Are The Disadvantages of Running on a Treadmill?
Here are a few real-world issues to be aware of when using a treadmill to augment your running program:
1. Limited exercise options
Treadmill running is far better than not running at all. But here’s the kicker – you can only run or walk on a treadmill. And this begs the question, is that enough to make you fit?
Not so much. It will help you with your running (more on that later – spoiler alert it isn’t the same as running outside) but it can’t provide a complete full-body workout similar to other exercise equipment and exercise machine options.
Motorized treadmills are great, but they aren’t the end all be all of fitness equipment.
To be fit, you must include other workouts like strength training, weight lifting, HIIT amongst others. While this isn’t an inherent flaw in treadmills, we thought it was worth mentioning.
2. There’s a small risk of falling
Are you aware it’s actually possible to fall off the treadmill and hurt yourself as a result? All it takes is a little distraction, amongst other mistakes, and you’ll find yourself lying on the floor. Your attention needs to be at its best at all times.
If you find yourself consistently wanting to tip over or tripping, then reduce the treadmill’s speed or incline.
3. Some muscles are not engaged
While treadmill running spares you the unpleasantness of running outside, the problem is that not all your muscles get a good workout. Only the quadriceps are actively involved as you push off the flat surface.
The glutes and hamstring remain idle, and this can lead to muscle imbalance. This puts you in a vulnerable position of sustaining an injury in the future.
To avoid potential muscle imbalance, you can either perform other exercises that target the hamstrings and glutes or run outside every once in a while.
4. You need more space
There are some sophisticated treadmill models that take up a lot of space (usually 36 inches x 72 inches). It gets worse if your equipment cannot fold to save up some space in your training area for something else or just create some room to move about.
5. Can be an expensive affair
Truth be told, owning a treadmill can be an expensive affair if you are cash-strapped or want a high-end model. Some can cost as high as $2,000!
That’s not all. Like any other machinery-especially with computerized systems-you need frequent maintenance and hiring a professional comes at a fee (which can be steep too).
6. Possible noise
Treadmills are designed to operate quietly. Nevertheless, there are some models that roar pretty loudly. Others generate vibrations that can be disturbing to both you and other house dwellers. The long drone of treadmill noise gets a bit irritating after a bit.
7. It gets boring after a while
It sure is fun running on a treadmill during the first few months. However, as days go by, running indoors starts to feel like tiresome drudgery. People find treadmills boring.
But when you run outside, the experience is enriching. You get to see strangers, say high to fellow runners, and feel the wind on your skin.
8. A controlled climate won’t harden you
If you run in competitions, then you know how unpredictable the weather gets. One moment it is calm, another it’s either extremely sunny or there’s a heavy downpour. Those who participate in outdoor running are already used to such intensive discomforts and are likely to come on top during a competition when running outdoors.
However, running indoors with controlled temperatures weakens your ability to cope with outdoor running in uncomfortably hot or cold temperatures.
9. Treadmill running can be stressful on your joints
Treadmill running is a high-impact activity that can harm your hip, knee, and ankle joints. The pain can be intensified if you are a beginner, an overweight individual or the treadmill itself has flimsy cushioning.
You may be wondering, how do I go about that? Well, there are a few ways.
First, both beginners and overweight folks should begin with low-impact exercises until their muscles are strong enough for high-impact running.
Second, consider icing your joints and taking some days off for proper healing. Alternatively, you can lower the treadmill’s speed for gentler sessions.
10. You lose agility
Running outdoors involves taking turns and adjusting your body as the terrain changes. This gives you the ability to properly coordinate your body and achieve greater balance.
Unfortunately, this benefit goes out the window when you decide to use the treadmill.
11. Does not replicate running outside
No matter how effective running on a treadmill can be, it still does not replicate all the elements of outdoor sessions like the changing gradient, trail, or weather patterns.
Features to Prioritize When Buying a Treadmill
Having understood some of these cons to running indoors, there are a few more things to consider before shoving out your credit card if you’re still in the mood to purchase.
If you are the kind of a person who hops on a treadmill any time of the day or night, then you need to prioritize silent-running treadmills. Models with noisy motors will upset those you are living with. Reducing treadmill noise definitely makes the experience more enjoyable.
Treadmill running gets boring after a while. The experience can suck even more if your unit lacks plenty of features. However, with additional niceties like bluetooth connectivity, heart-rate monitor to measure your cardiovascular health, incline, and many others, the experience becomes both entertaining and fruitful.
How much space do you have in the room you want to keep your treadmill in? If it’s too small or you plan to keep other things in, then consider a foldable treadmill. Besides saving space, such models are also easy to move from one point to another.
Treadmills need to have a wider and longer deck for proper balance. If the deck is too short, you’ll be forced to make strenuous short strides. As for the narrow one, you are likely to fall off often. Where possible, try out a treadmill to see how comfortable it is before making the final move.
The quality of the rollerblade can determine how comforting or torturous your walking or running sessions will be. Excellent choices have thick and nicely padded treadmill belt to minimize foot and joint pain.
For serious runners (professional or not) having a treadmill will definitely help you achieve your fitness goals. Which is why this article should not stop you from owning one because there are days when running outdoors isn’t just in the cards.
Nevertheless, you should not be oblivious to the potential drawbacks of working out on a treadmill. Paying attention to the points above will help you to benefit immensely from your equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions About Running on a Treadmill
Can you run on a treadmill barefoot?
It is not a good idea to run on a treadmill barefoot. It doesn’t matter how soft the rollerblades are. They still hurt your feet. Rather than barefoot, you could try putting on some thick socks if you don’t want to wear running shoes.
How fast should one run on a treadmill?
You can run as fast as the treadmill’s speed allows. However, it is safe to keep the speed under 14km per hour to avoid accidental falls.
Which is better, treadmill or outdoor running?
Well, the answer here will vary from one person to another. However, the best approach should involve both. You can run indoors when the weather is extremely bad and go outdoors when you want to experience nature’s bountiful offerings.