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Is Running on the Treadmill Aerobic or Anaerobic?

Is running on the treadmill aerobic or anaerobic? Well, running is one of the most common forms of cardio performed in and outside of the gym today. Whether it’s on a track or the myriad of treadmills available in fitness facilities, running is used to burn fat, develop muscle and increase both aerobic and anaerobic capacity depending on the running. 

Incorporating both conventional running and treadmill running can have many benefits when it comes to developing running patterns and performing various workouts. However, to the traditionalists, utilizing a treadmill may seem like a gimmick or a cheat to getting out on a track or hitting the asphalt. This is not the case.

Running on a treadmill boasts a host of benefits that can increase the athlete’s performance and mitigate injury. But for athletes explicitly looking to target their anaerobic or aerobic threshold, where does a treadmill fall in the mix?

woman at gym tired

What Is the Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise?

The difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise is the body’s ability to produce energy with or without oxygen. Aerobic exercise is the body’s ability to produce energy with oxygen, usually lasting over two minutes. Anaerobic exercise usually lasts under two minutes and the body produces energy without oxygen. 


Aerobic refers to the body’s ability to produce energy with oxygen. It usually occurs in exercises that last longer than two minutes and are performed in a steady, continuous state. This includes power walking, jogging, long-distance running, cycling, or other forms of movement that are longer in duration. 


Alternatively, anaerobic refers to the body’s energy production without the use of oxygen. Usually performed at intensities much higher than aerobic, anaerobic energy can come from the ATP-CP system. This can provide an instantaneous burst of energy that lasts for up to 10 seconds. The second form of anaerobic energy production, called the lactic acid system, supplies muscles with the necessary energy for up to two minutes.

Gym goers may ask, can you run too much on a treadmill? The answer is yes. Depending on what the intended type of exercise is, runners should stick to their game plan of aerobic or anaerobic exercise without over training which defeats their goals.  

Is Running on A Treadmill Aerobic or Anaerobic?

Treadmills are neither inherently aerobic or anaerobic exercise equipment. Rather, it’s all about how you use them. When training with fartleks or high-intensity intervals, the training would be anerobic. If running for a long time at a steady pace, the training would be aerobic.

Megan Tyner, a Personal Trainer who writes for spine-health.com says:

“The treadmill has a predictable surface that is much easier to negotiate than sidewalks, curbs or trails, and the risk of tripping is reduced.” 

Megan Tyner

When incorporating a treadmill into an overall fitness routine, it’s essential to determine what it will be used for. For instance, short-duration sprints on a treadmill completed in under two minutes would be considered anaerobic. Alternatively, a three or four-mile brisk walk or job would be aerobic. 

Depending on treadmill running speeds, it may be used for both aerobic and anaerobic, which allows runners to vary their workouts without changing equipment. Runners who may be limited by locale and equipment can find a variety of activities by using the treadmill on each of its settings.

Tip: Sprints and hills are excellent examples of anaerobic exercise, while long walks or jogs are the definitions of aerobic.

What Are Some Anaerobic Treadmill Programs?

Anaerobic running workouts can be performed on just about every treadmill available. As long as it’s under 120 seconds and high intensity, any exercise can be anaerobic. Runners looking to spice up their routine should incorporate body weight movements with runs to develop strength and add intensity. These can be upgraded a bit by adding a weight vest to help increase resistance to the running.

Running on a treadmill can be similar to running outside, at least from a cardiovascular perspective. Robert Ashley, MD, said on UCLA Health:

“The cardiovascular benefits are similar to outdoor exercise, and it may be less hard on your joints.”

Robert Ashley

Because most modern-day treadmills can vary both speed and incline, runners can increase difficulty via sprints or elevation. Short sprint durations of 30 seconds or longer or an excellent way to utilize the treadmill for anaerobic capacity. Increasing the treadmill’s elevation and incorporating this into sprints will be more challenging but a perfect addition to any anaerobic running workout.

This type of anaerobic training, especially weighted, can help increase a runners leg size and strength.

High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT is another way to vary one’s fitness routine while incorporating treadmill and strength movements. Movements such as Burpee’s, push-ups, air squats, and other calisthenics may be mixed in with running various distances on the treadmill to create an anaerobic effect.

Depending upon the workout and target stimulus, the times of the sprints and the rep range of the calisthenics may change. 


I hope we’ve helped clear up the question is running on the treadmill aerobic or anaerobic. Running on a treadmill can be an incredibly effective tool for achieving both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Runners looking to minimize the opportunity for slips, trips, and falls on a run or utilizing a conventional gym can reap the benefits of a solid running workout without feeling the impact of the track or asphalt.

At the end of the day, whether an individual’s running on a treadmill is aerobic or anaerobic, they are still putting in work and getting better one day at a time.

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About the author

Jasper loves to write about fitness, running, and anything else that gets him moving outdoors. He's an avid hiker, backpacker, and climber who loves to stay fit so he can make sure he's healthy enough to enjoy his favorite hobbies. He also spends time writing about his true passions in life.