Are Treadmills Bad for You?

Almost every fitness plan should include cardio workout. In general, cardio or cardiovascular exercise is any movement that will raise your heart rate and increase your blood circulation.

There are many methods and forms of cardio exercises which have specific benefits for you and your health. However, most people are doing it in order to lose calories and burn fat.


If you go to the gym, you will probably use a treadmill for your cardiovascular exercise, especially if you’re a beginner.

Treadmill is one of the most commonly used machines at the gym. However, many people say that nothing compares to outdoor running. Moreover, they also say that it is less effective and can cause injuries. Is running on a treadmill bad for you and your health? Join me as I discuss this everlasting debate, the advantages and disadvantages of treadmills and how to get the most out of it.

Running on a treadmill can be done almost anytime and anywhere

The big advantage of running on a treadmill in comparison to outdoor running is that you can do it almost anytime and anywhere. You don’t have to worry about the weather or what time of day it is. All you need to do is find the time and get on a treadmill.

However, because you are doing it in a closed environment, you won’t get Vitamin D. The synthesis of vitamin D is Sun dependent. Outside running on a sunny day will not only get you fit, but you will also synthesize more vitamin D for your bones and other tissues. Bone strength is really important, especially for runners and other athletes.

Running on a treadmill gives more control

As I’ve previously mentioned, most people do cardio workouts for fat burn. However, if you want to lose calories and burn fat, you need to achieve a certain heart rate. This is where the treadmill is more helpful than other forms of running.

Most treadmills today have heart rate monitors which will help you achieve the appropriate heart rate for fat burning. Moreover, newer treadmills already have built-in different programs that will help you achieve your goal.

Treadmill allows you to control your workout and it is much easier to define goals. You can change your speed, incline and duration of a workout. That way you will always fit your workout in the timeframe that is available to you.

In the past, many people were running on a treadmill for hours without having results. Today, many researchers showed that having shorter workout with the change of intensity is more effective than the previously mentioned workout. You will burn calories and fat not only when you’re on a treadmill but also after you’ve finished your workout. This is where treadmills are especially helpful.

When using treadmill, you can alternate between high intensity intervals with faster speed and/or incline and low intensity periods of recovery.

Treadmills are more forgiving in comparison to other forms of running

When it comes to running injuries, there is less possibility of getting them while running on a treadmill. On the treadmill, you run on a belt which is totally flat and much better shock absorber. Better shock absorption means less strain on your joints and therefore less risk for sports injury.

However, that doesn’t mean that there is no strain on your knees and joints. Running on any type of surface is a weight-bearing activity which always puts certain amount of stress on your muscles, tendons and joints. That is why you should always warm up and stretch before any exercise.

Having proper fitting shoes for running on a treadmill is also important for injury-free running. If you’re not sure what shoes you should buy, I’ve already made a list of best shoes for treadmill.

Most common running injuries are knee, ankle and Achilles tendon injuries. However, there are simple Achilles tendon and other taping techniques which can lower the risk for these types of injuries.

Always start slow and steady when you run on a treadmill. Although there is less risk for sports injuries, you can always slip and fall of a treadmill if you run too fast and your legs give up.

Is treadmill running easier than other forms of running?

When you run outside, there is a wind resistance which adds more oxygen consumption, making this form of running harder and more effective. Running on a treadmill lacks this wind resistance. That is why many people believe that running on a treadmill is less difficult and effective.

However, that is not entirely true. Recent studies showed that adding a small amount of incline on a treadmill will result in same oxygen consumption as outdoor running. Therefore, adding a certain amount of incline on your treadmill will make this type of running just as effective as outdoor running.

Is altered treadmill running gait cycle its advantage or disadvantage?

It’s been known for some time that treadmill running can alter your usual running gait cycle. The primary difference between usual and treadmill running gait cycle is the number of strides and certain muscle groups activation. In order to understand the difference, you should know the basics of normal gait cycle.

The gait cycle has two main phases - the stance phase and the swing phase. The stance phase makes two thirds of the gait cycle while the rest is the swing phase. Stance phase begins with the heel strike and ends with toe off. The swing phase begins with toe off and ends with heel strike.

In normal gait cycle, you provide the propulsion and move your body forward. The quadriceps and hamstring muscles have key part in the swing phase along with other muscles.

However, when you run on a treadmill, the treadmill motor is moving the ground for you. This propulsion of the belt will help you finish the stride and lift your legs, resulting in lower usage of hamstring muscles. That is why you should also do additional workout for the muscles on the back of the leg, especially glutes and hamstrings.

When running on a treadmill, the foot spends more time in contact with the treadmill belt. This is done in order to stay balanced. Moreover, the feet are flatter on contact, absorbing more shock and less risk for the injury.   

However, there are some advantages of a treadmill, especially for those who recently suffered from sports injury. Having more contact with the surface and flatter feet will offload the tendons, muscles and joints, which is great for those who had injury and need to gradually get to their previous form.

Although the treadmill provides more cushion and shock absorption, you don't get the benefit of uneven terrain. Even when you think that the ground outside is flat, it isn’t actually. This is good for proprioception – knowing the position of body parts in space. In order to adapt to surfaces, joints and muscles are making small adjustments. These adjustments improve coordination and balance for running and other everyday activities.


Many people still question the effectiveness of running on a treadmill in comparison to outdoor running. There are some disadvantages that reject people to use a treadmill, especially runners and athletes. The alteration of running gait cycle, the loss of coordination and balance and slowing down your outdoor running are some of the most referred disadvantages of treadmill.

However, in the last couple of years, newer treadmills tried to correct some of the previously mentioned disadvantages. Today there are advanced treadmills that allow you to create your own course and simulate that exact course you are training for. Moreover, you can choose a certain trail or terrain and prepare for a race on the exact terrain.

These newer, more advanced treadmills are more expensive. However, there are also cheaper options available that will usually give you similar or same results as the more expensive. You can check my list of best treadmills under $500 that I’ve made for this site.

Another con that is usually mentioned by regular people is that running on a treadmill can be boring. I understand that running on a sunny day and looking at the surrounding scenery is more pleasing than running on a treadmill in a closed environment. However, people who live in places that are too cold or too hot usually don’t have the opportunity to experience that. They need to find the alternative and running on a treadmill is a great option. Moreover, you can always switch up your workout and get excited again.

Running on a treadmill is definitely not bad for you and your health. Sure, there are some disadvantages, but any exercise is good for your health. Treadmills are even more safe for you and your health.  

Both running on a treadmill and outside are great workouts. Of course, they both have their pros and cons that should be considered when you decide which type of running should you do. My recommendation is that you do both of them. That way you will not get bored and will eliminate all disadvantages that both forms of running have.  

I hope that with this text you’ve learned more about running on a treadmill, its advantages and disadvantages and finally found out that it is not bad for you and you shouldn’t worry.

Bella Williams

Hi! I'm Bella. I love running. I write this blog to share everyone about running.

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