Before we get into this article, anyone that knows me, knows I hate treadmills, but it’s not the treadmills themselves that I hate, it’s the fact I can’t run on one. I know there are many benefits to running on one. So let’s get started.
As the saying goes, “Health is wealth, without it you are nothing.” A rhetoric that’s been taught and ingrained in everybody since young, maintaining one’s health and fitness through regular exercise is important for a better quality of living. And perhaps one of the most popular and fundamental exercises available to anyone regardless of fitness level is running. Indeed, running is free; all you need is just a comfortable pair of sneakers and workout attire before you hit the streets to begin your mileage.
However, outdoor running is not the central focus of this article’s topic. Instead, we’re going to address its indoor counterpart — treadmill running. Although we acknowledge that having access to a treadmill is fairly privileged and a considerable investment, there are several convincing arguments as to why the benefits of treadmill running might outweigh traditional outdoor running.
1. Reduced Impact
This might come as a no-brainer but running on a treadmill is invariably gentler and more forgiving than hard tarmac pavements. Running at high speeds on hard surfaces inflicts considerable impacts on one’s legs and spine. It might precipitate premature health issues if not accounted for, especially with increasing age and those with predisposed skeletal or muscular conditions.
Hence, for those with certain health compromises, it might be wiser to opt for treadmills instead because its soft surface facilitates shock absorption capabilities too. This reduces the impact on your joints and minimizes the onset of aches, providing joggers with an overall more comfortable and steady run without any surprise bumps or cracks throwing them off-balance along the way.
2 Agency and Autonomy
Building upon the previous point, the treadmill provides a steady and predictable softer surface to run on without worrying about tripping over a loose rock or pavement crack. Additionally, depending on personal preference, users can also increase the speed and incline of their run to suit their stamina, intensity, and duration.
The personalization features of treadmills make them extremely accessible for both beginners and experts alike. Moreover, most treadmills are equipped with fitness trackers and heart rate monitors to allow users to observe their physiological conditions throughout their run. Essentially, treadmills aim to serve runners of all shapes and sizes with the best-tailored running experience as possible.
3. Racing Simulation
Another perk to treadmill running is its ability to simulate race routes. Given the precision of its customization, marathon runners can basically adjust the settings to simulate the exact race conditions of their marathon course based on predicted statistics like desired speed and forecasted route incline. This is especially useful for marathon foreigners who don’t have access to the actual marathon location for practice until the given day.
4. Mental Before Physical
Nowadays, it’s great that mental health is receiving greater awareness and importance than it did in the past. Many studies have shown direct correlations between one’s mental and physical health. It’s undeniable that one will affect the other. This is largely due to happy brain chemicals like endorphins and endocannabinoids that your brain releases upon a good workout session. Therefore, for those who are more susceptible to depressive slumps and are unable to gather the motivation to run outside, treadmills can become a lifesaver for them. They can run from the comfort of their homes. In turn, they’ll be directly rewarded by the positive neurotransmitters alleviating their depression and anxiety.
Hopefully, this could inspire a cycle of positive associations with running in which individuals would be more motivated to exercise to feel the post-run satisfaction, also known as “runner’s high” to some. Additionally, as mentioned previously, treadmills entitle users to greater control over running variables, facilitating a conducive and effective run each time. Some treadmills even come with built-in TVs and music players, providing a truly all-rounded running experience.
5. Cardiovascular Health
This is where treadmill heart rate monitors become particularly useful. Since running is an aerobic exercise, it’s one of the best forms of exercise to get your heart and blood pumping. Running regularly strengthens the heart and improves blood circulation. By having better circulation, your muscles are more sufficiently oxygenated during exercise, gradually improving your stamina with each session.
Furthermore, those with hypertension or poor cholesterol levels would be pleased to know that a stronger heart equates to lowered blood pressure and clearer arteries. This greatly improves one’s prospects against delaying or preventing onsets of heart-related deficits like heart attacks. Possessing the ability to routinely track one’s heart health while running is definitely an underrated perk.
6. Convenience, Safety, and Privacy
For our introvert runners out there, treadmills are your saving grace. Nothing beats running in the comfort and privacy of your own home, sheltered from the prying eyes of others. Everyone always insists that “no one judges you at the gym” or “it’s all in your head”. As far as that is usually true, sometimes it’s just difficult to overcome that mental barrier of anxiety and that’s completely understandable. Everyone should have the right to exercise within their comfort.
Moreover, running indoors on a treadmill also prevents exposure to outdoor safety hazards such as car accidents, reduced visibility at night, or even worries of harassment experienced by women. Undoubtedly, these are all prevalent concerns that most people tend to overlook, therefore reinforcing the definitive benefits that indoor treadmills can provide over running outdoors.
7. Increasing Bone Density, Core Strength, and Joint Flexibility
For some, these health benefits might be quite unexpected but research has shown that regular running on treadmills can help increase bone density, strengthen leg muscles, and improve joint flexibility.
Building bone density refers to improving the concentration of natural minerals found in our bones pertaining to their strength and durability. This can counteract degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis or brittle bones that can be exacerbated by accumulative heavy impact incurred from frequent running on hard surfaces.
Secondly, running actually greatly improves core strength due to the engagement of core muscles. When running, our body naturally flexes our abdominal muscles to maintain good posture and form, ensuring that we’re not overly bent forwards or backward. Ostensibly, this would probably be most noticeable when you experience “stitches” or cramps in your abdominal region when your core is over-tensed from intensity of pace or poor posture. Naturally, treadmills allow runners to control their speed/pace accordingly to minimize the risks of such overexertion.
Lastly, improving joint flexibility is a given because as previously mentioned, the softness of treadmill tracks is more forgiving on one’s joints. Thus, it reduces the cumulative wear-and-tear on your joint cartilages. Once again, treadmill tracks come and save the day.
Although there are plenty of merits to running outdoors, people often give treadmill runners too much flack. Both forms of running are valid and depending on the person, one form is more suitable than the other. It’s not in anyone’s place to judge or criticize one’s treadmill preferences as being “weaker” or “inauthentic” because at the end of the day, there are real health concerns underlying their choice and they should not be shamed for it. At least, they’re still running.
Actually doing the research and putting this together has convinced me I need to give it another go. I will wait for COVID to pass, my local gym is still shut anyway, but there are real benefits to it.