Fitness Corner: Outdoor walking vs. treadmill walking

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Pritam Potts
Pritam Potts

I stepped outside to walk at 7 a.m. this morning and realized that it’s not just darker now, there is also an undeniable chill of fall in the air. For someone like me, an avid outdoor walker, it’s time to prepare for inclement dark weather and the possibility that I will need to hit the treadmill on some days this winter. I don’t mind reverting to a treadmill in bad weather as long as I have music and reading material. But most days I look forward to getting outside for my walk, especially when it’s a sunny day, no matter what the temperature.

However, there are many people I know who prefer the treadmill. One of my friends does some sort of run/walk on the treadmill at her gym just about every day. If she can’t do that, she will get on the treadmill in her garage. She does this no matter what the weather, even on the nicest days! It’s a mystery to me, but it’s no accident that there are multiple treadmills in just about every fitness facility out there. It’s simply a personal preference.

Regardless of the mechanism, walking is an excellent way to stay moving. Walking consistently, most days of the week, is the key. It really doesn’t matter whether it’s outdoors or on a treadmill, commitment to walking is an excellent way to stay fit and healthy over the long term.

Benefits to walking outdoors include:
-Constant stimulus, such as plants, trees, people, cars—not boring
-Motivation to keep moving—you can’t stop until you are back at home
-Much easier to converse with your walking partner—treadmill machinery/gyms can be loud
-Free other than the cost of a pair of shoes
-Hills are a great way to push yourself

If you walk outdoors in the dark, be sure to wear some sort of safety gear so you are visible to passing cars. Layer clothing so that you do not get too cold or hot, and reconsider the timing of your walk in thunderstorms or if there are high winds (it only takes one tree).

Benefits to walking on a treadmill:
-Temperature controlled in summer and winter—and dry on rainy days
-Lots of stimulus in a gym—especially people watching
-Controlled—if you need to stop for any reason you won’t find yourself away from home
-Indirect peer support—everyone in a gym is working out (energy boost!)
-If you prefer a home treadmill, it’s incredibly convenient

It’s easy to get bored walking on a treadmill, but most gyms these days offer fitness machines with internet, music and video options, not to mention our own smartphones and tablets that we can use to stay entertained. At a minimum, set the treadmill incline to at least 1% to more accurately emulate outdoor walking, and throw some steeper inclines in for higher intensity. Don’t hang on to the rails except for safety reasons and you’ll work harder.

Whatever type of walking you prefer doesn’t really matter, as long as you stay consistent with it. Have fun, and stay moving this winter!

Pritam Potts, owner of Advanced Athlete LLC, is a NSCA-certified trainer and strength coach with 12+ years of experience working with athletes and clients of all ages. Her specialty is in functional strength applications, developing core and overall strength and coordination specifically for the purpose of enhancing the body’s ability to function optimally and safely in athletic movement. You can contact her online at www.facebook.com/mrsathlete and www.twitter.com/mrsathlete.

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