Any running, particularly over the long term, results in some joint deterioration, or osteoarthritis. However, because many treadmills are cushioned or have a spring component to reduce your impact, you may help to preserve your joints by using a treadmill as opposed to running outdoors.
Long Term Impact
Your footwear is critical because worn or unsupportive footwear will result in increased wear and tear on your joints. Replace your running shoes at least every six months, more often if you are a distance runner or run daily, and look for shoes specifically designed for running.
Because running requires a significant physical effort, acute injuries are common both with using a treadmill and with running outdoors. Using the automatic turn-off clip can help reduce your risk and allow you stop the treadmill quickly in the event of an injury. And the treadmill offers a safer alternative to running in less than optimal conditions, such as when there is ice or snow on the ground.
Chronic Use Injuries
Chronic use or misuse injuries are common for those who run. Because the treadmill only moves in one plane, front to back, it restricts your joints to similarly move in a limited plane, which can lead to strain on your knees. You may benefit from using an elliptical instead if you have knee pain. However, running outdoors can cause other injuries because of the slight slant of the road. Misuse injuries, acquired by running or walking with improper form, can occur with any form of running or walking, and focusing on your posture is vital. Consult with a physical therapist or sports training specialist to identify any misuse posture and form issues you may have to reduce your risk of injury.
Effect of Weight Loss and Improved Health
If you have joint pain or muscle fatigue, running or walking on any surface can have benefits because you may lose weight over time by exercising aerobically. This weight loss can alleviate pressure on your joints, and your increased muscle strength and endurance can also help protect your joints. If your climate is not conducive to regular outdoor running, having a treadmill to use on these days will aid you in sticking to a regular exercise routine, which will have the optimal long-term effects. However, because you may find it more pleasant to exercise outdoors and feel an increased sense of accomplishment as you finish an outdoor lap, you may be more inclined to continue exercising if you choose to exercise outdoors.
- Arthritis Foundation: What to Know About Using a Treadmill
- TreadmillReviews.net: How to Avoid and Injury When Using a Treadmill
- Jounal of Sports Sciences: A 1% Treadmill Grade Most Accurately Reflects the Energetic Cost of Outdoor Running
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Aerobic Requirements of Overground Versus Treadmill Running
- RunnersConnect: Treadmill Versus Running Outside
- Runner's World: The 10 Laws of Injury Prevention
- Everyday Health: Exercising with Knee Pain
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