At the latest, when the weather throws a spanner in the works of the run in the park, runners are faced with the decision to switch to a treadmill instead. However, there are rumors that training on the machine is less effective than an outdoor run – but is that true?
To make the effort of training on a treadmill comparable to that of an outdoor run, the “one percent rule” is traditionally used.
It says that you should increase the treadmill’s incline to a one percent level to simulate the natural height of a flat road.
But is such a change in incline really necessary to get the best treadmill workout? Or can you easily compare an indoor activity in terms of effectiveness with running outdoors?
An Australian study recently published in Sports Medicine attempts to answer these questions.
To do this, the researchers looked for differences in mileage on the treadmill and natural flooring in the data from 34 previous studies.
Meta-Analysis Explains Differences
Twelve of the included studies used the usual one percent incline on the treadmill; others used a higher or lower pitch.
The researchers focused on three important benchmarks: On the one hand, physiological factors, i.e., how hard the body exerted itself to maintain the pace and to master the training (measured by heart rate, blood lactate level, and maximum oxygen intake).
The second factor was physiological. According to their statements, it was asked how hard the training was for the runners.
Finally, the performance, i.e., the time required for training, also counted.
Treadmill Workouts Seem Harder
Interestingly, the study found that runners had higher heart rates and higher levels of perceived exertion when running at a high pace on the treadmill than when doing an equally intense exercise outdoors.
But when the runners slowed down and slowed down on the treadmill, their heart rate and perceived exertion level were lower than when they had the same level of exertion on natural terrain.
For some key performance indicators, such as maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max), the treadmill and the outdoor run were very similar. The study found that participants achieved roughly the same VO2 maximum on the treadmill as they did in the great outdoors.
Regardless of the location of the workout, the runners also achieved similar top speeds.
In the studies, however, the outdoor runners showed more endurance than the treadmill runners – which suggests that performance could depend to a certain extent on the training location.
Many more factors can be controlled on the treadmill, including wind, temperature, speed, and incline.
So it is more likely that we can achieve the best results in this perfectly controlled environment.
One possible explanation for the opposite result is that many people choose the wrong pace on the treadmill because the workout seems harder to them without outside influences and distractions.
The same goes for the head of the study himself: “I find running outdoors more pleasant and less strenuous than training on a treadmill,” he told Runner’s World. “That’s why I do distance and speed exercises outdoors.”