What’s Better, Indoor or Outdoor Exercise?

The treadmill is so reviled by outdoor runners, they have a special name for it: the Dreadmill. Some cyclists, like me, can’t quite understand what an indoor bike is even for 🙂 But this is really two questions: which activities are safer, or more efficient or strenuous as exercise? And which is better for you?

Indoor advantages

  • Some environments may present safety issues, such as few alternatives to roads with heavy motorized traffic or even crime risks.
  • Some places have long periods of inclement weather.
  • People with serious pollen allergies may benefit from being indoors during pollen season.
  • People with asthma may want to limit exposure to cold, which can trigger asthma attacks.
  • People with knee problems, or who are recovering from knee injuries, may prefer the treadmill, which places less pressure on the joints. (Knees are under extra pressure going downhill, which the treadmill can’t even simulate.)
  • People who like the social component of the gym, or who need an explicit place to help them focus while working out, may do much better in gym-based workouts.
  • Relatively short workouts that combine using resistance equipment and cardio may be more conveniently completed in a gym.

Outdoor advantages

Why Not Both?

The best approach for many people is a bit of both — do some activities at home or in a gym, and go outdoors for others:

  • Do strength training indoors, and run or bike outside.
  • Use a gym for formal workouts — your workout routine — but go outside for casual, event-based, or social workouts, like bike rides with the family, a kayak trip, or a ropes course.
  • Exercise indoors in rainy or snowy weather, and outside as weather appeals.
  • Do quick workouts in the gym — on the way to or from work or at lunch — and go outside for long walks, bike rides, or runs.

Wonderful photograph by Zack Seckler.

What works best for you?


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