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Is Running on a Treadmill Bad For You?

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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There’s a lot of talk in the running community on whether or not running on a treadmill is bad for you. Like other forms of exercise, the answer is: it depends. There isn’t a universal answer, as everyone’s situation and body are different.

Luckily, the article below covers all the factors to consider when using a treadmill.

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Is It Dangerous to Run on a Treadmill?

Despite the myths and rumors, running on a treadmill is not inherently dangerous. Exercise on the treadmill can be fantastic for weight loss, improving cardiovascular health, and meeting specific fitness goals.

But like any other exercise, the treadmill can lead to injury or exacerbate specific issues, especially if you overuse it.

Potential Risks of Running on a Treadmill

Two people running on a treadmill
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The treadmill poses a few risks like any other exercise or equipment. Most of the risks aren’t caused by the treadmill itself but can magnify the user’s underlying biomechanical conditions. Either way, it’s essential to understand the risks and drawbacks before hopping onto the treadmill.

Treadmill Running May Change Your Body’s Normal Biomechanics

One of the downsides to treadmill use is that it may alter the biomechanics of running. Even seasoned runners can notice the differences. The cardio machine’s design may be the culprit, as the treadmill belt pulls your foot out from under you as you run. This design is the opposite of outdoor running and may lead to overuse injuries in your feet, knees, or hips.

Potential for Injury Without Warmups

Many people get injured on the treadmill due to poor conditioning and warm-ups. Injury prevention starts with proper warm ups. A beginner’s body isn’t typically conditioned for running when using a treadmill. Completing a lengthy session on a treadmill without preparation can be hard on the joints and muscles. The stress can quickly lead to knee pain or pain in the ankles, shins, and other running injuries.


It may be easier to overexert yourself on the treadmill, which can lead to joint pain if you aren’t careful. Without enough time for rest and recovery, you can sustain an overuse injury due to the repetitive motion of the treadmill. Overuse can quickly happen as you’re using the same muscles and joints. Overuse injury may lead to muscle tears, chronic knee pain, or other issues.

Moving In the Same Direction

The treadmill requires the body to only run in a forward motion. However, the body needs to work in all directions for the best results. When this cardio equipment is your only form of exercise, the muscles that require you to change directions will be neglected and less powerful. This issue can impact your range of motion and may increase your injury risk if you aren’t careful.

What Are Some Benefits of Running on a Treadmill?

A coach giving advice on how to run properly on a treadmill
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Although there are a few risks with using a treadmill, there’s a wide array of health benefits to using the machine. The treadmill is an excellent source of aerobic exercise for many, as you can easily reach the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. Additional health benefits include:

  • Controlled Environment: The treadmill allows you to easily control factors like speed, incline, distance, and time. This can help you keep a consistent pace. You also don’t have to factor in environmental elements like bad weather and surface conditions. These factors can help you hit weight loss or other fitness goals.
  • Convenience: It’s hard to deny the convenience of the treadmill. You can easily hop on the treadmill and finish a workout that benefits your health and mood. The comfort is even more apparent if you have a treadmill in your home gym or garage.
  • Less Strain On the Joints: The treadmill can be less strenuous on your joints compared to running on harder surfaces outside. The treadmill’s design absorbs more shock and impact with each stride. Not to mention, if you use a slight incline, you can reduce the impact on your knees even further.

Is It Better to Run Outside?

Now to answer the question on everyone’s mind: “Is it better to run outside instead of on the treadmill?” The short answer is: most likely.

 For individuals without joint problems and access to safe areas, running outside can be the ideal choice. Exercising outdoors can help improve your capacity, as your legs have to do more work compared to the treadmill.

Running outside also comes with physical and mental health advantages of being outdoors. You’ll get more sunlight, and you might be more engaged instead of running in a straight direction for a set period. Running outside also incorporates wind resistance, which can improve your overall fitness.

However, that doesn’t mean you should altogether avoid the treadmill. The treadmill can be an advantage for many individuals, as it’s convenient, low-impact, and adjustable to meet specific goals. Regular exercise on these powered machines can help you maintain a healthy body.

Should I Mix It Up?

People running outside instead of running on a treadmill
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If you can, you should definitely incorporate outdoor running with sessions on the treadmill. Combining outdoor exercise with the powered machines ensures you’re getting the best out of both worlds. Outdoor running will help you work different muscles, improve your cardiovascular endurance, and keep you engaged.

Avoid Overuse on the Treadmill

Many people use the treadmill to meet health goals, but it’s important to avoid overuse. The risk of Injury typically arises from poor warm-ups and not enough rest. Be sure to build up to higher workloads throughout the session and over time. Always listen to your body’s signals and never put your body at risk.

Include Other Forms of Exercise

Like any other program, it’s crucial to include other forms of exercise and movements. Doing so will keep your body balanced and reduce your risk of injury. You may want to incorporate outdoor runs, strength training, or mobility work. With more forms of exercise, you’ll stay healthy and get more out of your treadmill sessions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Running On A Treadmill Every Day Bad For You?

It’s essential to take one rest day per week at a minimum. Adequate rest days ensure you aren’t overexerting your body. Daily running can be suitable if you adjust your distance and intensity. Overdoing it will eventually wear out your body and can lead to injury if you aren’t careful. Mix your workouts with the length of time and intensity to get the most out of your effort.

Why Shouldn’t You Use a Treadmill?

Although the treadmill can be advantageous, it does pose certain health risks. Running on a treadmill uses different muscles than outdoors and can change your gait. It’s also easy to overuse a treadmill and causes injury to the knees, hips, feet, or ankles.

Can You Get Fit on the Treadmill?

Yes, getting physically fit by using a treadmill is possible. However, it’s crucial to incorporate other forms of exercise. Be sure to include strength training, outdoor runs, and mobility work into your routine for the best results.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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