Setting the incline on your treadmill mimics the terrain you might face when running outdoors. Many people choose a treadmill because it allows for exercising any time and in any weather. Whether you choose indoor or outdoor running, your body will get a good cardiovascular and muscular workout. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

Calories Burned

The number of calories burned with indoor vs. outdoor running is very similar as long as you use a 1 percent incline on your treadmill. Your speed also determines calorie burn. If you tend to run faster on a long open path than on a treadmill, you will burn more calories outdoors than indoors. It is important to note that many calorie-tracking products often are inaccurate. Choose one that allows you to input your weight and height for a close estimation of calorie burn. This allows you to determine whether you burn more calories with an outdoor run on hilly terrain or by using a treadmill set at an incline.

Level of Exertion

Your exertion level when using a treadmill on an incline may differ from that when you run outside. If you hold onto the bars or have trouble balancing on a treadmill, you may not be able to run at peak performance. On the other hand, encountering different types of hilly terrain over the course of a run may slow you down. For example, if you move from concrete to grass or sidewalk to dirt, you might not be able to keep up your speed as your body adjusts to the different surfaces. Observe your level of exertion during a hilly outdoor run vs. an indoor treadmill running session to determine which choice allows you to work out harder and which provides more benefits, both muscular and cardiovascular.

Reason for Running

If you run on hills purely for the health benefits, such as protection from heart disease or weight gain, running outdoors or indoors offers similar benefits. However, if you are running for a specific purpose, you might need to choose one or the other. If you are training for an outdoor race, running outside mimics the conditions you might encounter during the race. Outdoor training prepares you for running up and down hills while keeping your balance and form. If you are running to lose weight, using a treadmill may be optimal because the padded belt helps protect your knees and feet from impact injuries.


If your outdoor run occurs on steep or high hills, a one percent incline on a treadmill isn't likely to provide the same type of workout. While you'll still burn calories and get your heart pumping on a treadmill, these effects might not be at the same level as an outside running session. Some treadmills allow you to set the incline to go up and down at different levels, which is a good way to set a course that is very close to what you might encounter outdoors. Look for these treadmills at gyms or exercise equipment supply stores.

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