For many of us, our cardio exercise routines take us to a gym where we jump on a treadmill and pound out the miles. I don’t know about you, but for me, using a treadmill is one of the most tedious and boring ways to get my cardio in. I much prefer taking my workout outdoors and hitting the streets. I also love taking it a step further and going completely off road and hitting a nice trail. If you haven’t ever tried trail running you should seriously consider it. Here are a few reasons why trail running is better than a treadmill.
Burn More Calories
While your treadmill might have a convenient calorie counter and even adjust for weight, you will always burn more calories by hitting that trail or free running. Why? The soft ground that most trails are made of makes you work harder with each step and results in burning about 10% more calories.(source)
Improve your Balance and Judgement
Trail running normally brings a number of obstacles to your daily run that you won’t find on a treadmill. On most trails you’ll encounter the random stray log or puddle. Because of this your body is forced to do two things. You’ll balance better as you get used to taking uneven steps and you’ll improve your judgement as your brain has to quickly determine whether you need to change speeds or jump to avoid an obstacle.
Protect Your Joints
When you take yourself out of the gym and start running on trails you’ll immediately notice that there is significantly less shock on your joints. The soft ground acts a shock absorber to protect and lessen the impact on your joints. (source)
Reduce the Risk of Injury
Many runners experience injuries from the repetitive motion of running on a treadmill or on the pavement. The slight changes you have to make while running on an uneven trail are enough to counter the effects of an otherwise repetitive motion.
Build More Muscle
Every time you take a step on soft ground or sand you have to push off harder than you normally would on a hard surface to counteract sinking into the ground. This is especially true if you make it a point to run in the sand or in the snow. On top of that, you’re building up your flexor and core muscles that would otherwise go unused on a steady flat surface.
Increase Your Speed
Most trails offer a pretty consistent change in incline. Trail running up and down hill will increases muscle mass and strength which will translate to more speed when you hit the treadmill or track. As a matter of fact, many marathoners make it a point to include some trial running in their routines for this benefit alone.
Improve Your Mood
It’s been proven that spending time in green spaces and in nature can almost immediately improve one’s mood. Well researchers wanted to see if there was the same effect while exercising. It turns out that exercising outdoors improved feelings of revitalization and increased energy while reducing tension and anger. (source) On top of that, I don’t know how many gyms let you bring your doggy
Now that you know why trail running is so much better for you than a treadmill, you should definitely go out there and give it a shot. While it may be impractical to run on a trail every time you go out, even doing it once a week will give you enough variety to reap the benefits while keeping yourself on the road to fit.
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