Walking, running and cycling are the most common types of outdoor exercise. You can do a lot more things outdoors if you get creative. 

Let’s take a look at how we burn calories indoors walking, running on a treadmill or cycling, and how we burn calories outdoors doing the same activities. Why would we burn more calories in one environment than the other?

Running on a treadmill

– You receive some assistance from the belt
– The incline is the same, never changes, unless you change it yourself
– You have control over the incline. You decide how much or how little you challenge yourself
– There is no other resistance besides incline
– It’s generally more comfortable
– Pace doesn’t change, you usually set it and leave it there (I find it a pain to change speed, particularly if I am already at a high speed)
– Running on a treadmill has benefits such as fat burning profile, different training plans to fit your goal, less stress on the joints and other.. but the benefits of running on the treadmill is not the topic of this article.

indoor or outdoor exercise_2Running outdoor

– No assistance, your body does all the work
– You use more energy to move forwards, rather than run/walk on the spot
– Incline can change, depending on where you run, it is out of your control
– You have other resistance such as the wind, mud or snow which makes your body work a lot harder
– It’s less comfortable, there is more work to put into it
– Surfaces can vary, forcing your body to constantly adapt and that uses more muscles in the body and more energy. You train your body in a multilateral way.
– Pace can change fast, sometimes you have to change it. Because you can change it in a fraction of a second you will change it more often, not worrying about falling off the treadmill
– It’s the same for running and cycling.

If we compare the two lists, exercising (in this case running) outdoors is more strenuous and would burn more calories.

The same is true for cycling and other types of exercise done outdoors as opposed to indoor. This being said it also comes down to the individual, the type of terrain you have around you and the weather as well.

An exercise can be as difficult as you make it

If you want to be comfortable then whether you exercise outdoors or indoors will make no difference. indoor or outdoor exercise_3When you are outdoors and want to burn more calories you have to find an incline. On a treadmill you have it there at your control.

For other types of exercises it’s the same. If you want to lift weights you have to find logs and rocks. Indoors you already have them.


Depending on where you live you might be able to run all year round. But if you live in a country with extreme conditions (heat or cold) exercising indoors will probably be a wiser choice.

A change in scenery

Exercising outdoors is generally more interesting and entertaining than exercising indoors. The view changes all the time and this makes it less boring.

There are articles which suggest that research has shown you burn 5%-10% more calories walking or running outdoors.

Fitness expert Jay Blahnik, author of Full Body Flexibility explains that, “You use more energy to propel yourself over the ground,”, “and pushing a little against the wind or other elements burns more calories, too.”

It makes sense of course – running, walking and cycling against the wind, for example, will make you work more and burn more calories, if other conditions, such as speed, are the same.

But in the end it all comes down to each individual, on how hard you want to work.

Connect with Expert Alexandra Merisoiu.

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