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Treadmill vs. Walking 

Which is Better?

Part 1 - Body Mechanics

People often ask me if it’s better to use a treadmill or just walk outside. The answer is a little more complex than just yes or no. In this article, we’ll briefly go over a couple of the main advantages and disadvantages of both, and then you’ll be able to make the right decision for you. We are going to look at three main areas: body mechanics, quantification, and balance.

Body Mechanics

I have watched thousands of people walk on treadmills, and one thing I've noticed is that the body moves slightly differently than it does when walking off the treadmill. The main reason is because when on a treadmill, most people hold on to the railings when they walk.

I used to think that people just held on to feel safe, and certainly some do, but I have also seen many athletes and younger people hold on when clearly they didn’t need to. It’s just natural for people to hold on to handles when they’re placed right in front of them.

Problem is, when you do this, you can’t swing your arms, and your body was designed to operate with the arms swinging as you walk. The arms act as a counterbalance.

When you take that counterbalance away, weird things start to happen in the rest of the body. Typically, it results in the pelvis rotating forward as you step.

Without getting too scientific, let’s just say that this was not the way you were meant to walk. That makes normal walking the winner in this category.

However, if you are using a treadmill, the obvious solution to this problem is to not hold on to the handles unless you are so wobbly that you need something to hold on to to feel safe. Then your body mechanics will be just fine.

In Part 2 of Treadmill vs. Walking, we'll examine the ins and outs of quantifying your walking.

Part 3 considers how your balance is used when you walk.

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