Is Running in Place as Effective as Running?

If you are an avid runner, you most likely go for a long run several times a week… if not every day. Running is a great exercise to build strong bones and strengthen many different muscles all at the same time. You can also benefit from the sunshine and fresh air on a run.

But what happens when the weather won’t cooperate?  You’ll likely look to move your workout indoors… but what if you don’t have access to a treadmill or indoor track?

What about running in place? Hey, it’s a valid thought and one you may want to consider.  And if so, you may be wondering about the benefits of running in place vs. running outside (or indoors).  After all, it’s probably better than nothing, right?

Is Running in Place as Effective as Running?

No, running in place is not as effective as running, but it is still a good aerobic workout to use in place of your normal outdoor runs or treadmill workouts. Running in place uses different muscles than an actual run does.

1. An actual run uses several more muscles than running in place does. The primary muscle groups used in running are the quadriceps femoris, or the front thigh muscles of the upper leg, the hamstring muscles at the rear of the upper leg, your gluteus maximus or rear end, and the hip muscles called iliopsoas, and your calf muscles.

2. In addition to the primary muscle groups, your body also benefits from a run by using secondary muscles as well. These are supporting muscles of the upper abdominals and lower abdominals in your stomach which provide stability for your body as you run.

3. Running in place uses your quadriceps, shins, glutes, and hamstrings as the primary muscles that get benefits from this exercise. Auxiliary muscles used in running in place are the adductors and abductors.

4. Running outside or even on a treadmill burns a considerable number more calories than running in place does. When you are running in place, the terrain under your feet is smooth, such as a hardwood floor, carpet, or other types of flooring. When you run outdoors, though, the terrain is bumpy, which dictates that you use your muscles more to put more strain on all of your muscles. Your abdominals also serve to keep you upright as you run outdoors as well.

5. In comparison, if you weigh 155 pounds and run outside on rough terrain, you can expect to burn 1,553 calories per hour. If the same 155-pound person runs in place on smooth flooring, they will only burn about 563 calories per hour. So this is quite a difference in your training if you have the need to run in place quite often.

When Is It A Good Idea To Run in Place?

Several situations can arise when you can’t go for your regular outdoor run and, in these instances running in place is better than not getting any exercise at all. Even though it is less effective to run in place, you can still get an aerobic workout.

When Weather is a Factor

When the weather is not favorable, such as in the winter with snow and ice or even raining all day long, it may be better to run in place and avoid slipping and falling outside on the unstable ground.

When You Can’t Get to the Gym

You may not be able to get to your gym to use a treadmill for your run. It may be time-related and you simply do not have the time to drive to the gym because of other commitments or longer work hours on your schedule.

The weather may be bad enough that you don’t want to drive to the gym in some cases. Severe winter storms impact many different areas and cause roads to close because of being iced over, as well as road closures.  

Your car may be in the shop for repairs, so you can’t get to the gym and you don’t really want to call an Uber and pay them to take you. In this case, you will already likely be paying more money out of pocket for car repairs, so you definitely don’t want more expenses on top of that cost.

When You Are Recovering From an Injury

If you have a knee or ankle injury and are still recovering from it, you may want to run in place instead of going for a run outside. Running in place, especially on a soft surface, such as carpet in your living room or bedroom, will lower the impact you have on your knees and calves because the soft flooring absorbs the shock. 

You will still get the benefits of a stationary workout in your home while being careful not to aggravate any injuries that are healing as badly as if you run outdoors.

Final Thoughts on Running in Place vs Running

If you have no other choice than to try running in place, you can up your game to get the maximum benefits from it.  Try lifting your knees very high for a more intense workout.  Or you can add some short sprints into your routine to make it more intensive. You can also use dumbbells and ankle weights to make your core work harder to stabilize your upper body and stay upright.

These little tweaks will help get the most out of running in place, even if it isn’t as effective or enjoyable as a nice run in the great outdoors.  Also, keep in mind that even if you are running in place inside, you will need to wear appropriate running shoes to lessen the impact on your joints and stabilize your footing. If you are new to running, you may want to read some tips on how to get started.

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