Today we contemplate a question that’s plagued intellectuals for centuries: what’s the better workout, running in place or actually running? We consulted Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA, who with twin sister Alexandra founded FunAndFit.org, to help shed some light on the subject.
Her answer: “The best one for the body is the one you will actually do and enjoy.”
There are no negative consequences to either approach, and Kymberly added that “the better activity is determined by the runner’s goals and abilities.”
Running in place is a relatively low impact exercise with little risk of injury. Because stationary running is powered by the body’s quadriceps and has a ball of the foot takeoff, Kymberly said, “In-place running rarely leads to shin splints and almost anyone can run in place with minimal risk of injury or joint stress.” She logically cautions that if you live in an unsafe neighborhood, you might want to run inside; if you live in an upstairs apartment, you should probably take it outside.
The runner’s high and adjustable intensity are two key elements missing from running in place. “Running brings on the famous runner’s high release of feel good hormones and offers the opportunity for high intensity cardio training,” she said. The runner’s high is felt when the body releases endocannabinoids, chemicals that lighten your mood.
David A. Raichlen, professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, once theorized that this phenomena is a “reward response to aerobic activity [that] seems to be a part of our evolutionary history. And furthermore, it appears humans have the evolutionary drive to exercise, but over time we’ve learned ignore it.”
Aside from a few variables, Kymberly reminds that “both regular and in-place running offer all the benefits of any cardio activity from better health to weight loss to stress release and more.”
If you’re confident in your athleticism and ready for intense training, running outside is for you. If you’re a bit of a greenhorn when it comes to running, start with stationary running and work from there. You’ll be feeling that runner’s high in no time!