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Is it better to train outside or indoors on equipment?

It is better to train in a place where you have motivation and feel your best.  A lot of my clients begin training inside on a treadmill or elliptical because they like to see the time, distance, resistance, etc on the machine.  Or they like the privacy to wear what they want in their house or to see others inside a gym.  Others prefer the outdoors for mental clarity, relaxation, and fresh air.  Being outside offers constant changes in your workout as far as wind resistance, elevation change, and routes you can take.  Overall, there are benefits to both inside and outside workouts, but as long as you are doing your workouts and enjoying them that is all that matters.
Outdoors? Indoors? There is no right answer! What works for you? What are your needs? What helps to motivate you? To start it might help you to think about which environment you most enjoy: indoors or outdoors? Exercising in an enjoyable environment is a great start. Next think about what kinds of activities you enjoy (versus 'have to do') to do in that environment. It might help to sit with a peice of paper and make a list of all the activities you might enjoy doing in your favorite environment. For example, if your favorite environment is outdoors there are numerous things you can do outdoors: walking, biking, hiking, basketball, tennis, etc. 

There really is no 'right' environment or 'right' equipment or 'right' exercise. It all depends on you and what's the best motivation for you. 

The best place for you to train is the place where you will stick with it and enjoy it!  Everyone is different and you need to recognize your challenges in a variety of settings.  For example, some people prefer to exercise at home with a workout DVD, while for others the distractions that come with being at home are too counterproductive.  Some people are social creatures and crave the camaraderie of a group fitness class or the interaction the gym provides, while others need the solitude of a long run outside.  The mission is to find your ‘best place’ and start moving!

There are pros and cons when training outside versus training inside. One of the benefits of training outside is motivation. It is hard to continue to be motivated for long durations looking at a TV! Motivation is a very important factor when doing cardiovascular training because of the time that is required, so any changes in your environment will help. Also important is using the muscle groups that are required for your activity. An example of this is running. When using a treadmill indoors, your legs are being aided in the run by the belt. The belt is helping with the leg turnover so you are not using your hamstring in the full range of motion. If you only train on a treadmill and then go outside to run, the first thing that will fatigue will be the hamstrings because they have not been training as hard.  Running outside, you need the hamstrings to push off more in order to drive your leg around because you don’t have the belt to help you. Overall, in any activity outside you are using more muscle groups which will aid in caloric expenditure. However, training outside all the time can also cause some over use injuries. A benefit of training inside is that you have a controlled surface to reduce the impact on the joints as well as controlled temperature. Training in the cold may cause injury if the muscles are not properly warmed up and training in the heat can increase your chances of dehydration. Another benefit of training on equipment is the control of the workout and feedback. When you are able to see the workload (speed, incline, level, watts) you can make adjustments to continue to progress. Outside it is harder to control pace, but it is not impossible.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.