Walking Outside vs On The Treadmill: Which Is Best for the Elderly?

Walking Outside vs On The Treadmill: Which Is Best for the Elderly?

Walking Outside vs On The Treadmill: Which Is Best for the Elderly?

While most physicians and experts agree that walking is one of the best ways for seniors to get their daily dose of exercise, the jury is still out on which mode of walking is best -- walking outside or walking on the treadmill.

Today’s article is going to dive more deeply into that debate! We’re covering the benefits and drawbacks of both.

Walking Outside

The Benefits

Burns More Calories

If you’re an elderly person who is concerned about weight maintenance or actively trying to lose weight, walking outside will be incredibly beneficial for you. Walking outside is a great way to burn calories efficiently, as outdoor walking involves the use of more muscle groups than stationary walking.

In addition, it takes much more effort to propel your body forward using your own weight and strength, whereas treadmills help you to move forward with little effort.

Mood Boosts

There’s a distinct connection between physical activity outside and mental wellbeing. In a 2014 study, it was found that emotional health and wellbeing is significantly boosted after walking outside. Studies from 2013 and 2015 also found that walking in nature reduces stress and anxiety more than walking in urban settings.

With this in mind, we can deduce that walking outside is better for your mental health than walking on the treadmill inside your home. Of course, both methods still release dopamine -- but walking outside also exposes you to sunshine and fresh air, which can be a helpful pick me up when you’re having a rough day.


The Drawbacks

Joint Stress

If you suffer from joint issues, weak ankles, or bad knees walking outside may exacerbate the problem by putting strain on your joints and sore spots. This is because the ground outside is, in general, much harder than the belt of a treadmill, which creates shock and friction within your bones and joints.

Unpredictable Weather

While some people can weather through less-than-ideal weather for the sake of their morning walk, not everyone can -- and if you can’t, you’re not alone! However, this is one of the drawbacks of walking outside. You never know for sure what the weather is going to be like, which makes relying on sunshine risky business.

Walking on the Treadmill

The Benefits

Better Workout Control

One of the biggest benefits of walking on the treadmill is that you can control nearly every aspect of your workout. Everything from incline and speed, to how long your workout is can be controlled with the push of just a few buttons.

This is ideal if you’re looking to try out new inclines, speeds, or take on a workout program of any kind. Also, when you start to get tired or develop mid-workout aches and pains, you can simply change your workout as you see fit, take a break, or cut your session short.


Walking on the treadmill can be easily made into a routine thanks to the fact that you never have to worry about external factors like rain, snow, heat, and extreme cold. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, your treadmill will always be ready and available for you to use.

With your treadmill available, you can’t make any excuses as to why you can’t complete your daily walk!


Listening to music, watching videos, or tuning into podcasts can be dangerous if you’re walking outside but when you’re on the treadmill, there’s nothing to worry about. You can have your headphones on and your music turned up as loud as you want without worrying about danger or constantly looking over your shoulder.

The Drawbacks


When you go to purchase a new treadmill, you’ll run into the first drawback -- the price. Treadmills can be a steep investment, which is what makes them such a luxury to have.



While treadmills are great for creating routines, these same routines can also be very repetitive and dry. They can become boring quite quickly due to the lack of change of scenery and the near non-existent mental stimulation of staring at the same four walls every day.


Both walking outside and on the treadmill have their own set of distinct benefits and drawbacks that can make choosing between the two difficult.


Luckily, as long as your doctor gives you the OK and your health is relatively good, there’s no reason that you’d have to choose at all. You could simply opt to go for walks outside when you can, and then, on days with poor weather, you could make use of your treadmill.


On your outside walking days, though, it may be helpful to take a look at this list of the best walking canes for balance and stability -- just in case!