Like with most other things in life, perfection is not attained by getting yourself a treadmill running machine. Everything has its pros and cons and you’ll have to weigh up for yourself whether a running machine is best for you. Among the advantages are the fact that you can still go for a run when it is impossible to do so outside, perhaps because of bad weather. Many people, especially those new to jogging, feel embarrassed to go out and exercise in public, or cannot concentrate because they feel as if everybody is staring at them. Using a home treadmill is a perfect way to get into your fitness regime in the comfort of your own home, and without those prying eyes. And you can still watch TV while running on a treadmill, which is a good way to relieve some of the boredom. Of the flip side, it is a wonderfully liberating experience to go running in the breezy outdoors and fresh air, where you can see something new and exhilarating at every turn. For people who love jogging in open country, the prospect of jumping onto a motorized treadmill for a ten mile jaunt will offer all the excitement of watching paint dry.
Healthwise, whether you use running machines or run out on the roads doesn’t make any difference. They both beat sitting down on the couch and avoiding any exercise altogether. The difference between the two types of running method can be felt though, normally by picking up irritating little injuries to knee or ankle joints, due to wearing worn out running shoes on hard surfaces. Your joints can easily experience forces equivalent to five times your body weight when jogging, due to the impacts of your heels against the road. This might sound like a bad thing, and over time without proper well-cushioned running shoes it can be very damaging to your joints. However, there is also a lot of evidence – from studies on astronauts, of all things – which indicates that avoiding these heavier types of impacts can lead to a loss in bone density. So there is a level of safe beneficial impact below which the bones can suffer, but above which joint damage can result. Many treadmill running machines feature shock absorbers under the running deck to minimize joint damamge due to heel strike, while allowing enough force to stimulate healthy bone growth and tissue repair. In contrast, elliptical machines do not provide this benefit to bones as its operation does not involve any impacts.
Of course the most important health benefits of an exercise treadmill are that it gets you working your heart and lungs to improve your cardiovascular fitness; and can be great for helping you lose any excess weight (along with a healthy, balanced diet). Add to those benefits the fact that you will be able to exercise whenever you planned to, without getting a run cancelled by the weather, and you should make excellent progress whatever your fitness goals. It really does make a difference to get into the habit and exercise three times a week without fail, whether it’s summer or winter.
On the downside, there is some evidence that running on a treadmill can affect your balance over the long-term if overused. This is because it tends to make you elongate your foot drag, and your body has to compensate for that. The solution is to mix up your training whenever you can. Use the running machine when the weather’s bad, but by all means get yourself out into the world and run outdoors too whenever you can.
On the whole though, the advantages to health of making use of a treadmill running machine by far outweigh any disadvantages, mainly because it enables you to keep on going, whatever the weather. Just make sure you consult your doctor before embarking on a new exercise program.
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