Indoor vs. Outdoor Cardio

Indoor vs. Outdoor Cardio

Indoor vs. Outdoor Cardio

Cardio is an important part of any fitness routine. A good question to ask is if it matters if it is indoor or outdoor. The great thing about cardio is that it can be done almost anywhere, but does that make a difference? Obviously, running on the treadmill for a few minutes after work is much different than running in the mountains for high altitude training. Casual joggers that are just trying to stay fit will notice the differences between indoor and outdoor cardio.

Indoor Cardio

Indoor cardio is good for the people that want to watch what is going on throughout their cardio workout. Many treadmills or stationary bikes have some type of heartbeat monitor, calorie count, timer and speed/pace identifier. This is great for people that are going through physical rehab because it allows them to control and monitor these factors. Difficulty can often be changes by increasing the speed or incline. Indoor cardio is good because it is static and can be performed in a minimal amount of space.  A level of safety is provided both day and night that outdoor workouts cannot provide.

Outdoor Cardio

Outdoor cardio is great for people that want to escape. People that enjoy the outdoors and different scenery can feel free to work out and explore new places. As great as that sounds, sometimes weather and other factors do not allow for outdoor workouts. Also, it can be a pain to monitor where and how far the workout took place.  There are training accessories that can be as accurate or more accurate than some of the indoor cardio equipment to monitor a heartbeat or calories burnt but it comes at a price. But there is still nothing compared to the fresh outdoor air. As for the quality of workout, outdoor workouts have the tendency to require more of a workload because of things like wind, potholes, signs and traffic. Terrain can make outdoor cardio work outs more strenuous.

Studies have shown that there is about a 10% additional workload when doing cardio outdoors, which would be similar to adding a 1% incline to treadmill while jogging. Finally, outdoor running can have a motivating effect. This could be influenced by the excitement of a new place to explore or the fact that it’s not as easy as just getting off of whatever gym equipment and indoor cardio exerciser would use. With outdoor cardio work outs like running, you have to run to a destination and it is much more difficult to cut a workout short because it’s not as simple as hitting a stop button.


Although there are some differences between the indoor vs outdoor cardio workout argument, it all boils down to how much control one has over their environment. Overall, for the quality of a work out, both options are fairly similar. Much of the quality of a work out is dependent on the person doing the workout. Their preference will have the greatest affect, because much of the effect will stem from motivation.