weight loss

Treadmills, Roads, and Trails. What’s Best for Weight Loss?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

If you’ve been doing weight loss walks or running on the same surface for a while, it could definitely be beneficial for you to switch it up. Have you been using the treadmill for months? You can take your workout outside. Stuck on the same old neighborhood road? Head to the nearest gym and hit the treadmill!

But ultimately, what’s the difference between exercising on a treadmill, trail, or pavement, and which makes the most sense for your specific workout plan? Let’s talk about it. 


The treadmill is technically the easiest to walk and run on, the road is basically the middle ground and trails are the hardest. That’s because the treadmill belt is designed to help your feet along and, when you’re indoors, you’re in a more controlled environment.

On the road and the trails, on the other hand, you might actually burn more calories due to factors such as shifts in terrain, hills, and the win. But if you’re used to running on the road and suddenly switch to a treadmill, this could actually lead to the treadmill feeling harder because of the perceived exertion (meaning how hard an exercise feels regardless of how your body tends to respond.)

Ultimately, all of these surfaces can be used to get in a high-quality workout. The key here is to maintain the same level of effort. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to the pros and cons of each, as well as the best time to use them.


Naturally, the treadmill is an athlete’s smartest option if they’re short on time or live somewhere with less-than-ideal weather conditions. It’s also a smart pick if you’re new to walking or running for weight loss or you’re prone to injuries such as shin splints. The treadmill surface is usually softer and has a certain “give” to it, unlike the ground that reacts similarly to running on asphalt or concrete.

But the treadmill dread can definitely be a thing. If you use a high-energy playlist, all the better.


  • Control your climate
  • Adjustable settings including incline
  • Softer surface, easier on the joints


  • Potentially might get repetitive
  • Lacks terrain variation
  • Requires a gym membership 


  • Controlled workouts
  • Full-body workouts
  • HIIT 


The road is a great option because it allows you to explore and get plenty of fresh air. Plus, you can step out your door and hit the pavement right away. Many running and walking clubs even meet up on the road, and the act of joining one could help keep you accountable and boost your pace.

The main downside? You will be at the mercy of mother nature when it comes to weather. But there is a silver lining when it comes to rainy-day workouts… Training in various conditions can actually enhance your sense of mental toughness.


  • No need for a gym membership 
  • Can plan runs according to interesting views and distance markers 
  • Working out in nature boosts your mood


  • Potentially greater risk of injury due to harder surfaces 
  • Poor weather conditions could disrupt your schedule


  • Daily weight loss walks
  • Socializing with other people who train
  • Longer endurance runs


Trail running is similar to road workouts but it’s even more challenging because your foot placement is key to not falling or tripping. However, the surface is often softer, and you’re not getting the return energy you would get from springing on the road or the treadmill. 

That being said, nature runs can also boost your mental well-being and work more of your muscles since you’re navigating an ever-changing terrain. Often, first-time trail runners will be sore in places that they never were before.


  • Build more muscle and strengthen your core
  • Improve your body awareness and balance
  • Working out in nature boosts your mood


  • Potentially greater risk of injury 
  • Potentially poor weather conditions 


  • “Boot camp” style workouts with more bodyweight exercises 
  • Longer walks or runs increase the challenge to different muscle groups
  • Meditative nature walks or adventurous trail runs

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