Hitting the gym is great for your health, but a long-term exercise regimen can also take a toll on your body. This is especially true for runners, says "Runner's World" magazine, as they are often plagued with pain and injuries with varying degrees of seriousness. For this reason, many runners prefer to use the treadmill for its softer impact on the joints, according to Columbia University. Beware, though -- just because you're running on the treadmill as opposed to the pavement, you're not always in the clear when it comes to knee and hip injuries.
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Although treadmills are softer than the pavement and thus easier on your joints, it's also easier to run with bad form on the equipment, explains "Men's Fitness" magazine. For example, treadmill runners tend to have too short a stride, or they might hold onto the handles while moving, especially if they're inexperienced. Bad form can easily cause injury. To avoid this, you should focus on not striking your heels. It's also recommended to run with a little bit of an incline to mimic natural outdoor conditions, "Men's Fitness" says.
Too Forgiving a Surface
Generally, you may think of the softer treadmill surface as a good thing, especially when it comes to overuse injuries from running. However, this can also be a negative and eventually take its toll on your body. Running coach and personal trainer Rick Morris explains, "The challenge of running over these surfaces improves your propreoception or the ability of your neuromuscular system to correct for the effect these types of surfaces have on your muscles and the position of your body parts and joints." You can try switching up your runs, outside one day and inside the next, to prevent injury.
When running on a treadmill, the surface never varies, explains exercise physiology professor Steven Devor. Outside, though, you will find unevenness in the pavement, dirt trails or even grass. When you run outside, your knee joints have to constantly change positions to adapt to the new surfaces. On a treadmill, this isn't the case. Instead, your joints remain in the same place throughout your workout, resulting in overuse injuries, he says. To prevent these types of injuries, he recommends warming up before starting your run.
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Treadmill hip and knee injuries can also be the result of wearing bad shoes and are not necessarily caused by the treadmill itself, according to the Arthritis Foundation. "Runner's World" magazine suggests using light running shoes that provide proper support. If you also run outside, you don't need to purchase new shoes just for the treadmill, they say. If you walk rather than run, they explain, it's a good idea to use closed-toe walking shoes instead of running shoes.
Debbie Lechtman is a writer living in Hartford, Conn. She has a degree in magazine journalism from Syracuse University. In the past, she has worked for major national publications, specializing in fitness and wellness. Currently, she works as a writer and copywriter and is awaiting the upcoming publication of two short stories in literary magazines.