Is running at an incline on a treadmill really equivalent to running up a hill?

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If you are running up a hill in the real world, it’s harder than running on a flat surface because you need to do all the work required to lift your body mass vertically. The work is based on the force (your weight) times the distance travelled (the vertical distance).

But if you are on a treadmill, no matter what “incline” setting you put it at, your body mass isn’t going anywhere. I don’t see how there’s any more work being done than just running normally on a treadmill. Is running at a 3% incline on a treadmill calorically equivalent to running up a 3% hill?

In: Engineering

9 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

You are still lifting yourself up a hill, it’s just that the treadmill is pulling you back down as soon as it happens. It’s exactly the same as how a treadmill works without an incline.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Single dad with two kids young kids so I do a lot of treadmill runs. I found a lot of runners like to gatekeep what a “real run” is. I’ve found a lot of correlation between running on a treadmill and running outside. Though nothing really replicates the skills you need to develop for technical trial running. While I prefer doing my hill training inside you’re much better doing it on a treadmill than not doing one at all.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s not exactly the same you need a greater incline to achieve the same effect as going up hill while off a treadmill. I can’t recall what the actual difference was however you can train going uphill on a treadmill you just need to set it to a higher incline than you might actually face outside.

If you set your treadmill to the extreme’s it makes itself very apparent that the incline makes a significant difference.

Anonymous 0 Comments

you’re still lifting your body mass up the incline of the treadmill, the treadmill wants to send you backwards and a little bit down, so you need to exert effort a little bit up to stay in place. imagine if the treadmill was at a 90 degree angle. you’d have to climb vertically like a gecko in order to stay on it.

treadmills are almost never calorically equivalent strictly speaking since you don’t have to fight wind or air resistance. but the incline does require you to push harder to stay in place.

Anonymous 0 Comments

In my experience, yes.

An incline on a treadmill is noticeably more difficult in the same way that running up hill is difficult. I run on a treadmill all winter because it’s cold where I am, and I definitely notice that in the spring, I find that I’m really well prepared for running up hill and I can run MUCH faster on flat ground than before the winter

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s not the work required to achieve a higher potential energy, it’s more that you’re running in a different direction than gravity. It doesn’t matter if the ground moves at a constant speed in either direction.
It might be more intuitive to understand, if you compare it to climbing stairs of an escalator, it is similarly exhausting, for an escalator that is going up, or down, or is standing still.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I can see where the confusion arises because you stay more or less in the same place. However, think about what would happen if you stopped running on a treadmill: it would move you downhill. When running on the treadmill you are constantly counteracting that which requires energy; the same as running up an similar incline at the same speed. However you aren’t fighting air resistance or dealing with things like slippage so an outside run is still a bit harder.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Have you ever tried walking up a (running) down escalator? If so, recall the effort it took.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Of course lol. You have to work against gravity to walk up the treadmill. When you are walking outside it’s likely going to be closer to thirty degrees