Greenspaces for runners

Some people love running, and some people hate it. If you’re reading this blog, then chances are you’re a fan – if you’re not then hopefully this will inspire you.

Inspiring running outside

There’s nothing better than the feel of the wind against you and the sound of nature around you, only disturbed by the steady beat of your feet hitting the ground as you run. Not forgetting the views of the outdoors around you and the smell of the fresh air. For many this beats staring at the wall of a gym with the smell of stale sweat thick in the air, running on a treadmill like a hamster. Some prefer the convenience of just plugging in their iPod and pressing go on the running machine. If you, like others, are torn between running outside and running on a treadmill, then read on...

Hyde Park, London

Benefits of outdoor exercise and nature

It seems to be an ongoing debate – what’s best, running outside or on a treadmill? We’ve dug out some scientific studies to (try to) settle it.

1. You run slower on a treadmill

One study(1) found that you tend to run slower on a treadmill compared with outside, even though it feels like you’re running faster. The study also showed that you tend to work harder when you’re running outside, as opposed to inside. The researchers think that this could be due to a lack of ‘visual inputs’ when you’re running inside – basically that you’re missing out on the beautiful natural scenery you’d be exposed to if you ran outside.

2. You could be at more risk of injury when running on a treadmill

Another study(2) suggested that the way the ankle and tibia move varies with treadmill or outdoor running. The study concluded that running on a treadmill causes more of the ‘wrong’ movement and puts you at greater risk of injury.

There’s also a chance you’ll be injured on a treadmill from constantly repeating the same movements(3) – when you’re outside the terrain is more uneven so you aren’t repeating the same move continuously.

3. Treadmill running expends less energy

Research(4) found that the only way to mimic outdoor running on a treadmill, in terms of energy expenditure, is to put the treadmill on a 1% gradient. So rather than running in varying ‘up’s and down’s’ when outside, you’d have to run constantly uphill on a gradient when on the treadmill. This is also because you aren’t experiencing wind resistance when inside – although many enjoy having the wind cool them off!

4. Outdoor running has a more positive impact on your mental health

A study at the University of Exeter(5) compared data from many sources, showing that exercising in natural environments tended to lead to a more positive outcome mentally - and increased energy levels. It seems like a lunchtime run may be a better pick me up than a coffee.

Where can you run outside?

If you’re even more convinced of the benefits of outdoor running (or you’ve been converted), you may be looking for places to run outside. This is where OS greenspace can help!

The greenspaces layer on OS maps allows you to view all publicly accessible greenspaces in the UK. This means you can view all greenspaces in your area, or somewhere else if you fancy somewhere new! OS maps allows you to plot a route, and follow it on the app – or print of instructions if you prefer. This means you’ve got no excuse to claim you’re bored of running the same routes!

Simply go to OS maps, open up the greenspace layer, put on your trainers and get running!

Get started now

OS Maps web


  1. US National Library of Medicine: Unmatched perception of speed when running overground and on a treadmill:
  2. The Foot and Ankle Online Journal: Tibiocalcaneal kinematics during treadmill and overground running:
  3. BBC: Is it better to run outside or on a treadmill?:
  4. US National Library of Medicine: A 1% treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running:
  5. US National Library of Medicine: Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors?