Indoor Walking vs Outdoor Walking: Pros & Cons

Posted August 15, 2023 by in Health + Fitness

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for people of all ages. It is particularly beneficial for older adults who may be limited to low-impact physical activities. While walking is a simple and easygoing exercise method, it can significantly impact an older person’s well-being, from improving cardiovascular health to slowing cognitive decline.

However, when choosing a walking location, many wonder whether walking indoors or outdoors is better for older adults, particularly those struggling with physical mobility. 

Below, we’ll consider the pros and cons of indoor walking vs outdoor walking and which is better suited to older adults, so keep reading to learn more! 

Afterwards, you can click here for more information about the benefits of joining an indoor walking group. Always consult a physician before starting a new exercise regime.

Accessibility

One of the first things that may come to mind when discussing indoor vs outdoor walking is accessibility. One of the main benefits of an indoor environment, such as malls and city centres, is that these buildings are equipped with features such as handrails and ramps to provide barrier-free access to those who struggle with movement. 

Older adults looking to build muscle strength slowly and stability can do so by walking indoors. Walking indoors can be safer and more practical, depending on their abilities. 

Outdoor trails and parks can pose more risk in this area, as there are fewer accessibility measures in place.  

Terrain

Another consideration when deciding between outdoor and indoor walking is the type of terrain an older person will be trekking. 

While many outdoor trails and paths are built on even ground, particularly in metropolitan areas, many outdoor walking areas are built on uneven terrain, which can pose a risk for older adults who may need help with balance.  

That said, the challenge of walking on uneven terrain can benefit older adults looking to improve their balance and stability, as the added intensity of such walks can help build strength in their muscles and joints.

Weather concerns

Weather can be both an advantage and a downside when walking outdoors, depending on the time of year, the atmospheric pressure, and the ground conditions. 

During the spring, summer, and autumn, walking outdoors can be a lovely experience, as older adults can enjoy warm weather, cool breezes, sunshine, and the delights of nature. 

However, walking outdoors can be detrimental in bad weather, particularly in winter when heavy snow, rain, and ice are prevalent. This type of weather makes walking more complex and can increase the risk of injuries sustained from falls and slips. 

Walking indoors can be enjoyable regardless of the time of year, as indoor conditions will be adjusted to fit the weather outside, whether too cold or scorchingly hot to enjoy the outdoors. 

Safety and Security

One of the main benefits of walking indoors is the safety and security available in public buildings. Not only are these places designed to be accessible to people of all fitness levels, but they also have security measures to prevent criminal activity.

Malls and community centres generally hire security guards who patrol all main areas and are on the lookout for anyone trying to disturb the peace. 

Older adults who struggle physically can often be targets for robberies and other similar crimes, so having security guards around while engaging in exercise can bring an added level of personal safety. 

When it comes to walking outside, parks and trails are often patrolled by rangers, and there are often police officers nearby in city parks. 

Mood and mental health

One of the most significant benefits of walking outside is its impact on a person’s mood and mental health. Being surrounded by nature in good weather can help older adults feel more positive and light-hearted as they engage in physical activity, which can positively impact their exercise results. 

On the other hand, walking indoors can negatively impact a person’s mood, as being cooped up inside all day isn’t always healthy. 

There’s also the fact that many public buildings where walking groups take place are equipped with fluorescent or daylight lights, which can be harsh on the eyes. Spending too much time in artificial lighting, as opposed to natural light, can have a negative impact on an older person’s mood. 

Build-up muscle strength

As mentioned above, a significant advantage of walking outdoors is providing more opportunities to build muscle strength. Outdoor environments often provide a steeper incline, while walking on even terrain forces you to use more muscle groups, creating more power in the legs, knees, and hips. 

While walking on any terrain can be beneficial, the consistent and even landscape of malls and community centres poses less of a challenge. Therefore, adults who walk indoors may see the physical results slower than outdoors. 

Convenience

Another major factor when deciding between indoor and outdoor walking is convenience. While walking outdoors can be greatly enjoyable, its convenience can depend on many factors, such as proximity to a trail or park, the weather, and the environment’s safety.

In contrast, many find indoor walking more convenient, as walking in a public building isn’t dependent on the weather and can be accessed easily by vehicle or public transit. 

Final verdict: indoor walking vs outdoor walking

So, which is the better choice: walking indoors or outdoors? Well, the answer greatly depends on personal preference and physical health

Walking outdoors offers many benefits for older adults who like to stay active and independent. However, older ones who struggle with balance and cognitive decline may find indoor walking suits their physical capabilities better. 

Therefore, when deciding whether to participate in indoor or outdoor walking groups, consider the above factors and how they apply to your current circumstances before taking the first step!

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