Walking on the Beach! Benefits and Safety tips – Elena Jara, PT, MSPT
For many of us, when we think of the beach, we consider relaxation, looking out into the ocean, feeling the beautiful sand between our toes and sunshine on our faces. If you li
ve near a beach or plan to visit a beach a beach sometime, you would be pleased to learn that going for a walk on the beach also has some surprising benefits.
Let us take a look at 7 benefits that people may not really realize exist they could gain from a walk on the beach.
1 – You burn more calories.
If you are thinking about losing a few pounds or simply trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and body weight, exercise should be part of the mix. When you exercise, you burn calories. This activity, in combination with a healthy diet, could place you at your optimal body weight and in turn could also provide you with great opportunities for continued health and well-being. By walking on a beach, with its successive curves and uneven surfaces, your body must work harder to move from one spot to another and use more energy. It is also a challenge to your core and lower extremities to ambulate and balance on the un level surfaces.
2 – Opportunities to vary exercise sessions.
Yes, you can burn more energy and calories by going for a walk on the beach. You can also vary the degree or intensity of the walk, thereby varying the amount of effort and energy exerted. Research shows that there is increased energy expenditure when walking on sand and more than that expended when walking on grass. You could take a brisk walk on the beach where your feet hardly have enough time to sink thoroughly into the sand. This could also be relaxing, refreshing and may also provide a massaging effect for your toes and the soles of your feet. However, you could also move at a much slower pace while walking on the beach and this intensifies your use of energy because your feet has the tendency to sink deeper into the sand beneath it when you walk at a slower pace. If your feet sink deeper, what happens? Yes, you probably guessed it – it will surely take a little more effort to pull your feet back out and continue your walk.
3 – Tone up your muscles!
The benefits keep getting better and better! Toning and firming your muscles sound good- right? Walking on a flat firm surface provides the same force and pressure and as a person walks on such surfaces, there is no or little need for the tendons or muscles in the legs and feet to vary the amount of pressure provided in relation to the surface a person walks on. However, when walking on a beach with sand passing through your toes, your muscles can put in fluctuating resistance to the sand beneath the feet. This is much harder than merely walking on a flat surface where the expected depression caused by the toes is practically non-existent.
4 – Gain with less pain.
There are certain types of exercises that may wreak havoc on the joints and other parts of the body. For instance, using mechanical exercise bikes or jogging on a treadmill extensively could begin to cause joint pain over time. This occurs because of the amount of pressure being exerted on the joints without adequate time for recovery or relief to the over-worked areas.
On the contrary, a walk on the beach presents you with a less tedious exercise option. Yes, you have less likelihood of burning out your muscles or hurting your joints when you choose the less tedious option of a walk on the beach! Also, running on sand may provide low impact. Sand act as a cushion to the feet and absorbs some of the pressure that would have been totally felt by your feet.
5 – Reconnect with the Earth
Walking barefoot on the beach can enable you to feel the texture of the sand beneath your feet and between your toes. It could be an invigorating experience and a stress reliever too. Nature is all around us and sometimes we are too busy to fully appreciate it.
6 – Soak up some sun!
Yes!!!! Being outside presents an access to natural Vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed for moods and good bone structure. It can also provide some anti-cancer properties. Sometimes schedules and lifestyles including work patterns and personal habits may keep people indoors for extended periods of time daily, weekly, monthly, and possibly yearly. Benefits of absorbing Vitamin D include minimizing the risk of falls especially in the elderly, minimizing the risk of cardiovascular disease, minimizing the risk of bone fracture, regulating blood pressure and decreasing the risk of colorectal cancer.
7 – Simply being outside and enjoying the view!
You feel the sun shining on your face, smell the ocean drift, feel the cool breeze, and feel any existing stress fade away. Time flies by too because of the relaxing nature of the beach and the tranquility created by the environment.
Here are also some important safety tips to think about when walking on the beach
- 1. Can you walk barefoot on the beach?
Yes! walking barefoot on the beach can enable you feel the texture of the sand beneath your feet and between your toes. It could be an invigorating experience and a stress reliever too. However, if you have difficulty walking barefoot on level surfaces secondary to a recovering injury, chronic lower extremity issue or back condition and benefit from shoe wear for support, it’s probably best to wear supportive shoes when walking on the beach. This is not to say you cannot try to go barefoot, perhaps go for a shorter period to avoid soreness or pain. When it’s upwards of 100 degrees outside, the squishy sand doesn’t feel so great (and can even cause burns!). Be sure to bring a pair of shoes with you in case the sand gets unbearably hot.
- Check the weather. Sometimes summer weather can be unpredictable. Double check your weather prior to going out to stay safe.
- Save your skin! Just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chance for developing melanoma later in life. Racking up more than five sunburns at any age also doubles the risk for melanoma. Keep the red at bay by slathering on a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.
- Hydrate and fuel up. Extended exposure to heat and the relaxing effects of waves can easily lead to disorientation and reduced energy. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks down to the sand with you and use them if you intend on walking for a prolonged period.