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Beach running for your next workout: What you need to know

It can be easy to get off your fitness or running routine while you’re on vacation at the beach. With junk food around every dune and the hours filled with surf and sun, the days can get away from you fast.

That’s not to say you can’t enjoy the beach and all the fun and indulgences it has to offer. If you want to take a break from your fitness routine, go right ahead — you’ve earned it. But for those with a desire to keep active during their downtime, the shore has a secret fitness weapon: the beach itself.

The truth is, running on the beach, or any sand anywhere, is excellent for your body and cardiovascular health. Taking a shore-side jog can add some action to your holiday and help keep you in a solid fitness groove, all while upping the ante on your regular run.

Here’s all you need to know about running in the sand, and what makes it such a great workout.

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Before you get started

It’s always better to look before you leap, even with something as seemingly carefree as beach running.

If you’re new to beach running (or even just that particular beach), it may be best to wear shoes. The idea of your sneakers filling with sand may not be the most appealing prospect, but it will give your feet and ankles extra support. In all seriousness, if you have pre-existing ankle or knee problems, it’s probably best to avoid beach running and save it for when you’re back on level ground.

More experienced runners will probably have no trouble going barefoot. Just watch out for jagged shells and other debris that may be buried in the sand (this alone may be reason enough to reconsider those shoes).

Although most beaches naturally slant toward the water, try to find as level a grade as possible to avoid unnecessary wear and tear.

And perhaps above all, don’t forget the sunscreen!

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Benefits of beach running

As long as you’re healthy enugh, running just about anywhere can hold tremendous health benefits. Beach running incentivizes the process because, well, the beach is beautiful.

But there are tangible benefits as well.

It burns more calories

Anyone who’s ever taken a run on the beach, be it for 10 miles or 100 feet, can attest to this simple truth. Running on the beach is hard. In some ways it feels more akin to climbing stairs than it does to traditional jogging.

That’s not just in our heads. One widely cited study found that running on sand can expend 1.6 times more energy than running on solid surfaces.

Want to add to the fun? Switch between wet sand and dry sand (if it’s safe) as you run. The changes between softer and more solid sand under your feet can further challenge your body to make adjustments, which in turn can mean more engagement with your lower body’s stabilizer muscles and more energy spent.

It can improve athletic performance

If you’re training for a big race or just to get your performance up, you can do a lot worse than sand as your surface of choice.

A 2013 study appearing in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that an eight-week training program on sand-based surfaces significantly improved 20-meter sprint times compared with training on a grassy surface.

If you have a smart watch or other fitness app (or just your good old index and middle fingers) check your pulse during your beach run. It’s likely that the number you see will reflect the extra work your putting in on the sand.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Prevents injuries

Although its inherent instability can be risky for people with pre-existing issues, sand can actually help prevent injuries in other cases.

The softness of the sand means less stress on your knees, ankles, and hips. The results of a small 2017 study suggested that running in the sand reduced muscle damage and inflammation compared with running on a grass surface.

Look for softer, drier sand when you’re running to really reap this benefit.

There’s nothing in the world like running along a quiet beach as the sun comes up. But don’t get too carried away with the romance — beach running is hard work! Have your cake and eat it too by soaking up the rays while you get your steps in — just be sure to wear a sunscreen that stands up to perspiration.

Not up to running? Don’t forget that a brisk walk can carry plenty of its own health benefits. Not sure if beach running is right for you? You can always call on your health care professional to guide you.

If all systems are go, a run can be a terrific and rewarding addition to your next trip to the beach or wherever you find your sand.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

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Scott Harris
Scott Harris is a freelance writer based near Washington, DC, with more than a decade of experience covering health…
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