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Benefits of Beach-Walking

My wife and I recently took our children on a much-needed vacation to the shore. While preparing to go on vacation can be more stressful than actually staying at work for me, I eventually get myself into vacation mode and really look forward to taking some time off.

This is partly due to one of my all-time favorite activities — walking on the beach.

Beach-walking has many benefits. Some are surprising; some are not. According to health writer, William Mayle, walking on soft sand burns more calories than walking on a harder surface such as grass or asphalt. Mayle cites a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology where researchers found that exercisers burned 2.1-2.7 more calories than walking at the same speed on hard surfaces due to the additional mechanical work required.

The same study also determined that this increased mechanical work also recruited more muscles and tendons due to the greater resistance of the sand. This, in turn, helped to strengthen the calves, quadriceps, and glutes to a greater extent than typical walking.

Other research suggests that walking on soft sand may reduce the incidence of injury to joints such as knees and hips because it is a low-impact activity. Because it’s a low-impact activity, you are also less likely to experience muscle soreness and joint pain than you would exercising on a hard surface.

Walking on an unstable surface such as sand is also great for developing proprioception which is your body’s sense of position. This is just a fancy way of saying that maneuvering on uneven surfaces can help you with your balance. Research has shown that walking on soft sand challenges your body’s ability to correct position and know where it is in space. The joints and muscles around your feet and knees are particularly worked.

Walking on the beach is also a natural de-stressor. A study in Environmental Research showed that people who walked by bodies of water such as the ocean for as little as 20 minutes showed decreased levels of stress and improved senses of mood and well-being. Spending time in nature and out of urban areas has also been shown to have strong health benefits. As an added bonus, beach walkers will likely produce more vitamin D than normal if the sun is shining. Among the many benefits of vitamin D is the ability to help fight depression and improve mood. Just be sure to wear sunscreen as appropriate.

To maximize your beach-walking benefits, start slow. Only walk as far as you feel comfortable. Like all exercise, build your distance and speed over time. Also, start on harder, packed sand. Gradually spend more of your walk on the softer sand that is higher up on the beach. Feel free to alternate between hard and soft sand for variety. To really spice things up, try going barefoot. The muscles of your feet and lower legs will get an extra bit of work, and who doesn’t like to walk around without shoes from time to time.

I must say that walking on the beach is one of my all-time favorite activities. When I picture my perfect life, it most certainly includes a morning beach walk every single day. I do it mainly for stress management. There is just something magical about the salt air breeze and the sound of the ocean that makes me forget about the small troubles of work and life in general. So, put on your sunscreen, kick off your shoes, and put your toes in the sand. Go for a leisurely stroll or a brisk walk; the choice is yours. Enjoy getting outside and let your senses guide you. Smell the salt air. Feel the ocean breeze on your face. Let the sand shift beneath your feet. Be safe and pay attention to your surroundings, but most importantly, enjoy yourself and don’t worry about a single thing.

For more information on developing a fitness program or if you are interested in online training, feel free to message me on my Facebook page, Bellomo Online Training.