If your workout needs a makeover, take it to the shore to start reaping these 5 benefits of running in sand. Not only does it provide optimum strengthening of the lower leg muscles, but it’s also easier on your joints and burns more calories than running on pavement. Before you start any sand-running regimen, make sure you have good running shoes, and keep to the wet, firmly-packed sand near the shoreline, staying away from the shore’s slope to avoid injury. To keep your weight balanced and land mid-foot, experts and coaches suggest you shorten your stride and lean forward, lifting your knees and arms higher.
1 You’ll develop more strength in your lower body running on sand. Because of the sand shifts beneath you as you run, your ankles, arches, and calves are engaged and will become stronger. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research followed 51 young men for six weeks, comparing their physical development and performance on different surfaces. The increase in thigh circumference was similar in sand runners and road runners, but sand runners experience a significant increase in calf circumference. In this study, sand running resulted in the most physiological and performance changes in young men.
2 Running on sand burns more calories. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology proved that people who ran or walked on sand burned between 1.2 and 1.8 times more calories per mile on each run. That’s between 20 and 80 extra calories per mile. It’s thought that because runners sink into the loose sand, they use more energy when covering the same distance.
3 You’ll become more coordinated and have better balance by running on sand regularly. The uneven surface of sand not only activates the muscles of your lower body, it also engages your upper body as you subconsciously – or sometimes consciously – struggle to maintain your balance. Your core abdominals, back and shoulders all get a workout as you move through the shifting terrain. Over time, this results in more strength and fluidity of motion, giving you better control over your body.
4 Running on sand is easier on your joints. Running on a softer surface gives joints and muscles a break from the pounding they take on asphalt or pavement. If you’ve ever seen a volleyball hit the sand, you know it doesn’t bounce, because sand absorbs nearly 100% of the impact. Every time your foot hits the sand, the impact force is minimal, so your body is subjected to less strain.
5 You can’t beat the view. Whether your run along the beach at sunset or you plan a midday run to catch the sunbathers in all their glory, running in sand provides you with scenery you just can’t get on a treadmill or a track. Besides – what’s more motivating than a bikini-clad babe to help you kick your workout into high gear get in shape?