Beach running: Better than pavement?


Beach running: Better than pavement?

When you live near the ocean, running on the beach can be a great way to work out. Listening to the sound of the surf and feeling the breeze can add enjoyment to your run and help you stay focused and motivated.

But running on the sand is harder than it appears, says Michelle Dowd, clinical conditioning coordinator at Tidelands HealthPoint Center for Health and Fitness in Pawleys Island. The soft sand challenges your body to respond differently than when you run on a hard surface.

Even so, running on the sand provides lots of benefits. On the upside, beach running offers a lower impact way to run; the softer surface absorbs more of your body’s impact and is easier on your joints than running on pavement, Dowd says.

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“If someone has a history of joint problems but wants to run instead of trying other modalities, running on the sand may be an option,” she says.

The sand can also help strengthen smaller muscles in your lower body that don’t get used as often when running on pavement. That’s because the sand is a softer running surface and requires you to exert more force to move. Therefore, your body must compensate by using lower-body muscles that aren’t used as heavily on pavement.

Not only do you use different muscles, but you also burn more calories. A study showed that your body uses 1.6 times more energy than running on pavement.


Even so, there are challenges to running on the beach, too, Dowd says.

Although it’s better on your joints than pavement, beach running doesn’t eliminate the joint impact that’s synonymous with running, only lessens it, Dowd says.

“Beach terrain will be more rugged than running on asphalt,” she says. “So, if someone has joint pains or instability, it would likely be better to stick with a different option such as biking or a cardio machine.”

Plus, the uneven surface, while helping to work a broader variety of muscles, can also lead to injuries.

“Try to stick with the harder sand near the water and watch out for abnormalities in the sand that might cause you to roll your ankle or step in an abnormal manner,” she says.

As always, it’s important to consider your fitness goals and physical capabilities when creating a workout plan, Dowd says. But, if you’re looking to introduce a new element to your routine, beach running can be a great way to go.

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