The Benefits of Sand Running for Physical Fitness

Maybe you chanced upon sand working in a Navy SEAL coaching video. Maybe your pal recommends it.

Or, maybe you noticed it in motion pictures like Baywatch, the place characters (e.g., Dwayne Johnson as “Mitch” and Zac Efron as “Matt Brody”) used it as a type of bodily coaching.

Regardless of the way you first got here throughout sand working, your curiosity is piqued.

You assume it appears cool and will supply distinctive health advantages, so you would like to provide it a go.

But right here comes the all-important query: Should you?

Is working on sand really good for your bodily health and efficiency? After all, wouldn’t the instability put injury-causing (or injury-exacerbating) stress in your joints, just like the knees and ankles? The reply is sure and no, respectively.

Find out why on this article.

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#1: Less Stress on Weight-Bearing Joints (Compared to Running on a Hard Surface)

Running is a high-impact exercise.

According to a 2013 study revealed within the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, working on a tough floor (e.g., pavement or treadmill) might put a pressure of as much as 4 occasions your physique weight in your joints.

Given working’s repetitive nature, those that clock excessive mileages might thus accumulate important affect stress on their joints, growing their threat of stress fractures, joint ache, and different musculoskeletal accidents.

Good information: Sand is a fantastic shock absorber.

Like a well-cushioned working shoe, sand supplies extra give than firmer surfaces. It shifts with each foot strike.

So, whereas your power switch is not as clear as with, say, concrete pavement, sand helps dissipate extra pressure from the underside of your ft. This ends in much less stress in your weight-bearing joints, out of your hips to knees to ankles, doubtlessly reducing your threat of impact-associated overuse accidents.

Research backs that up.

In a small 2017 randomized controlled trial revealed within the European Journal of Sport Science, researchers discovered that members who ran on tender sand skilled much less musculoskeletal irritation than those that ran on grass.

This discovering aligns with a 2014 study revealed within the Journal of Sports Sciences.

To quote the examine’s coauthor, Martyn Binnie, Ph.D., a physiologist on the Western Australia Institute of Sport: “With every foot strike, there is almost four times less impact force on soft sand versus firm ground like grass.”

#2: Challenges Neglected (or Under-Activated) Muscles Used in Running

Running, particularly on the pavement or a treadmill, is a uni-planar (i.e., it happens solely in a single aircraft, particularly, the sagittal aircraft) train.

Individuals who solely run and don’t interact in multi-planar coaching—via weightlifting, training yoga, or boxing—are thus at elevated threat of muscular imbalances, which then increase the risk of injuries, together with runner’s knee and IT band syndrome.

Often, the widespread weakest hyperlinks for runners embrace what’s referred to as the “stabilizing muscles,” glutes, hamstrings, hips, and ankles.

Sand working might assist with that.

How? Well, bear in mind what we mentioned in regards to the sand shifting with each stride? This challenges your stability and forces your physique to engage muscles that aren’t as well-activated during runs on firm surfaces

For occasion, a 2005 electromyography (EMG) study revealed within the European Journal of Applied Physiology recorded increased electrical exercise (i.e., extra muscle activation) within the hamstrings and tensor fascia latae, a muscle within the lateral hip and thigh that helps management hip flexion and abduction.

Also, a newer 2021 study revealed in Biomedical Engineering Online discovered that members who ran on sand reported increased glute activation than those that did not.

Hamstrings, examine. Hip muscle, examine. Glutes? Check, too. All that is left are ankles. Can sand working assist with that? Yes, it may well.

According to a 2021 study revealed in Frontiers in Physiology, people who ran on sand skilled a rise within the exercise of ankle dorsiflexors (i.e., numerous muscle groups accountable for flexing your foot towards the shin), just like the tibialis anterior.

It’s not simply your hamstrings, hip muscle groups, glutes, and ankles that’ll see increased activation from sand working, both. The calves will, too.

In a 1998 study revealed in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning, researchers discovered that runners assigned to sand working skilled a higher improve in calf circumference after a six-week endurance program than these within the “hard surface running” and “no running” teams.

And for the reason that calf muscle performs an necessary operate in driving the motion of stepping on the bottom and transferring ahead when in movement, a rise in dimension may improve running performance (and athletic performance, in general).

#3: More Efficient at Improving an Individual’s Fitness Level (Compared to “Milder” Forms of Exercise)

Because of how tender it’s, working on sand reduces your probability of struggling an affect harm.

But there is a flip facet to each coin; whereas sand working represents a lower-impact train possibility in comparison with laborious floor working, you may discover it more durable to hit the identical velocity and distance. This is because of two causes (which we have briefly coated within the earlier sections):

  1. Less optimum power switch: When you run on agency floor, much less elastic power saved in your tendons will get absorbed (i.e., “wasted”). As talked about earlier, sand would not lengthen the identical courtesy. Instead, it absorbs extra elastic power, forcing your body to generate more force in your muscles to maintain you transferring ahead.  
  1. Increased activation of decrease limb muscle groups: Sand’s uneven and tender nature forces your decrease limb muscle groups, from the hip-stabilizing muscle to hamstrings to calves, to work tougher.

And there you’ve gotten it: the right recipe for a extra metabolically demanding exercise session (assuming you retain distance and velocity equal to laborious floor working).

But how far more demanding are we speaking about? Can we quantify it? Science says sure.

Researchers in a 1998 study revealed in The Journal of Experimental Biology discovered that working on sand requires 1.6 occasions as a lot power expenditure as working on a firmer floor. A later 2001 study revealed in The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport agrees. It discovered that sand working required 1.5 to 1.6 occasions extra power than on a grass floor.

So, is that this elevated depth good for your bodily health? Well, sure, particularly when you’re utilizing sand working to interchange low-intensity workout routines (e.g., gradual jogging, stretching, and strolling).

In the most extensive study to date aimed toward understanding the connection between common bodily exercise and an individual’s bodily health, researchers discovered that bouts of moderate-vigorous bodily exercise helped enhance a person’s cardiovascular operate and health to a considerably higher extent than “milder” kinds of train.

According to a beforehand talked about 2014 study evaluating the use of sand and grass coaching surfaces throughout an eight-week conditioning program, members within the sand group skilled considerably higher enhancements in Vo2 max (a measure of the utmost quantity of oxygen the physique can use throughout train) than these within the grass group.

As a outcome, the researchers concluded that substituting sand for grass coaching surfaces might considerably improve the members’ relative train depth and coaching load—subsequently resulting in superior enhancements in cardio health.

#4: May Lower Perceived Rate of Exertion

Given that sand working forces your physique to work tougher with every step, wouldn’t all of it be … nicely, too difficult? What if you cannot maintain the tempo and distance of your common runs? What when you take a couple of steps, and your physique goes, “nope”?

Don’t let the concern of discovering sand working too powerful maintain you from making an attempt it.

Research persistently exhibits that people who train outdoor (and sand working is most positively outdoor) can obtain and keep the next exercise depth with decrease ranges of perceived exertion than these exercising indoors.

Take this 2017 study revealed in PLOS One, for occasion.

The researchers divided members into three teams: one group hiked indoors for 45 minutes, one other walked on a treadmill indoors for 45 minutes, and the management group did nothing. They then had all members charge their temper, emotions, and arousal.

The outcomes? While each strolling teams skilled extra advantages than these within the management group, the out of doors workout routines scored the very best on all measures.

More particularly, the mountaineering group reported feeling extra awake, energized, attentive, and blissful than these on the treadmill. They additionally mentioned they felt much less fatigued after their exercise. Basically, though the out of doors hikers and indoor treadmill walkers did the identical quantity of train, the previous felt that their session was simpler—mentally and bodily.

A 2014 study revealed within the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research helps this discovering.

The researchers discovered that out of doors biking allowed cyclists to train at the next depth than in laboratory (i.e., indoors) biking with out an related improve in perceived exertion, regardless of related environmental circumstances.

So, what does this all imply for you? Answer: With sand working, you’ll probably be capable of push your self tougher with out feeling out of your depth.  

#5: Could Enhance Fitness Capabilities and Exercise Adherence When Done Mindfully

When you are working on the sand, you are unlikely to maintain your earbuds or headphones plugged in. That’s since you’ll need to pay attention for different runners making an attempt to go you, doubtlessly harmful rising tides, and the occasional frisbee heading straight to your face.

This will increase the probability that you just’ll train mindfully (i.e., stay current as you run)—which, in flip, advantages your bodily health by:

  • Improving your psychological well being: A 2017 study revealed in Mindfulness discovered that when mindfulness was mixed with train, members confirmed enhancements in stress, melancholy, and nervousness. Research persistently exhibits that folks with higher psychological well being usually tend to keep bodily energetic. 
  • Improving your bodily well being: A 2015 study revealed within the American College of Lifestyle Medicine exhibits that aware health can enhance respiration, coronary heart charge, and parasympathetic exercise, doubtlessly serving to exercisers obtain and keep the next exercise depth.
  • Strengthening your dedication to your exercise routine: According to a 2010 study revealed in Behavior Research and Therapy, exercisers with increased mindfulness scores had been higher capable of keep in step with their train plans. Another 2009 study revealed in Appetite discovered that those that utilized mindfulness meditation practices to their each day or weekly routine had a a lot increased degree of bodily train and normal motion than those that did not apply mindfulness.
  • Increasing your satisfaction ranges (with the exercise session): A 2016 study revealed within the Journal of Health Psychology discovered that folks have elevated ranges of satisfaction when engaged in aware health, particularly in the event that they’ve beforehand had a troublesome time making train a behavior. A large body of evidence hyperlinks constructive emotions throughout train—like enjoyment and satisfaction—with improved bodily exercise adherence.

What to Know Before Your First Run on the Sand

Excited to hit the sand? Don’t discover the closest seaside simply but; listed here are a couple of ideas to bear in mind earlier than you head out for your first sandy run.

Stay Away If You Have a History of Knee, Ankle, or Hip Injury

Sand working affords many distinctive health advantages. That mentioned, it’s not for everybody.

If you’ve gotten a historical past of knee, ankle, or hip harm, it will not be a good suggestion for you to run on sand as a result of it’ll demand extra out of these areas—and, in flip, potentially aggravate past injuries—than with laborious floor working.

Still need to give sand working a go nonetheless? Consider consulting a podiatrist or bodily therapist earlier than beginning; they will have the mandatory experience to evaluate if sand working is an effective match for you.

Ease into me

As with beginning any new train routine, ease into sand working to attenuate soreness and cut back harm threat.Always heat up and pay additional consideration to your posterior chain muscle groups, just like the calves, hamstrings, and glutes. Since sand is tougher to run on, chances are you’ll want to go slower than you assume it’s important to earlier than growing time and depth to equivalents of your laborious floor runs (or your objective runs).

Also, begin on moist, agency sand. You’ll discover it a lot simpler to run on than tender and dry sand.

Once your physique will get accustomed to working on moist sand, slowly add one- or two-minute intervals on the softer sand, returning to the moist sand in between. Then, progressively improve your length on dry sand.

Shoes or Barefoot?

Ultimately, this comes down to private choice and the place you’re working.

If you assume you’ll be staying near the water, it’ll be finest to put on sneakers to guard your ft from crushed seashells or small rocks.

 On the opposite hand, when you’re working on tender, dry sand, chances are you’ll want to go barefoot so the sand would not fill your sneakers and weigh you down. That mentioned, strive to not head out for a long-distance run the primary time you ditch your sneakers.

Supportive sneakers act as ankle stabilizers—and supply elevated heel and arch assist that your ft are used to.

So, begin with brief runs (e.g., quarter-hour or so) to construct power in your ankles. And, of course, damaged glass and seashells aren’t completely discovered on moist sand, so at all times maintain a lookout for them, nonetheless.

Always Do an “Out-and-Back”

Even essentially the most degree seashores have some slant to them.

And working on an angled floor can place extra stress in your knees and hips, particularly on the facet nearer to the water, growing your threat of accidents.

To even out this pure imbalance, run each instructions on the seaside (i.e., do an out-and-back).

Avoid the Warmest Part of the Day

Try to keep away from working between 10 am and a pair of pm, when the solar rays are at their strongest. (Yes, this is applicable even throughout winter!)

To additional lower your threat of burns, sun-induced untimely pores and skin ageing, and pores and skin most cancers, sunscreen can also be a good suggestion. For reference, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everybody use sunscreen that gives broad-spectrum safety, SPF 30 or increased, and water resistance (particularly necessary because you’ll get near water).

Oh, and here is one other tip: Ensure you hydrate correctly by having lots of water out there earlier than, throughout, and after your sand runs.

Main Takeaways

From providing a extra joint-friendly exercise to concentrating on widespread lagging muscle teams to enhancing adherence to a exercise routine, sand working can present many distinctive bodily health advantages (particularly when in comparison with laborious floor working or “milder” kinds of train).

However, it is necessary to keep in mind that it could not go well with everybody.

Those with current or a historical past of hip, knee, and ankle accidents might want to seek the advice of a podiatrist or bodily therapist for recommendation.

And when you’re giving sand working a go, maintain the following tips in thoughts: Start gradual to progressively construct up your tolerance, at all times run in each instructions alongside the seaside (to make up for the uneven slope), and keep away from working when the solar rays are at their strongest.

Finally, sneakers are at all times a good suggestion until you’re assured you gained’t slice your ft on damaged glass, seashells, or different sharp objects—and your ankles are sturdy sufficient to (shortly) adapt to the elevated calls for of sand working.


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