The Pros & Cons Of Walking On The Beach

Now that summer is in full effect, many Mid-South families are taking advantage of the many beaches within driving distance of Memphis. If you’re gearing up for a week or two of sun and surf, you’re probably already looking forward to long walks on the beach! These sandy strolls are an excellent way to unwind while giving your body a gentle workout, but if you aren’t careful, walking on the beach can leave you with a painful souvenir you never asked for. Let’s look at the pros and cons of walking on sand and how OrthoSouth can help you enjoy pain-free walks along the water!  

Pro #1: Walking on sand can be excellent exercise

Beach strolls can be a fabulous form of exercise! Walking is a low-impact activity, which means you have less chance of injuring yourself compared to something that’s higher impact, like running. Adding sand into the equation requires more effort than walking on a more stable surface, so you’ll burn extra calories while strengthening your ankles, hips, and core. 

Pro #2: Your stress will disappear with the tide

Walking on the beach has proven benefits to your emotional and mental health. A 2019 study found that spending at least two hours in nature per week helps lower levels of cortisol, a primary stress hormone. It also increased overall feelings of well-being. Walking along the shore each day is a simple but effective way to calm the cortisol response in your brain. Try a morning stroll to help you feel more awake and alert or an evening walk to relax and unwind. 

Pro #3: Up your Vitamin D intake

It may be hot here in the Mid-South, but built-up urban areas like Memphis aren’t great sources of natural sunlight. Beaches are, however! Did you know that 50-90% of our Vitamin D levels come from sunshine? If you normally spend a lot of time indoors, you could be lacking in this important nutrient. Walking along the beach on a sunny day will give you a big hit of Vitamin D, which helps promote strong bones, boosts the immune system, and supports a healthy heart. 

Pro #4:  Burn extra calories with exercise on the sand

Anyone who has ever taken a stroll in the sand knows how hard it works the legs, but a recent study found that walking on uneven beach terrain actually makes muscles work almost 30% harder than walking on flat surfaces! The instability of the sand means you have to push away from the surface a bit with your legs, which compounds over time. While the exact number of calories a beach walk will burn depends on your weight, pace, the incline, and other factors, there’s no doubt that working out beside the water is a great way to burn off those midnight margaritas. 

Pro #5: A treat for your feet and back

Beach walking can work wonders for building strength in certain parts of your body! The increased resistance strengthens the muscles between your feet and back, especially your calves, quadriceps, and glutes. Exercising on the sand can also reduce your risk of injury since the lower impact limits muscle soreness and damage. It’s important to remember, however, that doing too much walking along the beach could still lead to sore legs and tender feet. You can prevent this by taking things easy and not pushing past your limits when you hit the sand. 


The Pros & Cons Of Walking On The Beach


Con #1: There is a potential for minor injuries

While softer surfaces like sand are generally easier on the joints than unforgiving surfaces like concrete, the uneven terrain can worsen any back, ankle, or knee pain that’s already present. Many physical therapists recommend avoiding beach walks if you already have knee pain, have had recent surgery, or currently walk with a limp. The unpredictable surface can put extra strain and stress on your joints, and you definitely don’t want to spend your vacation icing a knee with your leg propped up!

Con #2: Less support for your feet

Many people prefer to walk barefoot on the beach, but if you’re going to be out for a while, shoes should be worn. And we don’t mean flip-flops! Wearing flimsy sandals or no shoes at all can increase your risk of injury since the feet and ankles aren’t supported. Sharp shells, broken glass, and discarded cans also pose a risk to bare feet, particularly if you aren’t looking closely at where you’re walking or jogging. Pick a pair of running shoes you don’t mind getting damp if you’re planning to walk for more than a few minutes. 

Con #3: Too much sun

Walking on sunshine can feel like more than a song lyric when you’re strolling along the beach on a sunny day! While it’s always great to get a good dose of Vitamin D, you want to be mindful of the potential for sun damage, too. It’s notoriously easy to get a nasty burn at the beach, so be sure to apply SPF 30+ sunscreen before each walk. This is true even if it’s cloudy! UV protective clothing or hats can also protect your skin and help keep you cool on the hottest days.

Make the most of your walks along the beach 

In general, walking on sand is a safe activity that’s good for both your physical and mental health! Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time on the beach. 

Get a solid start—Walk on solid ground for a few minutes before you head into the sandy stuff. This is a good way to prep for uneven terrain. 

Warm up and cool down—Help prevent injuries by beginning and ending your beach walks with some simple stretches! Some useful examples include standing calf stretches, ankle rolls, standing quadricep stretches, and various hamstring stretches.

Find firmer sand—Protect your ankles from rolling by walking closer to the water. The sand there tends to be firmer and will be easier for you to walk on. 

Avoid dramatic inclines—Most beaches tend to slope toward the water. Sometimes this slope is gentle, but others can be more severe. Walking on a sloped surface for a prolonged period can increase the risk of muscle strain, something you want to avoid. You can get around this by walking in a zig-zag motion! While it may feel a little strange at first, this works by demanding equal output from both sides of your body.


The Pros & Cons Of Walking On The Beach


Enjoy long walks on the beach (and everywhere else!) with OrthoSouth

A long walk on the beach can be a wonderful workout and strengthen your legs, knees, and ankles. It also burns more calories than walking on flat surfaces like concrete or a treadmill. But what happens if you do injure yourself on vacation? OrthoSouth is here to help with a range of orthopedic services, from sports medicine and MRIs to physical and occupational therapy…and more! We pride ourselves on providing the most exceptional patient experience in the Mid-South, from the first visit to the last. If you’re suffering from soreness, pain, or an injury that’s keeping you from being active, we’d love to help! Get in touch today to schedule a consultation with one of our many convenient locations