If you’re lucky enough to live or vacation close to the shore, you’re probably looking to make beach workouts your exercise environment of choice. After all, is there a better background for getting your workout on than sunshine, sea and sand? We think not. What’s more: Beach workouts in the sand come with a wide range of perks.
Benefits of beach workouts
Besides the obvious refreshing change in scenery, beach workouts in the sun and sand can be endlessly beneficial for your mind, body and soul. Here is a look at some of the key benefits.
The sand is softer on the joints
Exercising in the sand can be better on the joints than that hard aerobics floor and also provide more stability when doing core and stretching-intensive workouts like yoga and Pilates, notes Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., doctor of nutrition and owner of eatrightfitness. The sand is also less stable, so even when you aren’t in motion, it adds more intensity to everyday movements like walking, jogging, squats and lunges. “While sand may make things more stable when you aren’t moving, it introduces some instability when you move, so your body has to adjust and this can create a tougher workout, as anyone who has gone for a barefoot jog along the beach knows when they experience unusual calf soreness the next day,” says Dr. Adams.
The air is fresh and unfiltered
Unlike the air in your local gym or workout studio that is recycled to be as clean as possible, the ocean air is as natural as it gets, which can actually be beneficial for your workout. “The sea air possesses qualities that help the body with its oxygen intake and absorption, and also with hormonal balance,” says Caleb Backe, CPT, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. “The sea air can aid in heightening alertness, raising energy levels and provide an overall de-stressing kind of effect.”
You get a boost of vitamin D
Beach workouts will provide you with a boost of vitamin D, which is something that most of us could stand to benefit from seeing as many as 42 percent of the U.S. population is short on this all-important nutrient, according to research published in Cureus. “Vitamin D is often thought to be a misnomer, as it behaves as more of a hormone than a vitamin inside our bodies and has an impact on a multitude of cellular functions,” says Tara Allen, RN, women’s health nurse, personal trainer, health coach, and nutritionist. “In addition, any light information we can gather by being outside at various times of the day helps to set our circadian rhythm and impact things like: metabolism, sleep quality, moods, blood sugar regulation, and energy levels.”
Diverse social setting
Unlike the gym or a designated workout zone, the beach is full of other types of folks—bathers, tanners, players, and basically people of all ages. “While it’s great to surround yourself with a supportive and target-focused environment like a gym, the beach provides a different ambiance or atmosphere, which, at the very least, it is a welcomed change of pace,” says Backe.
With many people working outside of gyms these days, Allen points out that taking a workout or two to the beach could be just the thing you need to keep things interesting and fun. “Catch a sunrise, a sunset, bring a picnic to enjoy afterwards, or meet a friend there to workout with,” she says. “Beach workouts kill many birds with one stone.”
How to get the most out of your beach workout
Here are a few tips to incorporate in your beach workout to get the most out of it.
Bring necessary equipment
Dr. Adams recommends bringing a yoga mat in case you choose to do some traditional bodyweight-type workouts while you enjoy the fresh air. “On a mat, you can more easily do push-ups, sit-ups, yoga movements, burpees, anything you like,” he says.
Choose your timing wisely
If you plan on tackling beach workouts, you will likely be in direct sunlight for the entirety of your workout—or however long you’re spending at the beach. To prevent sunburn and long-term sun damage from UV exposure, it’s a good idea to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is not at its strongest (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., according to the Environmental Protection Agency). If you do go midday and plan on staying a while, Allen recommends covering up or use a mineral-based sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Ditch the shoes
Allen points out that working out in bare feet will not only feel freeing and relaxing, but it will also give your feet a much-needed break from shoe wearing and the pressure of exercising with sneakers. If you do choose to go barefoot, make sure that the area is clear of rocks and jagged pieces of glass that could become lodged into your feet. As Dr. Adams points out, nothing ruins a beach workout faster than landing on a sharp shell or stick.
Seek out physical challenges
With natural terrain, there is so much opportunity for challenge. Dr. Adams recommends looking for sand dunes at the back of the beach for fun sprints. “You can run up them to really challenge your glutes and hamstrings and then turn around and run down them all the way to the water to increase your speed,” he says.
When you’re working out outdoors, the temperature may be hotter and the air might be more dry, causing you to be dehydrated more easily. To prevent this, Backe recommends making sure to bring enough water to hydrate before, during and after your workout. “This isn’t a closed building with air-conditioning or fans—this is nature, and it’s usually hot, which means you’ll need to stay on top of your liquid intake even more than usual,” he says. Aim to drink 75 ounces per day if you plan on exercising.