There is nothing more soothing than walking on the beach. From the cool surf and warm sand to people-watching and picturesque sunsets, the beach is charming and fanciful, full of both adventure and romance.
But the beach offers more than a beautiful backdrop: There are numerous health benefits to your sandy stroll. Beach walking is a wonderful way to clear your mind and exercise your body.
“Walking is a great way to burn calories and keep active, but the type of surface you are walking on can have a dramatic effect on your back and spine,” Dr. Allen Conrad, a certified strength and conditioning coach and chiropractor, told Healthline.
“Softer surfaces like grass and sand will help prevent degenerative conditions like spinal arthritis from progressing,” Conrad added. Walking on the beach also burns a good deal of calories.
Here is everything you need to know to get the most out of walking on the beach.
There are numerous benefits to walking on the beach.
Walking in sand requires a greater effort than walking on a hard surface. Your muscles and tendons will work harder, strengthening your foot and ankle. Beach walks will burn more calories than walks on the sidewalk.
Walking on the beach is ideal for those with pain in their knees, back, and hips, as sand puts less stress on the body, making it easier on the bones and joints (
“Being outside and surrounded by the rhythm of the waves has a calming effect on our nervous system,” physical therapist Ashley Estanislao told Healthline.
“Walking on the beach can help relieve stress and the sunshine can help our bodies synthesize vitamin D. Feeling the sand on bare feet may also create a sense of feeling grounded.”
Other health benefits include:
- Exfoliation. Sand is a natural exfoliant. Barefoot strolls will remove dead skin cells and soften your soles.
- Strength training. The increased resistance will strengthen the muscles between your feet and back, especially your calves, quadriceps, and glutes.
- Weight loss. Walking on the beach can help you lose more weight. A 2020 study found that walking on sand led to a greater reduction in waist circumference than walking on pavement — 5.3 cm versus 3 cm, respectively (
- Reduced injury risk. A 2013 study found that sand training builds strength and prevents injury due to the fact that there is less impact (
Walking on the beach is gentler on your joints and works your muscles more.
When it comes to working out, it’s important to know your calories in, calories out ratio, or how many calories you work off during a sweat. How many calories you burn when walking is determined both by speed and weight, as explained in this chart.
But what does that mean for walking on the beach?
“Because your body uses muscles in a different way walking on sand, you will burn about one-and-a-half to two times more calories than regular walking,” Conrad told Healthline.
Why the disparity? Well, because “accessory muscles of the legs and back have to use more effort to keep you stable when walking on sand, and [the extra effort] burns additional calories.”
This claim is supported by research. Although there are limited studies done specifically on sand, an older study examined the body’s caloric expenditure when walking on uneven terrain and found that muscles work between 26–68% more (
Muscles work between 26–68% more when walking on uneven terrain.
If you’re ready to take your walk from the street to the sand, you will want to consider a few factors, including:
- The density of the sand. Softer sand is easier on your bones and joints than wet, packed sand, as it’s more buoyant. Softer sand will also help build more resistance and strength. But note that if you have lower body injuries, it may be best to walk on firmer sand.
- The distance or duration of your walk. Are you new to sandy strolls? If so, take it easy and build your time and speed slowly. This is new terrain, after all. The sand will fatigue muscles that may not work as hard on the treadmill or pavement.
- High tide and low tide. While secondary, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on the surf. An unexpected wave can cause you to lose your footing and even knock you down.
- Footwear. While some people prefer to walk barefoot, if you’re going for a longer walk, you will want to wear athletic shoes. They will support your arches and ankles and protect your feet from glass, metal, or sharp shells that may be hidden in the sand.
You will also want to drink plenty of water, before and during your workout. Not sure how much? Take a few swigs every mile or every 15 minutes.
You will want to wear sunscreen, too. Even on overcast days, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause burns.
Wearing a calorie counter or step tracker can help you keep track of your workout. And if you need motivation, consider walking at sunrise or sunset or with a friend. Having a companion (or a view) can keep you going, even when you don’t want to.
Pay attention to your surroundings, the tide, the texture of the sand, and how your body feels in order to maximize your walk. And don’t forget the sunscreen!
Whether you’re walking to gain strength, lose weight, or simply improve your mental health doesn’t matter: What matters is that you’re taking strides to improve your life.
These strides are particularly beneficial when taken on the sand, as beach walks pack a lot of punch. Plus, they’re a great way to sightsee, especially if you’re on vacation.
However, it’s important to consult with a physician before starting any new workout routine. Beach walking can actually cause additional stress if you’re already injured or battling a chronic condition.
The next time you find yourself inspired by a beach view and the smell and sound of the surf, take a walk. You will be stronger — and more inspired — for it.