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Is walking on the beach good exercise?

Walking on the beach is a great way to enjoy the scenery, breathe in the fresh air and relax your mind. It is also a great form of exercise that can burn more calories than walking on flat, harder surfaces such as concrete or asphalt. In this article we’ll explore reasons why walking on the beach is good exercise and how you can get the most out of your holiday beachwalks.

Health benefits of beach walking

Here in Dorset, we are blessed with some of the most stunning stretches of beaches in the whole of the UK. From the bustling, bright lights of Bournemouth to the sprawling 18 mile shoreline of Chesil beach, there is something for every beach lover to enjoy.

But a trip to the beach doesn’t have to be simply about building sandcastles or dipping a toe in the water – it can also work wonders for your health and wellbeing, contributing to your recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week. Here are some of the benefits:

Improves cardiovascular health

A brisk walk on sand or shingle can increase your heart rate and blood circulation, which can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Strengthens muscles and bones

Walking on the beach can work your muscles and bones more than walking on other surfaces, because of the resistance and instability of the sand or shingle. This can help tone your legs, glutes, calves and feet, as well as improve your balance and coordination.

Boosts mood and mental health

Proximity to the sea is often associated with improved mood and mental wellbeing, while walking is known to stimulate the production of endorphins and serotonin in your brain that help you feel happy and relaxed. Walking on the beach can also reduce stress, anxiety and depression by exposing you to natural light, fresh air and soothing sounds.

Supports healthy sleep patterns

A beach walk exposes you to natural light, promoting your body's circadian rhythm and production of melatonin, crucial for sleep. The soothing sounds of the ocean can also reduce stress and anxiety, preparing your mind for a restful night, while the physical activity also supports a good night’s rest.

Boosts immune system and skin health

Walking on the beach exposes you to sunlight, helping your body produce vitamin D, which is essential for your immune system and skin health. It can also expose you to salt water which, due to its high mineral content, is thought to help certain skin conditions, such as eczema and inflammation.

Do you burn more calories walking on the beach?

The answer is yes! Walking on the beach can burn 2.7 times more energy than walking on solid, flat terrain as your body has to work harder to lift your feet off the loose surface.

This means while an average 30 minute walk will normally burn approximately 170 calories, the same walk on a beach could burn more than 400 – that’s a significant difference!

However, the exact amount of calories you burn depends on several factors, such as your weight, age, metabolism and wind resistance. To get a more accurate estimate of how many calories you burn walking on the beach, you can use an online calculator or fitness tracker that takes these factors into account.

How to walk on sand

Sand is softer and more unstable than other surfaces meaning you have to work your muscles and joints harder. While this can have numerous health benefits, it can also increase the risk of injury if you’re not careful. Here are some tips on how to walk on sand safely and effectively:

  1. Start slowly and gradually increase your speed and distance. Walking on sand can be more tiring than walking on other surfaces, so don’t overdo it at first. Give your body time to adapt to the new terrain.
  2. Choose the right type of sand. The wetter and firmer the sand, the easier it is to walk on. Start with wet sand near the water’s edge where the sand is more compact and stable. As you get more comfortable and confident, you can move to softer sand further away from the water where the sand is looser and more challenging.
  3. Wear appropriate footwear. Some people prefer to walk barefoot on the beach, while others prefer to wear shoes or sandals. Walking barefoot can give you a better feel of the sand and stimulate your foot muscles and nerves, but it can also expose your feet to sharp objects or hot sand. Walking with shoes or sandals can protect your feet from these hazards, but it can also make your feet sweat more and reduce your grip on the sand. If you choose to wear shoes or sandals, make sure they are comfortable, breathable and have good traction.
  4. Maintain good posture when walking. Keep your head up, shoulders back, chest out, stomach in and back straight. Avoid slouching or hunching over.

What to Wear for a walk on the beach

Walking on the beach can be gentle and relaxing, or bracing and challenging, depending on the weather. Whether it’s a warm summer’s day in July or a windy, wild afternoon in January, it is always important to wear appropriate clothing and accessories that can protect you from these elements and make you comfortable. Here are some suggestions on what to wear for a walk on the beach:

Warm sunny days

  • Lightweight clothing: Opt for loose-fitting, breathable clothing made of lightweight fabrics like cotton or linen. These materials allow air circulation and help keep you cool.
  • Sun protection: Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and applying sunscreen with a high SPF. Consider wearing a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt to shield your arms from the sun.
  • Footwear: Choose comfortable sandals or lightweight sneakers that provide support and allow your feet to breathe. Avoid walking barefoot on hot sand to prevent burns or injuries.
  • Hydration: Carry a water bottle to stay hydrated during your walk. Drink water before, during, and after your walk to avoid dehydration, especially in hot weather.

Wet and cold days

  • Layered clothing: Dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep you dry, add a thermal insulating layer for warmth and finish with a windproof and waterproof outer layer.
  • Waterproof gear: Wear a good quality waterproof jacket or coat to protect yourself from rain and wind.
  • Warm accessories: Wear a beanie or hat to retain body heat and protect your head from the cold. Consider wearing gloves or mittens to keep your hands warm, and don't forget a cozy scarf to protect your neck.
  • Proper footwear: Choose sturdy, waterproof shoes or boots with good traction to prevent slips and falls on wet sand. Opt for socks made of moisture-wicking materials to keep your feet dry.

Final thoughts

If you’re looking to get more active or lose weight through walking, LiveWell Dorset is here to help. We have helped thousands of people across Dorset achieve their health goals and we’d love to help you too!

Register with us today or get in touch with the LiveWell team for more information about our services.


"In January 2019, I was five stone heavier. Now, with the weight loss, parkrun and netball, my anxiety has improved tenfold."

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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