As we head into an Australian summer, you might find yourself swapping the pavement for the sandy coastlines when out walking. Fortunately, walking on sand comes with myriad benefits - however it is worth noting that it is more difficult than regular walking, so make sure that you build up slowly.
Soft or hard?
Depending on where you like to stroll, you may have a choice of soft, crumbly grains of sand or denser, firmer and wetter sand.
Walking on soft sand requires more than twice the energy than regular walking - great for burning excess calories! It is recommended that this is done barefoot, to let the deep muscles of your feet and the stabilising muscles of your ankles do their best work. This should only be undertaken if you feel generally well balanced.
If you are walking on firmer sand, supportive footwear is recommended. After a long walk, you may wish to take off your shoes and dip your feet in the cool water, which acts as a local anti-inflammatory and can help with any warmth or swelling.
Both styles of sand walking are great for toning up the calf muscles, hamstrings and glutes - muscles that work together to propel you forwards, and will keep you active and agile for a long time.
Walking in the sand ticks many boxes when it comes to physical and mental health: it is rhythmic, continuous, out in nature, with the soundtrack of the waves and a view of the horizon. Exposure to morning sunlight has been proven to help with night time sleep, and if you go later in the day, you will also get a vitamin D boost (remember to slip, slop and slap). It is also highly mindful - each step requires focus to avoid shells and steady yourself. Feeling the sand between your toes is a wonderfully grounding activity. Sand is also a natural exfoliant - perfect for smoothing down the skin!
Like any new activity, you should take your time to increase your walking distance and time in the sand. Too much too soon can lead to overuse of the tendons and muscles as they try to navigate this unusual surface.
If you aren’t sure whether walking in the sand is right for you, a podiatrist, exercise physiologist or physiotherapist can help provide you with some “pre-season” strengthening exercises based on your individual needs.