Explore the Science and Benefits Associated with Exercise in the Sand
Sand is softer…
Instead of pounding your joints and feet on hard pavement, sand acts as a natural cushion. Health advocates say that walking barefoot grounds us. At the very least, it reconnects us to nature’s beauty which helps reduce stress as life finds perspective. Movement in the sand made with bare feet amplifies our inner sense of wellness and connection to nature in a same way that running outside can do this rather than running on a treadmill. The tactual orientation of bare feet in the sand provides an amplified kind of “WAKE UP” effect of all the muscles in our body, most typically lower limbs (feet, knees, hips & lower back), and consequently creates a better stabilization, balance and proprioception response.
The rationale behind exercise in “bare feet” is that not only will there be an increase in recruitment of intrinsic weight bearing muscles of the feet and lower limbs, but that there will be as well a heightened sensory stimulation to the brain. This sensory stimulation comes in the form of proprioceptive stimulation, as was discussed earlier in the sections “Movement Charges Your Brain” and “Proprioception Exercises”. It also comes from stimulation of the traditional primary senses of smell, sight and hearing, which are activated while exercising in the sand. This bombardment of senses acts as a distraction of sorts that allows us to move deeper into the healthy and proper full range movement of all weight bearing joints of the body. It has been theorized (see “The Grounding or Earthing Factor” – pg. 6) that the grains of SAND themselves, and the way in which they provide a forgiving surface upon which to play or move, are a powerful way to improve one’s sense of connection with nature. Since the soles of our feet have more sweat glands and nerve endings per square centimeter than any other part of your body, then it is understandable that walking barefoot, especially on a textured surface like sand, will stimulate them much more than walking in shoe. So not only are you stimulating nerve endings when you walk on the sand, but you are also strengthening the muscles in your feet, which don’t get used nearly as much when you’re wearing shoes. Walking, running or playing in sand, much like swimming in water or skiing on mountains is found to be invigorating for one’s full body health. Movement in the sand also challenges the whole body, especially the larger muscle groups and weight bearing joints including the spine, hips, knees and feet.
Soft is Safe
As the particles in sand “give way” when stepped on, all movements in the sand are lower impact on the bones, joints and muscles than movements on hard ground. The sand also acts like a cushion and provides safety for not only falls, but also provides significant challenge to working muscles, which must learn to lift the body’s weight up against gravity on the challenging soft surface.
Coordination and proprioceptive joint control: This requires the body to stabilize much more during specific weight bearing movement related activities. Sand also provides more proprioceptive input through the joints in the feet, legs and spine to the brain, which helps increase the neurological stimulation of the brain – in other words “feeds the brain”.
Sand is harder…
Walking in sand requires a greater effort than walking on a hard surface so your intrinsic joint muscles, tendons & ligaments will work harder to support your weight bearing joints as your feet move around. Walking at a slower pace while your feet sink in sand requires more effort of more muscles (concentric & eccentric) than hard surface walking or running.
Walking in sand requires 2.1 to 2.7 times more energy than walking on hard surfaces1 and running in sand uses 1.6 times more energy than jogging on hard surfaces. For most of us burning calories is one of the benefits of any exercise. One the primary benefits of walking on a beach is that you will use 20 to 50 percent more calories than you would walking at the same pace on a hard surface. esearch today shows that the muscles and joints of your powerful feet and leg muscles have to work up to 60% harder in the sand than they do when walking on a firm paved surface17. In the sport of volleyball, indoor players who switch from the hard gym surface to the beach will tell you how it takes them time to develop their “sand legs”. Today we now know why as modern research reveals the heightened exertion of effort required by the recruitment of the deeper layers of intrinsic stabilizing muscles of all joints of the lower limbs during sand based gait.
…and Sand is fun.
Gonna Soak Up the Sun:
Studies state that many Canadians are Vitamin D deficient. You will soak up natural Vitamin D from the sun as you stroll.
Group Fun in the Sun:
It is often difficult to keep up one’s own ritual of exercise daily, but when part of a group, there is a large increase in compliance, motivation and enjoyment. Some examples of effective group exercise are: walking, running, Tai Chi, Nordic pole walking, bocce, bowling, golf, cycling, tennis, hiking and aqua-fitness. The challenge with many of these group exercises is the ability to include a movement surface that has the maximal health benefits for seniors. This is something that exercising in the sand addresses. Looking at the healthiest populations around the world, another of the secrets to longevity may very well be found in not only doing exercise, but doing it in a socially oriented and group activity based way. Because hanging out in the sand is more relaxing, most people find more enjoyment in this “natural” experience than that of going on a treadmill, track or city street. Pedometer steps naturally increase with less effort.
And.. it’s Fun:
Sand is often associated with the beach. And what is more fun…than spending time in the sand!
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