Benefits: Exercising in the sand often works the body a lot harder than a solid surface. *Photo by Carol Hulst
Benefits: Exercising in the sand often works the body a lot harder than a solid surface. *Photo by Carol Hulst

Bermuda can proudly boast some of the best beaches in the world and yet they don’t seem to be as popular for working out as other sandy hotspots across the globe. Our beaches can be utilized for more than just lazing around and barbequing. Exercising in the sand provides an excellent training environment and in certain aspects actually works the body a lot harder than using a hard, flat surface. All my Beach Boot Camp clients can testify this!

So, let’s look into the unique features that makes moving in the sand such a testing workout. When our foot is stabilizing on the floor it makes small adjustments until it feels balanced. In the sand these intricate movements are a lot more taxing as the sand moves underneath the foot. The nervous system is challenged so we don’t fall over. We can replicate similar training effects using stability equipment like BOSUs and balancing boards but the sand is a lot more unpredictable making it a useful rehabilitation environment for those recovering from lower body injuries.

When the sand is wet and compact it is easier to perform balancing exercises and the foot can sink into the surface as the sand takes the shape of the foot. Therefore, balancing exercises are better performed in the soft, less compact sand and any exercises such as single-leg balances, hops and bounds would be ideal.

The soft sand also has a great effect on the forces throughout the body. Each time the foot strikes the sand it creates an impact force. An example of impact force can be demonstrated by placing an object weighing 2-3 lbs on a set of bathroom scales and seeing how the needle suddenly jumps before it settles down to the corresponding weight. This kind of force needs to be dissipated throughout the body through muscle and fascia before it reaches the skull to protect the brain.

The type of sand we move in varies the amount of force created. For example, moving in wet, compact sand generates about four times more force compared to moving in dry soft sand. Softer sand is also kinder on the joints and tendons which is important when rehabilitating an injury. Plyometric work and sprinting in the sand can also help improve speed and jumping in most sports when playing on a normal surface.

The biggest bang for your buck though comes from the increased energy expenditure used in sand compared to exercising on a flat terrain. Studies have shown that running in sand uses 1.2 to 1.6 x greater energy, walking in sand uses 1.8 to 2.7 per cent more energy and jumping in sand demands 120 per cent extra energy when compared to harder surfaces.

The reason behind this is simply because the sand moves under our feet reducing the elastic energy of our muscles and tendons. All this amounts to more calories being burnt by working out on the beach helping with any weight loss goal.

So, if you want to really take advantage of our beautiful beaches and enhance your workouts then try exercising on the beach.  Just remember that moving in the sand increases various movements of the foot and any training will need to be gradual to get accustomed to these unique movements. Integrating the following workout with your gym routine will be beneficial to increasing performance, reducing injury and helping you get that beach body in time for summer!

  • Follow a 3-2-1 protocol. 3 minutes briskly walking, 2 minutes slow jogging, 1 minute fast running. Repeat for up to 24 minutes.
  • Perform 30-60 seconds of compound exercises that will use several muscle groups at once like squats, lunges, push ups and burpees. Choose 5-6 exercises and repeat 2-3 times.
  • Enjoy the fresh air and beautiful surroundings. You will feel energized surrounded by nature! n

Colin will be starting his next popular Beach Boot Camp on Elbow Beach on Saturday, 27th April. Please contact him on cayliffe@courthouse.bm for further details.