Walking on Sand—Steps to Better Health
BY “AWAKE!” CORRESPONDENT IN HAWAII
BRISK walking has been called one of the finest forms of exercise. It is said that, among other benefits, brisk walking increases cardiac output, decreases blood pressure, improves circulation and skin tone, and strengthens bones and muscles.
As anyone who has tried it knows, however, brisk walking also exacts a heavy toll on the feet—calluses, corns, blisters, and even more serious foot injuries. These are often the result of wearing ill-fitting exercise shoes. If you have ever had sore feet, you know how uncomfortable, even agonizing, that can be. In fact, the condition of your feet can affect the health of your entire skeletal system.
Best of Both Worlds
You may not have to suffer. “Studies of nonshoe-wearing populations in Africa and Asia conclude that people who do not wear shoes have healthier feet, fewer deformities, and have greater mobility than people in shoe-wearing societies,” reports an orthopedist. So it seems that you could have the best of both worlds if you could somewhere exercise briskly while walking barefoot. Actually, that option is available to many people—walking on the dry sand of a clean beach or on sand dunes.
“A good exercise with a massaging effect is walking barefoot on a sandy beach,” says The Arthritis Exercise Book, “especially when the sand is warm. Walking in loose, dry sand exercises every single muscle of the foot, as the foot adjusts to the uneven surface.” Besides that, walking on sand expends almost twice the energy as walking on grass or pavement. In fact, try running on dry sand, and you will soon notice the effort it requires! “Certainly, a brisk walk along a beach would provide an excellent exercise stress in programs designed to ‘burn up’ calories or improve physiologic fitness,” concludes the book Exercise Physiology—Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance.
Thus, walking barefoot on sand not only provides the benefits of a healthful exercise routine but also lessens wear and tear on foot and leg joints. For those with mild arthritis, it reduces the pain caused by exercise.
A Word of Caution
Before you rush out to the nearest beach or sand dune, however, bear in mind these notes of caution. Make sure that the sand you walk on with your bare feet is quite clean and free of sharp objects. If you have any serious health problems, such as diabetes or heart trouble, you should consult your physician before taking up any new form of exercise. And as with any exercise program, start your sand walking at a slow or moderate pace, and gradually increase your speed over a period of weeks. This will likely lead to a safer and more enjoyable exercise routine for you.
A barefoot walk in the sand is more than fun; it might just be the beginning of steps to better health for you and your feet. And who knows what else you might even discover on the beach or in the shallow water—shells, small fish, little hermit crabs, all kinds of birds and insects. So keep your senses alert, and enjoy your walk!