Night walking is a great way for busy people get more steps in their day. Some people like night walking because they are too busy to get in exercise during the day. Others may be early risers and walk before the sun comes up. For many people, walking after work is the only way to hit a 10,000 steps per day goal, or the only way they can get the steps they need to lose weight or burn off stubborn body fat.
No matter why you may be walking when it’s dark out, night walking presents its own unique challenges. Here are some important tips on making your night walks as safe and productive as possible while still getting your steps.
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Gear and Safety Tips for Walking at Night
Whether you walk at night or in the very early morning, if your routine includes walking in the dark there are some safety tips and special gear that can help keep you safe.
Equipment to help you stay visible
When walking in low light conditions, visibility is crucial. You want to make sure that drivers can see you, and that you have a clear view of your surroundings. Consider:
An LED headlamp with an adjustable beam angle can be a good option for nighttime walks. Some companies make hats with lights built into the front or brim or clip-on units that attach to your hat. If you don’t want to wear a headlamp, you can consider carrying a lightweight flashlight. Lighting is especially important if you’re walking on a trail, grass or an uneven surface so that you don’t trip over unseen obstacles.
Reflective clothing helps ensure you’re visible to motorists. Reflective vests come in a variety of colors and styles with reflective stripes or a reflective X on the front and back. Bright yellow, pink or orange are good choices as they’re the most clearly visible and their colors stand out against almost any background.
If you can’t find a vest, or if you want a more portable accessory, many options are available. Try looking into hats with reflective surfaces. Reflective ball caps and knit caps are available for colder weather. Reflective ankle bands and headbands can be a good, easy to carry option. There are also comfortable belts made with reflective material. Other alternatives include reflective shoes, gloves, shirts, and pants. Experts recommend wearing as much reflective gear as possible.
If you don’t want to buy special gear, you can buy reflective stickers for your clothes and shoes. Even jog bras can be lights for the night! Check out this list of specialty lighting and reflective wear for women and men from Runner’s World writer Lisa Jhung.
Dress safe, be safe
Avoid dark colors, like navy or black, as they don’t show up in the dark. If you don’t have any other options, at least wear a white t-shirt as an outer layer over whatever you’re wearing so you show up better.
Bright pink or orange might not be your go-to fashion style. It’s understandable. But if you’re walking at night then safety should be your #1 concern. It’s worth putting in some effort to find visible clothes that you like because you’ll be more likely to actually wear your safety gear and walk safer if you’re comfortable in it. With the number of reflective options out there, you’re sure to find something that fits your style and makes you visible.
Don’t forget your pet!
If you walk your dog at night, there’s also a variety of reflective collars and vests as well as light-up items for your furry friend. It’s important to make sure your dog is visible too, especially if you’re walking near a street. Here’s a list of tips on night-time dog walking.
Interested in more dog visibility items? Here are some great night visibility items for your dog as well!
Safety tips for walking when it’s dark
Why is it so important to take safety measures when walking in the dark? Even if you’re on the sidewalk or well away from the road, a driver may not see if you if they’re forced to swerve or steer off the road. Many drivers aren’t looking out for walkers later at night or in the very early morning hours, so it’s important to take additional steps to ensure you’re seen. Unfortunately, distracted driving is a common occurrence, so being visible helps ensure drivers see you clearly and don’t drift in your direction.
Always stay on the sidewalk, if possible. If you must walk on roads with no sidewalks, save these for the daytime when you’re more visible. Walk facing traffic (so that cars are coming towards the front of you) when possible so you’ll clearly see cars coming from far away. Always obey crossing signals and cross only in crosswalks. This is extremely important at night. If you’re not expecting to see a car coming, the driver probably isn’t expecting to see you walking across the road.
Be sure you can see where you’re going, as it’s easier to miss an obstacle like an uneven sidewalk, a rock or a pothole when it’s dark. Walking on a well-paved, level surface is more important at night. The more time you spend looking down for bumps or rocks, the less time you can spend looking out for cars. It’s usually a better idea to walk a familiar route when walking at night so you’ll know where the danger spots may be. You don’t want to get caught halfway through a new walk and realize that there’s no safe road shoulder to walk on.
Try to stick to walking in areas that are well-lit. It’s good to walk with someone else when it’s dark for safety purposes. If you see someone suspicious, especially if there’s no one else around, change direction or avoid them. Better safe than sorry.
Night walking tips from first responders
Police and firefighters often work irregular hours or difficult schedules. Their exercise, including walking, might need to happen at odd hours and in non-ideal places. Why not take some advice from these professionals about walking or jogging at odd hours. Here’s some advice from Sam Milam, a former police and fire dispatcher who has been recognized for her advice on how to be safe and protect those around us.
- Always tell someone where you are going and the route you intend to take;
- You can use Pacer’s Live Tracking function to share your location to give your loved ones peace of mind.
- Walk with a buddy or group whenever possible. Getting a friend into walking is a great way to improve their health and make your walks safer;
- Try to avoid walking at dusk, twilight, or dawn as these times have the most recorded incidents of pedestrian accidents (The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that the most pedestrian deaths occur between 6 and 9 p.m.);
- Carry a whistle; and
- Change up your routine.
More tips for walking at night
Additional safety tips for walking when it’s dark include:
- Pay attention to your surroundings! If you’re by yourself, situational awareness can help you avoid dangerous situations before they happen.
- Try to avoid listening to music on your phone or portable music player when walking at night. You want to stay alert and to be able to hear sounds around you. This includes the sounds of cars, as well as potential danger signs.
- Carry a cell phone with speed dial numbers pre-set for key contacts or first responders, in case of emergencies. It’s important to have a method for contacting others in case you feel unsafe, or if you trip and injure yourself in an isolated area.
- Consider taking self-defense lessons to boost your confidence and help protect yourself. Don’t take it too far though – if you spot someone who is making you feel unsafe try to leave the area as quickly as possible.
- Don’t carry your wallet with all of your credit cards and cash if you don’t need to buy anything.
- Carry your ID with you at all times just in case.
- Consider using Pacer’s Live Tracking function through Pacer Routes to share your location with a friend or loved one.
- When in doubt, get your steps without going into the dark by doing some in-home cardio.
Join a walking group
If you find you really enjoy walking at night, there are probably special nighttime events in your area that you can attend. Check local walking event calendars for one in your area. If there aren’t any, you can organize your own group of friends to walk together. Not only will you be safer walking together, but you’ll be motivated to walk more as part of the group.
Look for walking groups in the Pacer Pedometer app to get started. Just click on the “Explore” button and do a search in the “Groups” tab. Of course, if you’re walking any time of day or night, be sure to track your steps with Pacer to track your progress!
Special Halloween Tips for Trick-or-Treaters
If you’re out trick-or-treating, especially with kids, make sure everyone stays safe while having fun. Dark costumes may be fun and scary, but they’re hard for drivers to see. Make sure your kids have some reflective gear on their dark costumes and make sure to keep them away from the street.
Carry a flashlight if possible to light the way, and make sure that you have enough adults to watch over small children. They tend to get excited and run around, especially when candy is available, so it’s up to you as a parent to ensure that they’re safe from cars and other dangers.
Try to start trick-or-treating when it’s still light so that you can get back early. Kids will enjoy having more of the good candy available, and you’ll stay safer walking in more light.
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