Night walking and safety tips to get more steps after dark

A night walk can be the perfect way for busy people to get more steps and to make it to that digital confetti moment when you hit your step goals. If you’re not a morning walker, the evening might be your only chance to get in a walking workout. Night walking has some unique challenges, like staying visible, safe, and energized after a tough day. Do night walking correctly, however, and you’ll be able to sleep well after hitting your 10,000 step goal!

Find out if you could benefit from walking at night, plus stay safe while getting your steps with these simple night walking tips.

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Who Benefits from Night Walks?

Man taking a break after a run at night
FotoAndalucia / Shutterstock

A lot has been said about getting your daily walking time done in the early morning, but this schedule doesn’t work for everyone. A surprising number of people would far prefer to walk at night, or find night walking to be more convenient for their schedules than a walk in the early morning. Even getting in an extra mile before bed can go a long way towards hitting your step goals!

  • Working Difficult Hours
    • If you can’t get your steps in during the workday, your options are basically night or morning. For people on the morning shift, or for people with a busy morning routine night walking may be the best way to go.
  • Non-Morning People
    • If you just aren’t up facing the world first thing in the morning, you’re not alone. Non-morning people often enjoy night walks rather than pulling on their sneakers first thing after waking.
  • Introverts
    • If you’re not into saying “hello” and “good morning” every fifty steps, night walking is a wonderful time for introverts to enjoy the quiet and the beauty of the neighborhood without greetings and neighborly small-talk
  • Hot Climate Areas
    • If you’re walking during the hot summer or if your location is hot year-round, night walking is an opportunity to exercise outside without the over-warm rays of sunshine.

There is also just something beautiful about a neighborhood at night. As twilight falls, the street lights are lit and the houses glow uniquely in the darkness. Each street is different, and you can see your daytime neighborhood in a whole new light. The local park is made of pools of light and shadow and the stars glitter overhead. This can make nighttime walking a unique and interesting experience.

How Can Night Walks Help Hit Your Step Goals?

Women running at night with headlamps
oneinchpunch / Shutterstock

There are also a few very distinct benefits of night walking. You can get some of the same benefits from walking in the morning as well, but morning walking isn’t for many people.

  • Get active instead of being sedentary
    • While some people enjoy walking after dinner, for many people the evening is a time to relax on the couch, watch TV and snack. By making your evening active, you’re resisting the temptation to be sedentary. If you’re out walking, you’re probably not snacking which is a benefit in itself.
  • Fewer distractions
    • In the morning, you’re thinking about what will be done next. You’re thinking about going to work or getting the kids to school or your shopping list for later in the day. At night, most things are already done and if you want to walk a little further or a little longer, there’s no pressure to get home for other tasks.
  • Cooler temperatures
    • The cooler temperature at night can be envigorating during a night walk, making it easier for you to enjoy trekking across the neighborhood and back without overheating.

There are also some disadvantages to walking at night. These are apart from safety and visibility issues which we’ll discuss later.

  • Fatigue
    • After a long day of work, you may not feel like you have the energy to walk. It may be hard to get up in the morning to walk, but once you get out there you’ll typically have more energy than you might after a tough day. On the other hand, walking can often leave you energized which can help you be more productive after work.
  • Time pressure
    • While some people have busier mornings, for others the evening can be a busy time. You may get held late at work, or you may need to prepare dinner or do household chores. While you can always get up earlier than everyone and get your steps in, getting your steps after all of your other chores can interfere with sleep.
  • Sleep issues
    • Exercising too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep for many people. While a leisurely walk can sometimes help you sleep better, more intense fitness walking can get your heart pumping and leave you feeling very awake. That can be a good thing in the morning, but not something you want to do right before bed.

Night Walking Tips

Athletic man going for a night walk by the riverside
Spectral-Design / Shutterstock

Walking at night is a little different from walking during the day. The temperature, social atmosphere, and visibility are all very different. Not to mention, you’ll want to find a few ways to optimize your steps and get the most from your evening walk. So let’s look at a few helpful night walking tips.

Wear the Right Gear

There are two important things to remember about dressing for your night walk. The first is that you need to be visible. The second is to stay warm if the nights get cold – whether it’s due to the climate where you are or the season.

Make sure to wear light-colored clothing that’s clearly visible to drivers. There are a variety of reflective products that can make your walks safer. A light-colored jacket is a great solution to both concerns, but you may want to wear layers so that you can remove one if you start to sweat.

Nights tend to be wetter, with less visibility, so good walking shoes are also important. Wet leaves or ice can sometimes be hard to see, so make sure your shoes have good grip just in case.

Carry a Light

Speaking of visibility, it can often help to carry a flashlight along with your wallet, phone, and house key. You can also use the flashlight feature on your phone for this purpose, but you may not want to carry your phone so conspicuously. Having a light is important for watching your step and for choosing your path on darker routes. If you want to inspect something along the way, a flashlight is handy.

Find Beautiful Nighttime Views

The night can be beautiful, which is one reason that nighttime is a wonderful time to walk. Try to plan routes along familiar streets that have the most enjoyable nighttime views. Walk by houses that always look great or to the local well-lit park with it’s eerie evening beauty.

Winding Down for Bed

If you’re walking before bed, remember to consider intensity versus winding down. It’s best to leave intense exercise behind about two hours before bedtime or your body will still be amped. So either walk intensely two hours before bed or take a more leisurely stroll right before bed. You might also try walking intensely away from home and having a leisurely stroll on the way back to help wind down for sleep.

Night Walking Safety

Woman walking in the snow at night

Last but certainly not least is to take care of your safety during a night walk. There are two main aspects of night walking safety – visibility and personal safety. It’s important to take a few precautions for both.

Make Yourself Visible

Wear light-colored clothing and/or reflectors to ensure that you are very visible at night. It’s best to wear both when possibles. You can easily find sneakers and hats with reflectors and jogging clothing often has reflector strips. Many stores also sell reflective strips that you can stick on to your existing clothing.

Stay on the Sidewalk and Walk Against Traffic

Avoid walking on roads with no sidewalks at night time, as visibility will be lower and you can’t be sure there aren’t impaired drivers out there. Pay special attention crossing streets as well.

If you do have to walk in a treacherous area, walk against traffic (so that approaching cars are coming from the front of you). This way, you can easily see cars coming and move further from the road as a precaution.

Wear light or reflective clothing

Make sure to dress in light-colored clothing that’s easily visible to drivers. If possible, find reflective gear that will show up in headlights, or carry a light with you to ensure that you’re visible.

Walk Familiar Routes

It’s harder to pick out broken sidewalks, loose stones or tree roots at night. It often helps to walk a route you’re very familiar with at night to avoid dangerous situations. You’ll also know where any dangerous intersections or sidewalks are located which can help you avoid danger.

Stay Aware of Your Surroundings

It’s always a good idea to pay attention when you’re walking, but being aware of your surroundings is even more important at night. Try to avoid listening to headphones, as you may not hear approaching cars or approaching footsteps. If you do need to listen to something, keep one headphone off at least and lower the volume just in case. If something seems off about the route or the area, take note and consider going back.

Use the Buddy Safety System – Alone or With Others

Don’t head out by yourself at night without telling someone where you are going. It is safer to walk with a partner or a group at night. Walking is an easy exercise to get into, so consider asking a friend to start a walking routine in the evening with you. But if you want to walk alone, let a friend or family member know where you’re going and when to expect you back. You can use Pacer’s Live Tracking feature to share your location with safety contacts.

This doesn’t just apply to personal safety issues. If you happen to trip and sprain your ankle, for instance, there may be no one around to help if you’re walking late at night.

Find a Safe Place to Walk

It may go without saying, but try to avoid poorly lit routes with few people around when walking at night – like alleys or streets without good lighting. If you can’t find a good place to walk, you can always try walking inside at a big box store or supermarket. Many are open 24 hours, which allows you to get some shopping in and get some steps in a safe and secure environment.

Put Your Phone Away

While you can still track your steps with Pacer, you probably do not want to conspicuously display your phone as you’re walking by yourself at night. There are many options to allow you to carry your phone hands-free comfortably, (like our friends at hipS-sister).

Watch Where You Step

Finally, be careful with your feet. Avoid stepping on ice or leaves (wet or dry) to prevent yourself from a slip-and-fall incident. Use your flashlight, especially on damp nights where everything could look like ice or puddles in the twilight.

Final thoughts

Night walking is a wonderful way to get your steps in, especially if you can see that special beauty in lit homes shining through the darkness. Whether your schedule is more night-friendly or you just prefer to wind down for bed with a nice long walk in the quiet, we know exactly where you’re coming from.

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If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.

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