Fitness Articles

Safety Tips for Nighttime Exercisers

Because You Can Never be Too Careful

Everyone knows how important it is to maintain a regular fitness routine, but sometimes the day is so jam-packed with other responsibilities that exercising during daylight hours is next to impossible. However, if you like to exercise outdoors, there are some safety issues to consider if you’re going out after dark (or before sunrise).

Plan Ahead for Safety
Staying safe at night requires a bit of planning. Here are some things to consider before heading outside:
  • Plan your route and tell someone where you will be. Let your friends or family members know when to expect you back and make sure they know your exercise route.
  • Carry a cell phone at all times. It’s also a good idea to locate all public telephones along your route in case your phone is lost or stolen along the way.
  • Carry identification. Bring a driver’s license or some sort of ID tag. At the very least, make sure you name, phone number and emergency medical information is printed inside of your shoe or on a card in your pocket.
  • Don’t wear jewelry or carry money. This can help reduce your risk of being targeted for a robbery.
  • Dress to be seen. Wear reflective materials and bright colors so drivers can see you easily. Although most running shoes now have reflective materials built into them, you can increase your visibility by wearing specially designed running pants, shorts, jackets or even a reflective vest. Carry a flashlight or a flashing device to make you even more noticeable on dark streets.
While You’re Out
Safety doesn’t stop when you’re out on the road. Consider the following tips the next time you’re exercising outside after dark:
  • Don’t exercise alone. There is safety in numbers, so exercise with someone else—even your dog—whenever possible.
  • Stay alert. You are the most vulnerable to potential attack when you’re lost in your thoughts and not paying complete attention to your surroundings. Look ahead, to the sides, and turn to watch behind you every once in a while. Be aware of any suspicious people on your route.
  • Don’t wear headphones. Music restricts your hearing and distracts you from what's happening in your environment. Wearing headphones can therefore prevent you from hearing an oncoming car or potential attacker. Listen to your surroundings and learn which sounds are normal and which signify potential danger.
  • Be aware of your environment. Know which businesses are open and where you can go for help in case of an emergency.
  • Change your route periodically. The less predictable you are, the less likely it is that someone else can learn your habits or follow you.
  • Avoid unpopulated areas, poorly lit or deserted streets and overgrown trails. Stick with busier streets that are well-lit.
  • Exercise against traffic so you can see oncoming cars. Stay clear of parked cars and bushes along the side of the road.
  • Obey your gut feelings and trust your intuition. If you are uneasy about a person or a location along your route, trust your feelings and avoid what is making you anxious.
  • If you think you’re being followed, change direction immediately and head for the safety of an open store or a lighted home.
  • Use caution if anyone in a vehicle stops and asks you for directions. Remain at least an arm’s length away if you choose to answer.
  • Have your key ready before you reach your home so you can get inside quickly.
  • Call the police immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary when you’re out. Know the level of criminal activity in the area before you begin your route and adjust your course to avoid known criminal areas.
Traveling and Vacation Safety
Staying safe when you’re away from familiar areas can be tricky, so exercise caution in a new place. Here are some additional points to consider if you’re exercising in a strange city:
  • Check with your hotel staff or concierge to find out which exercise routes are safe. If there are none close to your hotel, have the staff arrange access to a local health club or gym.
  • Learn your temporary exercise route as well as possible before you head out. Get a map and study it. Learn street names and landmarks.
  • Carry a card with your hotel’s address on it as well as your regular identification.
  • Don’t carry your room key. Leave it at the front desk.
  • Don’t let your guard down just because you’re on vacation. Be aware of your surroundings and follow your usual safety rules.
These safety tips aren't meant to scare you, but they do involve things that every exerciser should keep in mind when exercising outside—even when it's not dark. After all, safety should be your first priority. You'll always feel (and be) safer when you employ the "buddy system" instead of working out alone. So try to involve your friends, family members, or consider joining a running/walking club.  After all, exercising with a buddy is not only safer, but it also makes fitness more fun! 

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Page 1 of 1  
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!

Member Comments

  • Or find some nice exercise videos on Spark or Youtube. :-)
  • It says to not carry money to not be targeted. But how will a potential attacker know whether or not I have a $20 bill in my pocket?
  • I live in a nice residential neighborhood but there are no sidewalks and no shoulder on the side of the road. Therefore, we don't like to walk in the dark. I've considered the reflective vests and maybe a headlamp, but feel like a real nerd wearing a headlamp....but I'd rather be a nerd than hit by a car.
  • Good tips and reminders for all who walk or run. Best tip is about FACING ONCOMING TRAFFIC on roads where there are no sidewalks. Nothing is scarier to a driver than to come up behind someone, and I encounter far too many people who do not know of or obey this one very important rule. I usually shout 'WRONG SIDE!' out the window at them.
    Great tips, but I do none of them other than have my dogs with me.
  • Great tips but the flashing light thing is awful from the perspective of a driver. If you're going to use a light, don't use one that flashes because drivers have a hard time determining your location or distance. I know because I am both a walker/runner and a driver where there are LOTS of walkers, runners and cyclists. Cyclists tend to use the flashing lights most and I have a REALLY hard time pinpointing their location on the road at night.
  • I'm not sure that I agree with the "don't carry your room card" and leave at the front desk. Most hotels will require you to show ID to get your card back and it can take quite a while if the staff are busy. I also think I would feel a bit exposed not having it when I re-entered the hotel.
    MAIL4CINDI: I ordered a Road ID for myself. Thank you for the suggestion. Better safe than sorry. With shipping, it came to $21.48.

    They gave me a coupon that I could pass along. The coupon is good for $1 off any Road ID placed by 11/10/2009. Coupon Number: ThanksMartha55157
  • Another tip for Day or Night when exercising outside is to carry a can of Mace in BOTH pockets, that way if someone grabs you from one side you can reach your other pocket. A retired Police Officer shared that with me. Also, if you can, taking Self defense is a good idea.
  • Thank you for this article. I sometimes wonder if people are using their noggins when they are out at night, not visible, not paying attention etc.

    Nobody likes to think they will be a victim of crime, but awareness of our surroundings is key.

    I knew a young woman once who was struck and killed while jogging. It took awhile for her to be identified because she had no ID on her. Very sad.
  • A great idea is to have a runner's ID tag. You can find different kinds at
  • Although I feel I'm cognizant of these safety rules, it's always helpful to have them reinforced. Thanks!
  • This was great. Thank you.

About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

x Lose 10 Pounds by July 4! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.