Safety Tips for Nighttime Exercisers

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!