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Running at Night: Benefits, Safety Tips, & More (2020)

running at night header image

While running at night can be dangerous for a number of reasons, there are measures that you can put into place to significantly reduce the risk of any harm coming your way. 

That’s why we’ve put together everything you need to know before heading out for your next late night run. After all, the benefits certainly outweigh the disadvantages, and when you’re armed with the right advice there’s no reason why jogging at night can’t be a safe activity. 

If you want to learn more about how you can optimise your diet and fitness routine to reach your goals, be sure to check out our Certificate in Advanced Sports Nutrition before you carry on reading, or download OriGym’s course prospectus for more information on what you could be learning! 

Contents: 

  • Benefits of running at night 
  • Disadvantages of running at night 
  • Safety tips! 

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Benefits of Running at Night 

We thought it would be good to start on a positive note since going for a late night run has many advantages, especially if it’s something that you do on a regular basis. There are certainly things that you should be cautious of, but we’ll get to that later! 

#1 - Less stress and more sleep

safety when running at night

It’s a known fact that running is a fantastic form of stress relief, especially if it’s done outdoors. 

While the treadmill can be just as good for your health, it can also get a little monotonous, and nothing beats the feeling of a breeze on your skin as you jog through woodland as the sun is setting. Even running outdoors in a city or suburban area has its benefits, and it certainly beats having to travel to the gym just to spend an hour on the treadmill! 

In case you were thinking about training at your home in between late night runs though, you should check out our list of the best treadmills

It’s a well-known fact that running reduces stress, with special thanks to a secret that many avid runners call ‘runner’s high’. This is the elated feeling that you experience after you’ve taken part in the exercise, and it’s actually triggered by endorphins in the brain. It’s not a myth! 

When you achieve a runner’s high, the endorphins within your brain act as natural painkillers to combat any pain or discomfort that you experience during your run. 

They also work like natural mood boosters and improve your mood in the hours after you’ve completed the exercise. This means that going for a regular late night run could help to reduce your overall stress levels, which is never a bad thing. 

Running outdoors at night can reduce stress even further, especially since the scenery and fresh air helps to promote a sense of wellbeing. Check out our article on mindful running if you want to learn more about this!

Not only will jogging at night help you to reduce any anxiety or stress that you’re feeling, but it will also lead to a better sleeping pattern. The two benefits are closely associated, which is pretty lucky for those who suffer from either of these issues. 

To support our point, we’ve included a quote from a study conducted by A. Aloulou (PhD) et al, titled ‘The Effect of Night-Time Exercise on Sleep Architecture Among Well-Trained Male Endurance Runners’: 

The present study showed that night-time (21:00), high-intensity, intermittent running exercise moderately increased whole-night NREM and reduced proportions of REM sleep among well-trained athletes compared with no exercise during the whole day. 

After exercise, the HR and CBT were elevated during the first 3 hr of sleep, which was associated with decreased proportions of REM and SWS.

To make this easier for you to dissect, HR = heart rate, CBT = core body temperature, NREM = non rapid eye movement, and SWS = slow wave sleep. 

Essentially, this study shows that jogging at night (which is classed as 9PM onwards in this study) is a great way of encouraging yourself to hit the deeper levels of sleep that are more essential for your health. This in turn will help to reduce the stress that you experience during the day, so it really is a win-win situation. 

#2 - You’re more likely to stick to your routine 

running at night safely

Let’s face it; with early morning commutes and the responsibilities that come with full-time work, not all of us have the luxury of being able to venture out for a run at 5:30am. Those that work shifts or have to get up even earlier for work may also see this as something that isn’t sustainable for them, and this is where jogging at night comes in.

Not only is it the perfect option for nighthawks, but it’s also a good idea for those who find it impossible to keep up with going to the gym. We all know what it’s like to give up due to having to make that extra journey, especially if you’ve spent all day working. 

Heading out for a run is so much easier to commit to, especially since all you need to do is have a quick change of clothes, a water bottle, and some good music ready and waiting for you when you get home. 

You can be out of the door and back in again before you’re ready to have your evening meal, and you can’t complain about that. A quick shower later and your exercise for the day is all done and dusted! 

Hopefully you can see how easy this can be for some people compared to other more intensive methods of working out. 

If you don’t fancy spending most of your evenings at the gym, you’ll probably find that the running at night benefits outweigh the downsides for you personally, and can help you to stick to your new fitness routine. 

#3 - You’ll be more prepared for exercise 

Depending on what you prefer as an individual, it’s true that you may find running at night after work allows you to feel more prepared for exercise. 

One thing to note is that you will have had plenty of opportunities to fuel your body during the day through protein filled meals and healthy snacks, meaning that your body will be prepared in terms of having sufficient energy to complete the run.

If you set out straight after you wake up, you could struggle to push through the run depending on how long it is, and feel lethargic rather than achieving that runner’s high. 

Aside from this, you may also feel more prepared in the sense that you’re awake, alert, and ready to face the exercise as a way of releasing your stress and relaxing after work. 

NOTE: If you happen to be following a plant-based diet, you should check out our guide to vegan weight training for some ideas on how you can optimise your diet to include vegan protein sources when you’re exercising on a regular basis. 

#4 -  An opportunity to run with others 

running at night image

We’ll talk about the disadvantages as well as the benefits of running at night in a moment, as this point is related to some of the safety concerns that surround this method of exercising, but it’s helpful to note that there are many people who choose to run at night if you don’t want to run alone.  

Think about it this way; have you ever seen many running groups that get together at 6am in your local area? If you live in a city then this might not be a problem, but we can safely say that in most towns here across the UK it’s much easier to find running groups that run from 5pm onwards. 

Many runners choose to run in the evenings simply because it gives them time to cover longer distances that they wouldn’t be able to reach if they ran during the limited time that they had during the mornings. 

Not just this, but they also choose later time slots due to the other benefits of running at night that we’ve mentioned, and it’s great to meet other runners that have done this and actually sustained their routine - it’s bound to inspire you! 

Running with others will make you feel safer, and help you to push through the toughest of runs when you feel like giving up. As you’ll see in OriGym’s 9 benefits of group exercise, there’s a lot of evidence to support the idea that running as part of a group will aid you in most aspects of your fitness journey, so it’s definitely something that you should consider. 

Disadvantages of Running at Night 

#1 - Safety can be compromised 

One of the most well-known disadvantages of running at night is the fact that it has a reputation for being rather dangerous, depending on the person completing the run and the situation/location that they’re running within. 

Unfortunately, even when you follow each of the safety tips for running at night, it’s impossible to promise that there won’t be isolated incidents. It’s still possible to trip and injure yourself, or come into contact with another source of danger when you’re out and about. 

That being said, this is the case with most forms of physical activity and shouldn’t put you off completely if you are wondering, how safe is running at night?. If you consistently follow each of the safety tips that we’ve outlined within this article, you’ll have a much greater chance of avoiding any unfortunate situations. 

Odds are you’ll be able to go running in the dark on a regular basis without encountering anything sinister, especially if you always remember to warm up and if you run as part of a group. 

#2 - Some people may find it difficult to find the inspiration 

This one really depends on the individual and their schedule but if you’re an early bird or you have a particularly stressful job, you might struggle to find the inspiration to run at night. 

If you have a long commute to make after work and you only arrive at home an hour later, then it’s understandable that all you may want to do is make your dinner and flop in front of the TV. 

We’ve all been there and it’s scarily easy to fall into this routine, but it is a dangerous routine to fall into and many argue that exercising in the morning will help you to avoid this. If you’re able to do this then you may benefit from it, but if not then you may feel as though a regular exercise routine isn’t something that’s possible for you… 

We can safely say that if you give running at night after work a try for a couple of weeks, you’ll soon get into a routine that feels like second nature. Even if you only venture out for 2-3 runs a week, it’s certainly better than nothing and will help you to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. 

Apart from this, there doesn’t seem to be any major disadvantages of running at night as long as you’re vigilant and take the necessary precautions to keep yourself out of harm’s way! 

Safety Tips for Running at Night 

#1 - Wear Bright Clothing 

is running at night safe

The first running at night safety tip that we can give to you is to wear bright clothing, or at least something that brings a reflective element to your gear. 

We know not everyone wants to be seen out wearing high-vis clothing, especially when it’s bright orange or something of that nature. However, if you want to stay safe when running at night then you should definitely consider mixing up your current wardrobe. 

While opting for a look that sports black and grey gym gear may make you feel invincible, it could potentially lead you into danger if you don’t at least pair it with a reflective vest, or perhaps some L.E.D. lights attached to your arm. 

Dark gym gear is stylish and fine to wear during a gym session or daytime run. However, you should sacrifice the idea of wearing something that makes you ‘look good’ in this scenario, especially if you’re running alongside vehicles and bikes. Chances are, there won’t be many people around to see what you’re wearing if you’re running in the dark anyway! 

The real question is; would you drive in the dark without headlights on? We didn’t think so. Jogging at night shouldn’t be any different, especially when you’re even more vulnerable than you would be if you were travelling inside another vehicle. 

Staying visible is a must when heading out for a late night run, and should be at the top of your priority list when planning your route. 

#2 - Always Warm Up 

When following our safety tips for running at night, another thing to note is that a proper warm up is something that you don’t want to miss out. 

Not only is it crucial to warm up for every exercise that you complete, as it helps to prevent DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and injury, but it's especially important to warm up for jogging at night. This is because there are less obvious safety issues that could arise.

If you’re running alone, you should do everything you can to stay safe along your route. 

This includes warming up, as you never know when cramp or injury could occur, leaving you vulnerable and possibly miles from home without the ability to run at your usual pace. 

It only takes a few minutes to warm up and stretch out your muscles effectively, yet it can make a huge deal of difference to your exercise routine. It prevents injury, aids safety measures and ensures that you’ll be able to perform at your best both on the day of your exercise and the days following! 

You should definitely check out our article on the importance of rest days too, as they play a huge role in how well you’ll be able to perform on the days that you do decide to exercise. 

NOTE: it’s also important to cool down at the end of a run, so be sure to perform a brisk walk on the way back to your home and some stretches once you’re back indoors. 

#3 - Lose The Technology 

benefits of running at night safety

If you’re anxious about paying attention to your surroundings or feeling vulnerable when jogging at night, you should try running without headphones.

We’re not telling you to ditch this completely if you’re feeling confident, as running with music can aid performance in many cases. However, if you want to take running at night safety to the next level then this will definitely increase your awareness of the world around you, as well as your concentration. 

 

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By ditching technology and jogging at night without distraction, you put yourself in a better position in terms of safety. You’ll be able to hear traffic, anyone who may be approaching you, and various other hazards. 

When your vision is already impaired at night, it’s important to maximise your hearing so that you can make up for your loss of awareness.  

NOTE: you should definitely keep your phone on you at all times, even when you’re not using it, just in case you need to contact anyone or you get lost along your route. Jogging at night without a mobile phone on you at all would be risky! 

#4 - Stick to Well-Lit Areas 

It goes without saying, but unless you’re into trail running at night (and you have a decent amount of experience), you should definitely stick to well-lit areas. It’s not a good idea to venture out on a lonely route in the dark, especially if you haven’t done it before. 

One of our most crucial running at night safety tips is to stick to areas that are busy enough, as well as being well-lit. 

It may seem like an annoying thought, especially when you’re envisioning other runners blocking your path or the streets rife with pedestrians, but you will more than likely find somewhere that is the right balance between being lively and clear enough to keep up your pace. 

The main benefit of finding somewhere lively yet suitable for running in the dark is that you’ll be visible to others, as well as being able to see what’s going on around you. Obstacles will be easily dodged through street lighting, and you shouldn’t find any loose tree roots or wild animals to avoid here! 

#5 - Don’t Forget Snacks!

protein snack bar graphic

Depending on the time of year, you’ll either be running during the time that you’d usually eat your dinner, or after-dinner if you’re running later in the evening (summer makes this possible with lighter nights). 

With any form of exercise, especially if it's intense, you need to be sure that you up your calorie intake accordingly. 

If you’re setting out before dinner, have a light pre-run snack that is made up of healthy carbs. A handful of nuts or a piece of fruit would work for this, or perhaps an energy bar

As long as it fits into your daily calorie goals, your pre-running late at night snack will give you the extra boost of energy that you need without affecting your weight loss or maintenance, and it should tide you over until your evening meal. 

If you’re not a fan of snacking before you set out, then you can opt for a mid-run snack instead. Check out our list of the best energy gels for an option that is easy to consume on the go! Gels are brilliant as they are a concentrated and healthy carbohydrate source that is ideal for cyclists and runners, due to the ease of their consumption. 

If you’re someone who feels a little nauseous at the thought of eating before or mid-run, then don’t panic!

You can always use your evening meal to refuel after exercising, or if you’re running an hour or two after your dinner, you can still earn a post-run snack (depending on how intense your run is and whether it fits into your calorie goals). 

In terms of what to eat after a late night run, this could be a protein shake or wholemeal toast with peanut/almond butter and slices of banana. These types of foods introduce healthy carbs and proteins that are essential for recovery and make nice, light snacks before bed. 

Now you know when/what to eat after jogging at night as well as before/during, you’re all set! 

#6 - Get a Head Torch 

nighttime running image

This links back to our section on making sure that you wear bright clothing and stay visible at all times. However, it adds something new; and that involves lighting the way for yourself!

There are a few benefits to grabbing a headlamp for late night runs, including:

  • Increased visibility range (especially for trail running at night) 
  • They’re easy-to-use 
  • They’re light-weight 
  • Usually adjustable 
  • They usually come with a blinking red light/reflective strip on the back (so that motorists, cyclists & pedestrians can see you) 

Increasing your own visibility range is just as important as making yourself visible when it comes to safety tips for running at night. 

You’ll be able to see any obstacles in your way, meaning that a head torch could be the difference between breaking a limb and getting home in one piece. Or, running straight through a muddy puddle and ruining your new trainers (although this isn’t quite as important). 

If you head over to our product reviews on running head torches, you’ll get a grip on just how handy head torches are for running safety at night. 

Not only do we include Amazon review excerpts as evidence for this point, but we also list individual features of each product so that you can weigh them up against each other. 

#7 - Run Against Traffic 

It’s important to get things right if you’re going to be running along the road at night time. One mistake could be fatal, and we really want to stress the importance of following this simple tip to keep you safe when running at night. It could save your life!

Run against traffic if you’re running along straight/mostly straight roads at night. This way, you’ll be able to see vehicles approaching you and act accordingly; not everyone drives perfectly. 

If you’re following our advice already, you will be setting out to run along well-lit and urban roads as opposed to lonely country roads with high-speed limits. 

This has multiple benefits, as you can see vehicles much easier than you would otherwise, and they can see you easily too. Also, the speed limits are usually much lower than those on country roads, which is definitely a plus. 

However, if you do choose to run along country roads or roads that are a little more bendy (which we’d urge you to avoid for a multitude of reasons), it could be a better idea to stay safe running at night by running in the same direction as the traffic. 

Whatever you choose to do when road jogging at night, we’d definitely urge you to go with our tip on avoiding using earphones headphones at all costs and making yourself as visible as possible. 

If you listen to music whilst running along a road, you risk missing out on important signs of danger, like a vehicle approaching before it comes into view. 

#8 - Grab a Billed Cap and Glasses 

is running at night good image

Ever been on a late night run and ran into some obstacles that weren’t on the ground?

We’re talking about things like:

  • Stray branches 
  • Cobwebs 
  • Bugs
  • Debris from the road 
  • Dust 

It may sound silly, but anything like this can take you by surprise and seriously block your vision, especially when it's dark. It’s not nice to find yourself in a situation like this, as it can cause unnecessary injury. 

No one wants to go to A&E with a running injury that they sustained because of a spider landing on their face!

The best way to prevent instances such as this and to stay safe running at night is to grab yourself a billed running cap and a pair of clear running glasses, so that you at least have some sort of barrier/warning before disaster strikes.

#9 - Have Water to Hand 

Now we’re not trying to scare you by saying that you’re going to end up stranded somewhere in need of survival supplies when running late at night before bed, but it’s always a good idea to take a bottle of water with you for use along your route. 

If you’re setting out for a particularly long run, you should select a large water bottle so that you don’t become dehydrated at any point during the exercise. 

You don’t need to panic and start drinking water left right and centre, as overhydration can also be dangerous, but you should definitely listen to your body and drink a little each time you feel thirsty, or notice yourself gasping for breath. 

In ‘Proper hydration for distance running: identifying individual fluid needs’, Douglas J. Casa (PhD) writes:

What does the competitive runner do to address the issues related to hydration in order to minimize the likelihood of dehydration and hyponatremia? 

The answer lies in the process of determining individual fluid needs and then developing a hydration protocol based on those individual needs. This is a simple process that can maximize performance and minimize any potential hazards that may be associated with inappropriate hydration practices.

Listening to this advice will certainly benefit you when you’re deciding how much water to take along with you when you run at night, and how often to drink it. It’s a great idea to put together a hydration plan alongside any nutrition plans that you follow. You can read the full study for more information on how to do this!

It is clear within this study that drinking too much water can do just as much harm as not drinking enough, so it’s a good idea to strike a balance and re-hydrate at a rate that feels natural to you. 

Need some help finding the right water bottle for your nighttime running? No worries, check out our article on the best running water bottles for the top products out there as of 2020!

You may find that a handheld running water bottle suits you best, as they’re pretty handy for those who aren’t keen on lugging a huge bottle around when they go running in the dark. They’re typically pretty light and can be held securely in your fist. 

They also tend to hold enough water to keep you hydrated on a moderate-length run, so you should find no issue with staying hydrated. 

#10 - Keep Routes Varied 

disadvantages of running at night

Some articles online will tell you to know your route well, and some will tell you to constantly try new routes to keep things varied and exciting. 

We believe that the right answer to this conflicting advice is to aim for something that lands in between these two opposing statements. 

You should definitely be sure to always know your routes like the back of your hand, but at the same time, you should keep the routes that you use for nighttime running varied and exciting so that you don’t throw in the towel due to boredom. 

You’d be surprised; there’s a lot of people that do this! 

However, this doesn’t mean that you need to set out on a certain route blindly when it comes to your nighttime run. It just means that you should take the opportunity to scout out the best routes and have practise runs during the daytime so that you’re doubly as confident by the time night comes, and therefore following best practices for running safety at night. 

Not only is this great in terms of you feeling more confident and less likely to get bored, but it also conceals you from potential attackers that may attempt to track your whereabouts (if they note down the running route that you usually take on a daily/weekly basis). 

This makes the point of varying your routes one of the best safety tips for running at night, despite the fact that it is often overlooked!

Keep yourself on your toes by ensuring that your running in the dark route is exciting and fresh, and keep others on their toes so that they’re unable to target you as someone who runs alone. It’s a win-win situation. 

#11 - Join a Running Club 

Are you someone who has been put off jogging at night in the past by the thought of danger lurking in the shadows, and the routes being a little too lonely for you to feel fully safe when you’re running alone? 

You’re not alone in that thought. 

The best way to approach this kind of anxiety when it comes to running in the dark is to join a running club, or run with a partner/friend so that you’re not venturing into the night on your own!

So, the best thing to do is to search online for running clubs in your area, using websites like RunTogether or searching with queries such as ‘running clubs near me’ or ‘running clubs *insert area name*’. 

Alternatively, you can always ask around at work or in your friend groups to see whether someone else is interested in joining you when running in the dark; you never know! 

You may even be interested in eventually setting up your own running club, and this is something that can be made easier through gaining relevant fitness qualifications. You should take a look at our Group Exercise Instructor Course for more information! 

#12 - Use Running Mindfulness 

mindful running at night

Mindfulness is something that is great to practise no matter where you are, what you’re doing or what time of day it is, which automatically makes it something that works alongside any running routine. 

Prone to stress, anxiety, or depression in any way? Always wanted to try running in the dark, but too afraid to try it? 

If so, you may find that incorporating mindfulness into your nighttime running will help to alleviate your symptoms. 

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Not only this, but this style of running is also pretty good for racking up the miles and pushing through when things get too difficult.

If you’ve struggled with running in the past (seriously, who hasn’t?) and you need something extra to give you the motivation to push through when conditions are cold and dark, mindful running could definitely help you out. It’s all about feeling more in tune with and connected to your own body, and improving running ability and effectiveness in the process. 

It can truly help you to de-stress after a long day, rather than making your late night run something to dread, or something that actually causes more stress to your body. 

If you haven’t already read our article on mindful running and how to do it, then you should definitely check it out for more on this topic! 

#13 - Be Aware of Your Surroundings 

Last but not least on our list of the best safety tips for running at night is to always be aware of your surroundings. 

We know that this sounds pretty holistic and that this applies to many of the tips that we’ve already covered in this article. 

However, that still doesn’t take away from its importance, as it could truly be the difference between life and death during a nighttime run. In fact, it actually applies to any kind of outdoor exercise, whether it's during the day or not!

Potential dangers in your surroundings can be anything from a branch that you haven’t seen due to being too distracted, and sustaining a scrape on your cheek, all the way through to you running through an area that is a little too deserted and being attacked by an opportunity seeker. 

We don’t want to scare you by saying this, but this is an article about running at night safety, and this (though a little rarer than running into a branch) is a potential danger that can be avoided with the right safety practices. 

As a takeaway note, be sure to keep a good level of situational awareness when running in the dark by:

  • Wearing a head torch (for better vision range)
  • Ditching your headphones 
  • Focusing on mindfulness (and the world around you) 
  • Sticking to well-lit, busier areas 
  • Running in the correct direction of traffic (depending on what kind of road you’re on) 
  • Using your own common sense

These are just a few examples, but probably the most important ones of their kind. If you’re aware of your surroundings then you’re a lot less likely to be taken by surprise or fall trap to someone who is more aware of your surroundings than you are. 

Conclusion 

So, you’ve reached the end of our guide to running at night safety! We hope you feel as though you can set out on a nighttime run with your mind at ease, and fully prepared for whatever may come (in the worst cases). 

Be visible, be aware of your surroundings and ensure that you always have a method of contact/identification in case of an emergency. 

Looking to take your passion for exercising to the next level? If so, go check out our range of Personal Training qualifications, or download our free prospectus here

References 

  1. Aloulou, A., Duforez, F., Bieuzen, F. and Nedelec, M., 2019. The effect of night‐time exercise on sleep architecture among well‐trained male endurance runners. Journal of Sleep Research, p.e12964.
  2. Casa, D.J. and Director, A.T.E., 2004. Proper hydration for distance running: identifying individual fluid needs. Track Coach, 167, pp.5321-5328.

 

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Written by Chloe Twist

Fitness Content Manager, OriGym

Join Chloe on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Chloe graduated with a BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University and prior to OriGym worked at J&R Digital Marketing Agency on the Liverpool 'Female Founders' series. Since joining the company, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and advanced Sports Nutrition Specialist. Chloe’s professional interests intersect content-development and the world of online fitness, especially across social media and YouTube, and Chloe has herself contributed pieces on fitness and weight loss to sites including the Daily Star and The Express. Outside her day-to-day role, Chloe enjoys playing the guitar, gaming and kettlebell training. 

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