Water safety tips for runners and walkers

Drowning incidents can happen unexpectedly, and around 40% of people who accidentally drown in the UK had no intention of entering the water.

A waterway with path and a lone runner and person walking a dog

Whether you’re jogging along a riverbank or taking a stroll near a pond, these water safety tips can help keep you safe.

  • Charge up before your head out: Ensure your phone is fully charged. You never know when you might need it for an emergency call for you or someone else
  • Safety in numbers: Invite a friend on your walk or run, make sure they know how to stay safe around water too
  • Fit for the adventure: Tailor your walk or run to your fitness level
  • Read the signs: Those warning and information signs near water are there for a reason!
  • Stay away from the edge: They can often be unstable particularly after very wet or very hot weather
  • Dress the part: The right footwear and clothing for the weather conditions and activity can help keep you safe
  • Stay focussed: Pay attention to your surroundings and where you are walking or running so you don’t lose your footing
  • Stick to the path: Follow the proper pathways they are much safer
  • High waters? Take a rain check: If river levels are high, it’s best to rethink your route
  • Avoid night-time water walking: Avoid dark walks along unlit paths near water. Plan a route away from water
  • Tides and times: If you’re beach-bound, check tide times so you don’t cut off and trapped by water
  • Location, location, location: Keep a location app handy. I can be hard to let emergency services know exactly where you are without one and they can help save precious time if you need help
  • Weather wise: Even your regular route near water can surprise you after wet or icy weather. It’s safer to pick a different route away from water rather than risking slippery paths.

Walkies near water

Many people love to spend time walking or running with their dogs near water. Here’s some advice to keep yourself and four-legged friend safe.

  • Control is crucial: If your dog loves the water, keep it on a lead and make sure you have control to prevent it jumping into hazardous or unsafe areas.
  • Fetch safely: Avoid throwing sticks or balls near water for dogs if you don’t want them to go in. They will go after it if they think you want it back even if you’ve thrown it too far or into dangerous water.
  • Ice and caution: Keep dogs on leads near frozen water and don’t let them on the ice, it may not hold their weight.
  • Doggy paddle safely: Even dogs that like swimming can usually only swim for short bursts. Always keep an eye on your dog and don’t let it enter the water if it’s older or tired.
  • Resist the urge to jump in and rescue: Never enter the water or walk on frozen water to try and rescue a dog. The dog usually manages to scramble back to safely.
  • Stay firmly on land: Don’t lean into water and try and lift your dog out – you can topple in.
  • Check for a safe exit: Remember the wet riverbanks, steep edges or jagged rocks can make it hard for a dog to scramble out. These can also be a slip risk for owners. Check your dog has a safe and easy way to get out of the water before it goes for a dip.
  • Check with your vet: If your dog has struggled in the water, it may have inhaled water and should see a vet immediately.

What to do if you fall into water

If you found yourself struggling in the water unexpectedly, your instinct would tell you to swim hard. But cold water shock could make you gasp uncontrollably. Then you could breathe in water and drown. Instead, you should Float to Live.

Five steps to know how to float

  • Tilt your head back with ears submerged
  • Relax and try to breathe normally
  • Move your hands to help you stay afloat
  • It’s OK if your legs sink we all float differently
  • Spread your arms and legs to improve stability
  • When you have control of your breathing, swim to safety if you can or call out for help
clothed person floating in water on back with arms and legs outstretched

RNLI Float to Live

What to do if you see someone in trouble in the water

If you see someone in trouble in the water, the best way you can help is by staying calm, staying on land, and following the 3-step rescue guide

  • Call 999 for the emergency services
  • Tell them to float on their back
  • Throw them something that floats