A brilliant secret to safely exercising in the dark

exercising in the dark
A strong majority adult pedestrian fatalities occur when light is limited—between dusk and dawn. Photo via Shutterstock

Curse you, daylight savings! You do it to us every year. Us athletes know the days are going to get darker earlier, but this time of year still always comes as a shock. We go into a typical two-week depression before we get over that we're just going to have to exercise with less light.

As we squeeze frozen toes into running shoes before the sun shines, gear up for chilly evening bike rides, or partake in other outdoor activities around dawn or dusk, visibility becomes a prime issue that we can no longer overlook—at least until spring. November being National Running Safety month is also a timely reminder that we should be safeguarding ourselves against after-hours accidents.

National figures show 70 percent of adult pedestrian fatalities occur between dusk and dawn. In fact, cars hit nearly 59,000 people each year. Plus, a recently released study by the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed a surprising 16 percent increase in bike fatalities from 2010 to 2012. The stats underscore the innate risk for riders, not to mention dangers amplified by commuting or exercising in the dark.

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The above video demonstrates a well-lit runner versus a runner wearing only a white T-shirt and shorts at dusk, underlining the importance of visibility gear. Luckily for consumers, the outdoor and athletic industries have been preparing for the day when runners, bikers, walkers, and people who like to go bump in the night will pick up on this reflective trend. Nearly every major line of outdoor sports clothing is now incorporating reflective properties into fall and winter performance clothing lines. Athleta, for example, is making some stylish cross-training gear with subtle luminous features that women will actually wear. Nike has come into the safety game, too, with an extensive line of fun, modern reflective prints. Running-specific companies like Brooks have their own spin on reflective wear for men and women.

Nathan Sports
Visibility athletic accessories have come a long way these days. Photo courtesy of Nathan Sports

In addition to sporting clothes with reflective flare built right in, wearing multiple points of light on the body also increases your chances of being seen. To that end, outdoor accessory companies are coming up with stronger, long-lasting lights and easy add-ons that don't require a complete wardrobe update.

Nathan Sport’s latest line, for example, includes stealth "blacklight" packs with hidden yet highly reflective features that aren't obvious until dark. Like several other manufacturers, the company is also making vests, bands, and super-luminous vests, clip-on LED lights, bike-mounted strobes, and handheld beams. Professional triathlete Max Fennell suggests using a neon-green light to distinguish yourself from the common red blinking lights commuters are used to seeing in traffic. Another niche company, 180s, is building LED lights right into hats, gloves, and ear-warmers, and 4id is making LED “glow gear” like bracelets, necklaces, and other attachable personal safety lights.

So when you come out of your temporary stint with seasonal affective disorder and are ready take on the dark, here what’s clear as day: It will be easier than ever to find the right gear to get noticed—and stay safe.

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