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04 Aug 2017

Health Benefits of the Beach

The world is getting faster and more connected all the time, making it more important than ever to slow down and look after your health. As it turns out, spending time at the beach is one of the best ways you can look after yourself, with multiple studies highlighting the physical and mental benefits of time by the ocean. Not only does the beach promote happiness and general wellbeing, it's also a great way to relax, improve brain function, and help fight off infection.

According to research by Kobe University published in the Journal of Coastal Zone Management, people who have a view of the ocean from their home are calmer and more relaxed than those who don’t, with "strong significant differences [recorded] for peace of mind, charm and longing, and threat." Living in coastal areas was found to be more beneficial for females than males, with the positive consequences of ocean exposure even stronger among the elderly. Similar findings published in Health and Place found that Brits who live by the coast have better physical and mental health than those from land-locked areas.

According to clinical psychologist Richard Shuster in an interview with NBC, the feeling of calm induced by the ocean may be linked to how we perceive colour and sound: “The colour blue has been found by an overwhelming amount of people to be associated with feelings of calm and peace,” with the sound of waves coming in and out also helping to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and promote relaxation. According to Dr Shuster, the beach is the perfect place to relax and unwind: “Focus on how your body feels warm from the rays of the sun, focus on what it feels like to have your feet in the sand, breathe deep and smell the ocean air.”

Your mental health is not the only thing that benefits from spending time at the beach, with some studies also showing significant improvements to physical health outcomes. The sun, sand, and surf can all be beneficial to your health if enjoyed responsibly, with the mild temperatures of coastal areas also providing a restorative environment for healing. According to J. Aaron Hipp, Ph.D. in a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, "Studies have shown that natural environments like beaches and waterfront parks offer more restorative benefits to people than gyms, entertainment venues and the built urban environment." 

While we all know the risks of too much exposure, the sun provides us with access to vitamin D, a vital tool that helps us build stronger bones through calcium absorption. Walking on the sand can also be beneficial to your health, not just strengthening the muscles in your feet but also stimulating nerve endings and helping you feel more connected to the earth. Swimming in the surf can also be a powerful tool if done with respect, with exposure to ocean water giving us access to magnesium, potassium, and iodine - all of which help us to detoxify and fight infection. While it's always important to be aware of the dangers of sun and surf, sand between your toes and salt on your skin may leave you healthier than you think.


Image source:  Ozerov Alexander/Shutterstock