Waves gently crashing along the shore. Sunlight streaming from a cloudless sky. Miles of seemingly-endless sand joining the horizon. Sounds pretty peaceful, doesn't it? Well experts agree.
In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, author J. Aaron Hipp, Ph.D., pointed to the restorative environment of the beach.
"Studies have shown that natural environments like beaches offer more restorative benefits to people than gyms, entertainment venues and the built urban environment," said Hipp.
Moving closer to the sea "significantly improves people's well-being. And the seaside environment may reduce stress and encourage physical activity.
How the surf, sun, and sand can boost your physical and mental health
FUN IN THE SUN We all know the risks of too much sun exposure. But there are benefits to getting some rays, too. When our skin is directly exposed to the sun, our bodies make vitamin D, a vital tool that helps with calcium absorption and building strong bones. And according to the Mayo Clinic, as little as 10 minutes of sun exposure can provide us with our daily dose. Sun exposure was shown to also increase endorphin's.
But despite these benefits, limit your exposure to excessive sunlight to avoid skin cancer risks. When you do head out into the sun for more than a few minutes, remember to wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher.
SURF Sea water contains high levels of various minerals — including magnesium, potassium and iodine — which may help fight infection, offer therapeutic effects, and potentially help the body heal and detoxify. Swimming is linked to decreased stress and increased sense of well-being; studies have shown swimming and water-based exercise help to decrease anxiety and depression. In a study on running and walking on the sand, researchers found that walking on sand requires 1.6 to 2.5 times the energy than it takes on a hard surface. Water activities help to reduce inflammation and pain. For sufferers of arthritis, water-based exercise can help improve joint pain symptoms.
STRESS- RELIEVER The number one benefit for hitting the beach is stress relief. As soon as you arrive and step out into the sun, you feel the calming effects wash over you like water. Both the sun and the waves combined work to completely relax your body, release you from your aches, and free you from daily stresses. Not only is serotonin almost immediately released when you arrive on the beach, (serotonin is a key hormone for relaxation and happiness), but the sound and visuals of the beach and ocean are simply so soothing and peaceful.
SLEEP BENEFITS After just a few hours at the beach one of the greatest benefits a person will experience is a truly wonderful night’s sleep later. For insomnia sufferers looking for a natural remedy, the beach is a definite recommendation. It’s because the beach helps relieve three key factors that inhibit sleep: high stress and anxiety levels, lack of physical fatigue, and hormonal imbalances. Not only do you feel immediately relaxed upon setting foot on the beach, but you get a great exercise even from just walking on the beach! Additionally, the sun and lowered stress levels immediately help regulate a person’s hormones – making it far easier later that night to get a peaceful and deep sleep.
IMMUNE BOOSTER Salt water has unique antibacterial and anti-fungal properties making it excellent for external infections; however it also helps internal infections as well. The iodine in ocean water, which has other benefits actually is a fantastic immune system booster. It is highly antiseptic and helps boost the function of the thyroid gland which, in turn, boosts our immune system’s function.
ENERGY TO EXERCISE Whether you’re looking to lose weight, stay in shape, or even just get rid of some pent up energy, you’ll find that the best place to do so is the beach. The beach is perfect simply because there are so many possible outlets. You can head out into the water and surf or swim, or you can even stay on the beach and walk around collecting shells.
NATURAL BEAUTY SKIN TREATMENT The beach and ocean water truly has an amazingly positive effect on the overall health and appearance of skin. The sand does a wondrous job exfoliating our feet, hands, and body. Detoxify – once the warm sun opens up our pores, the salt water is then able to go in and pull out the toxins. No more blemishes, uneven skin, or excess oils! Antibacterial – next, the iodine and salt in the water work to completely destroy bacteria and fungi on your skin that cause breakouts.
BREATH OF FRESH AIR The natural inclination to inhale deeply when you first step on the beach is actually an automatic response to the quality of the air. This is because not only are the chest muscles surrounding the lungs relaxed when a person steps onto the beach, but the air itself is actually charged with negative ions that work to increase oxygen absorption in the lungs.
MOMENT OF ZEN: Mind, Body & Spirit Heading to the beach can put you in touch with your spirit and consciousness. The vastness of the ocean, expansive horizon, and beauty of the surroundings makes you truly appreciate nature. Additionally, it’s when we’re so surrounded by nature and beauty that we can feel at peace and release ourselves from the daily stresses and troubles in the modernized world. Practicing a bit of meditation or yoga on the beach is highly recommended as there is no better place in the world to truly feel at one with the earth and ourselves.
Hitting the beach is something that truly has endless benefits. So, the next time you’ve had a particularly stressful week at work, have completed a strenuous year of schooling, or are just feeling less than fantastic on a certain day, take some time off and hit the beach – it’s the doctor’s orders!
Sources: Hipp JA, Ogunseitan O. Effect of environmental conditions on perceived psychological restorativeness of coastal parks. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2011. Mead MN. Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2008. Lejeune TM, Willems PA, Heglund NC. Mechanics and energetics of human locomotion on sand. The Journal of Experimental Biology. 2011. Moghaddam J, Hefzollesan M, Salehian MH, Shirmohammadzadeh M. Effect of Different Exercises on Reducing Male Students Depression. Annals of Biological Research. 2012.