File this story under “Things I didn’t need science to tell me, but am delighted to have the proof.” Several different studies show that a trip to the water is good for us, with health benefits of the beach being reduced stress levels and making us happier and more creative. A day at the beach is synonymous with relaxation. Nothing to do except soak up the sun and play in the water while reading a good book and hanging out with your favorite people. For it’s peaceful, easy-going qualities, beach time is seen as a great source of stress relief.
But it’s more than that, researchers say. Being at the beach has specific health benefits for your brain and your body, which is why it’s the best place to take a few days off (or live permanently, if you’re lucky enough).
Good for Your Body
Which would you rather do run a mile on a treadmill or run a mile on a clear stretch of sand with a gentle salt breeze in your face and crashing waves and the sound of seagulls to help you keep pace? Being at the beach generally means being outside and being active, whether it’s a beach run, a gentle stroll on the boardwalk, swimming in the ocean, or morning yoga on the sand.
Even simply walking on the beach is a better workout, since walking on sand requires more effort than walking on a hard surface.
A beach visit also generally means spending more time in the sun, which means more Vitamin D, and that’s good for your bones. It’s also good for lowering your blood pressure, supporting your immune system, and helping with rheumatoid arthritis.
Just remember not to get too much sun; getting skin cancer is not a beach benefit. Stay out of direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and wear the right sunscreen.
Saltwater and sand can be good for your skin, too. Ocean water is full of good minerals and sand has exfoliating qualities, so make sure to spend some time walking barefoot on the beach and playing in the water.
Good for Your Brain
Southern Living outlined a few recent studies that show how a day at the beach benefits your mental well being, including one which found that living within sight of the ocean lowered stress levels. The research done by a team from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health shows that seeing “blue space” (lakes, oceans, rivers) has a greater positive effect on people than “green space” (parks, trees, lawns).
That effect holds even if people aren’t there in person. Researchers from the Universities of Plymouth, Exeter, and Birmingham in the United Kingdom found that dental patients who participated in a virtual reality experience during a dental procedure reported lower levels of stress and pain.
In addition, many people feel better when they are exposed to sunlight. Sunlight is thought to increase levels of the chemical serotonin, which makes you feel good. So a day in the sun at the beach can improve your mental health and make you feel happier.
Good for Your Well-Being
For most of us, a beach trip is associated with unwinding and vacation. It’s when we unplug from electronic devices and spend time with family or friends. That down time can spark creativity and innovation by recharging our brains. Social engagement is also good for us; spending time with people we care about makes us feel better overall.
You may sleep better at the beach, with the sound of the ocean lulling you to sweet dreams or at least the thought of not having to go into the office the next day.
So next time you need a break to recharge your body and brain, head to the beach. The science backs up what we’ve known all along — a little time in the sun, sand, and water is good for all of us.