Ah, the beach. Is there anything better? There's just no place quite as relaxing, beautiful or pleasant, and no place that combines the simple pleasures of unplugging and enjoying nature in our otherwise tech-heavy and work-driven realities. The beach helps us recharge -- and we need to be making A LOT more use of it.
We know most jobs already offer vacation time, but considering these specific health benefits of the beach, maybe it's time they carved out days for their employees to spend in the sun and sand.
Sunshine is a great source of vitamin D.
Sure, that milk your drinking is fortified with vitamin D, but the truth is most people get 80 to 90 percent of their daily dose from sun exposure. According to information provided by the Harvard Medical School, the most natural and substantial source of the vitamin depends on how much UVB light gets through to you. That light reacts with a cholesterol-related compound and metabolizes into vitamin D, which is essential for bone health, creates healthy skin and may even help improve mental health.
The sun's role in both health-promoting vitamin D and in the sun damage that can lead to skin cancer makes things confusing. Since sunscreens block the vital UVB rays needed for Vitamin D production within the body, most doctors advocate "responsible sun exposure" to get what you need. About 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure does the trick for most people, after which protection in the form of a sunblock with 30 SPF or higher (along with additional preemptive measures) is essential for the skin's longterm health. That said, everyone's needs are different and it's best to talk to your doctor about a sun plan that best benefits you.
Sand is a natural exfoliant.
Do you ever wonder why it feels so good to walk on sand? It's because there are somewhere between 3,000 and 7,000 nerve endings in each foot that awaken when you walk across those tiny grains. Wet sand acts as a natural exfoliant and peels off dead skin cells from your feet (and really, anywhere else on your body), leaving them renewed and much softer.
To take full advantage of sand's rejuvenating qualities, take a walk near the water where the sand is "looser" and can wash over your feet. If you're thinking exfoliation is a luxury and not a health essential, think again. Your skin sheds about 50,000 skin cells every minute and sometimes they stay attached to your body, which can cause your pores to clog and lead to blackhead and acne. Exfoliation keeps the skin clean, healthy and rejuvenated.
So, what are you waiting for? Take a walk on the beach, if only to get rid of all those dead skin cells. Actually, you'll probably want to just start rolling around in wet sand at this point.
It could help rheumatoid arthritis patients feel better.
The minerals in the ocean could help reduce symptoms for those with rheumatoid arthritis. According to a study, patients who used bath salts made from Dead Sea minerals also experienced fewer symptoms, like morning stiffness and trouble with hand gripping. You know what else can help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis? Getting enough vitamin D, that's right.
Also, sunlight has been shown to decrease depression.
Common sense would tell us that people tend to be happier in the warmer months and less so in the gloomier months, but it's been scientifically proven that sunshine can make us happier. A study conducted by the Baker Heart Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia found that the amount of sunlight participants' received directly affected their mood. The team also noticed that with increased sunlight exposure, their levels of serotonin increased, having a positive effect on factors such as stress, sleep and appetite.
Now, we're not claiming that a lack of beach outings in your life will lead to symptoms of depression. However, as with the previous points, the beach has got a lot of what your body needs, all in one beautiful place.
In the study's own words: "More sunlight meant better moods; less sunlight lead to symptoms of depression."
Seawater preserves elasticity of skin.
The ocean is full of anti-aging minerals that can counter the decline of your skin's elasticity among other things... this is great, great news!
As we grow older, our skin, as well as other things, tends to lose its tightness and suppleness. And while some people will do almost anything to look young, what we're recommending is far less invasive and expensive. Treating your body to a little bit of saltwater every now and again will obviously not have the same dramatic effect as cosmetic intervention, but it can aid in the process of keeping everything a little bit tighter.
A day at the beach gets you moving without even trying.
We're chalking this one up to probability more than scientific fact, simply because going to the beach usually involves some sort of physical activity, right? Whether you're swimming, jogging, surfing, playing soccer or beach volleyball or simply walking through the sand to find a nice spot to lay out, rare is the day when you go to the beach and do absolutely no exercise. Walking on the beach is already a better workout than walking on concrete, "walking on sand requires 1.6-2.5 times more mechanical work than does walking on a hard surface at the same speed."
Plus, it's not like you're just sitting pretty when engaging in some of these activities -- you're burning major calories by just going for a swim, for example. A leisurely swim can burn about 200 calories. Surfing? Just over 100. Frisbee? About the same. And beach volleyball is nearly 300. So ditch the gym -- the beach is your new fitness friend.
And with a much, much prettier view.
And perhaps most importantly, the beach decreases your stress level by helping you unplug.
Unplugging is good for the mind, body and soul. According to a study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, staying constantly plugged in has been associated with stress, loss of sleep and depression.. Let go of the tablets and smartphones and allow yourself a technology-free escape to this oasis every once in a while to help you re-center. Seriously, don't even try to bring your devices to the beach -- as everyone knows, sand gets everywhere.
A study conducted by the University of Exeter took it a step further and found that simply living near the beach can also be beneficial to your health and well-being. They took into account people's proximity to the beach and their self-reported health to conclude that living seaside may actually result in better health.
A short walk (on the beach, or anywhere else) is also known to decrease stress and help you reset. So, if you'd really like to feel at ease, unplug AND go for a leisurely walk on the beach -- you've just treated yourself to the ultimate de-stressing combination.
The beach is a magical place that can recharge you and help you stay fit physically, mentally and spiritually. For those reasons, we conclude that beach visits are seriously healthy, not to mention pretty pleasant. Just remember to wear your sunscreen.
All images Getty