When it comes to choosing the perfect vacation spot people usually look for something that is relaxing, something that can soothe the mind and nourish the body. After all we only have a little time to pamper ourselves and relax before we have to get back to the salt mines, so picking the right destination is very important. One of the most popular options is a vacation on the beach, and it’s not just about all the scantily dressed people walking around! Not only do we get to strip ourselves of the constraints of the modern age – i.e., clothes, obligations and formality – but we also get plenty of sun and exercise. According to science, all these factors are incredibly beneficial to our physical health as well as our mental well-being. You just don’t get the same benefits from other places. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the ways that a vacation at the beach can benefit your overall health.
1. The sandy beach and clear water is one of the most serene sights imaginable
When people are first taught to control their emotions, apart from proper breathing techniques they are often told to visualize a calm environment, a serene scene from nature. It is usually a beautiful sandy beach with waves slowly crashing into the rocks and palm trees being caressed by the gentle wind. The kind of scene you would find in Bottom Bay, Barbados. If you close your eyes and think hard about such a location, you will soon start to feel a wave of good feelings come over you. That is how powerful an effect nature can have on us. I mean, chances are a good percentage of people reading this have a similar beach as their desktop image.
Experiencing the real thing can be 1,000 times more powerful, as the different sensations wash over you – the warm sun on the skin, the wet sand on your feet, the smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves, the clear sky and stars at night … A beach vacation will calm your nerves and help you let go of all that pent up stress.
2. The sunlight and warm weather will improve your mood by boosting serotonin
While we are on the subject of mood, ever notice the huge smiles on the faces of people living by the sunny seaside? Are you aware that there is such a thing as winter depression, where people fall into depression during the cold months when there is barely any sun during the day and the nights are longer? Where am I going with this? Well, it’s a proven fact that physical activity can help with depression, alleviating the symptoms somewhat, but exposure to sunlight has also been shown to noticeably increase serotonin levels too.
At the beach you get plenty of sun exposure, combined with the soothing environment and a boost of physical activity from all the swimming and the clichéd long walks along the beach – provided, of course, you have a long enough stretch of sand like in Falassarna Beach, Crete. You may or may not get an additional boost of serotonin if you run across a beach straight into your lover’s warm embrace while dressed in all white. No studies have been done on that, so I’m just going to go ahead and assume that Hollywood was right all along.
3. There are plenty of activities that challenge you physically
Most people hardly move in the city, let alone find the time for some serious physical activity. The beautiful thing about the beach is that even just walking in the sand will require a bit of effort, and you will be tempted to swim for a good part of the day. Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise as there is no hard impact and high levels of pressure being put on the joints, and it gets virtually every muscle in your body working. Switch between a couple of different swimming styles for a couple of hours and you’ve pretty much exercised your entire body. Some diving will improve your lung capacity too. Some locations like Long Beach have excellent hiking trails nearby, so you can combine two great forms of exercise and see some breath-taking sites.
4. Being away from civilization allows you to focus on bonding and stimulating the mind
We are always in some sort of a rush and under all sorts of pressure in the city. There are just too many people, noise and electronics. Even at home we are bombarded by emails, messages and phone calls; that is, when we are not staring at a screen for entertainment. At the beach there may still be a bit of a crowd, but the people there are trying to have fun and bond in a very tech-free way. Going back to our roots and interacting with people the old school way – i.e., face to face – can be a breath of fresh air, especially when we have no obligations or strict social norms.
Many popular tourist destinations, like Bali, have a number of interesting retreats where this form of free socializing is encouraged. You can meet new people, learn about the local culture and receive singing lessons or take the time to learn some other skill. This way your mind is kept sharp, you learn something new and you gain new friends, which will boost your confidence and make you more positive.
5. You get tons of vitamin D that you wouldn’t get normally
Apart from the sweet, sweet serotonin, all that sun will also provide you with a good deal of vitamin D. This vitamin is essential for healthy bones, lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s and keeping a strong immune system. The body synthesizes vitamin D through sun exposure, although you can get it from some foods, mostly modern products like vitamin D fortified eggs and milk. We don’t get nearly enough sun exposure in our regular life, especially in northern climates. A good way to make up for this is to spend some time at a beach like Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, where the temperatures change very little throughout the year and you get plenty of sun, but not too much heat.
6. The sea water and air are great for your respiratory system
Sea water will get into your nose, eyes and mouth as you swim, it can be a bit irritating but it is inevitable. Well, it can also be a good thing as it clears out you airways and is particularly beneficial for people with allergies and sinus problems. It doesn’t irritate the lining of the respiratory system and helps wash out any allergens. The sea salt present in the air near the sea or ocean in tiny particle form can help alleviate the symptoms of a number of pulmonary diseases including bronchitis.
7. The sand and salt water will do wonders for your skin
The salty waters of seas and oceans are antiseptic and may help heal wounds, and several studies have shown them to be beneficial in curing skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema brought on by allergies. Sea water also contains high amounts of magnesium, which helps the skin stay moisturized for longer. A lot of the studies on these matters where done in the Dead Sea, but even waters with a lower salt content have these healing properties. The salt and sand also serve as excellent exfoliators, peeling away dead skin and keeping your body soft and smooth.
A short beach vacation is as good as a spa treatment for your skin, more potent in improving mental health than some drugs, and excellent way to get your body in shape. It’s great for meeting new people and self-improvement and highly beneficial to your physical health. Taking a beach vacation is a great experience, and unlike anything else when it comes to maintaining a healthy body and mind.