We have just returned from a week with friends in Kismet, NY, a cozy beach town on Fire Island where cars are prohibited and reality seems a million miles away. The days were filled with breakfast overlooking the ocean, laying on the beach, swimming, reading, cookouts, bike rides, homemade dinners, good wine, and the occasional dance party. It was pure relaxation, enjoyment and rejuvenation. Which got me thinking about the benefits of a vacation, notably a week, weekend or even a day at the beach. Whether it’s overbooked schedules, demanding careers, family, city life, or just an overdue need for peace and quiet, the beach is an ideal way to alleviate stress. Taking into consideration the dangers of over-exposure to sun without SPF, the beach can provide unexpected physical and mental health benefits. The air feels undeniably fresh (definitely not city air), the sun provides pure Vitamin D, the sound of the waves is calming, and salt water is detoxifying. If that’s not enough, think of the benefits of disconnecting from cell phones, blackberries, computers, and TVs.
Health Benefits of The Beach:
- Sunlight / Ultraviolet Radiation (Heliotherapy) – Paradoxically, the ultraviolet rays that cause tanning and burning are the same ones that have a therapeutic effect (alleviating depression) and naturally manufacture Vitamin D. Most research shows the sun is a better source of vitamin D than supplements. Fifteen minutes in direct sun per day is ideal. Wear sunscreen and have an umbrella for shade the rest of the day.
- Salt Water – Salt water helps rid the body of toxins and has beneficial effects for the rejuvenation and exfoliation of skin and flushing out sinuses. Salt inhibits bacterial overgrowth as well as fungal infections. Additionally, swimming in salt water is an aerobic exercise that keeps oxygen flowing throughout the body.
- Walking/Jogging in Beach Sand – Beach jogging is hard. It’s a challenging workout that will keep you in great shape. The shifting sand makes traction a challenge, which causes muscle groups to work harder as they jog. A walk on the beach benefits health as well. Barefoot is the best way to go and is a great way to exfoliate your feet.
- Relaxation – Our minds and bodies need a break from time to time. High stress levels have a significant impact on mental health and the physical body needs rest to regenerate. Listening to waves crash, laying with a book in the sand, napping under an umbrella, feeling an ocean breeze, taking a long walk along the shore or jumping into waves is relaxation at its finest.
- Sea Air – Sea air is rich in negative ions which help increase well-being, physical and mental capacity. Negative ions are invisible molecules that we breathe in when we are near the beach (or rivers and waterfalls). These ions are thought to create biochemical reactions that change our levels of serotonin, which in turn helps reduce stress in our bodies and improve mood, providing an unexpected explanation for the refreshing and invigorating effect of being on the beach.