Some people love going to the beach and don’t need any additional reasons why they should visit it every year – it’s just that much fun! Others are not fans of salty water and hot sand. They would prefer to spend their summers elsewhere. That’s certainly understandable – there are plenty of great places to visit in the summer including parks, mountains, and more. However, there are still some health benefits that are unique to beaches so we thought we’d list the 7 main reasons why you should plan at least some time for the beach this summer.
1. There’s no better source of Vitamin D
According to many scientific institutions such as the Harvard Medical School, to get as much vitamin D as possible you need to maximize the amount of UVB sunlight that gets to your skin. Naturally, the more exposed skin you have, the more UVB light you’ll get to fall on it.
UVB light is essential because it reacts with a compound in our bodies that’s related to cholesterol and metabolizes into vitamin D. This is very important for a lot of aspects of human health including our skin, our bone health, and a lot of hormones that we need to be at good levels to keep us healthy.
Sun exposure is a tricky thing, however, because too much UVB rays can also lead to skin cancer. On the other hand, blocking the negative effects of the sun with sunblock reduces vitamin D production. That’s why most doctors advise for “responsible sun exposure” with ~10-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure and then as much time as we want with sunblock on. Sunblock with 30 SPF or higher is usually sufficient for good skin health under the strong summer sunlight (1).
2. The beach is for relaxing
Of course, that’s conditional on whether or not you’ve managed to find a beach that suits your preferences. Some people love busy resort beaches, others love camping in obscure places with few or no other people. We all have our inclinations and fortunately – there are enough different types of beaches to satisfy everyone’s needs and desires – even those who generally don’t like going to the beach (2).
According to a study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden (2) staying constantly “plugged-in” to our daily routines, to our work, and to all the electronic devices around us is a great source of constant stress, anxiety, and sleep deprivation even to people who feel “fine”.
A day or two at the beach, let alone an entire vacation can drastically change that. A study from the University of Exeter (3) has even concluded that just living near a beach is greatly beneficial for our mental health and well-being as the salty air, the sea breeze, and the opportunity for frequent short walks by the beach are often enough to help us relax.
3. Sunlight vs depression
Stress and anxiety are one thing but depression is a whole separate problem that can also be counteracted very effectively by prolonged exposure to sunlight.
A study from the Baker Heart Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia (4) has shown that there was a direct correlation between the amount of sunlight their participants were exposed to and their mood. Increased sunlight also benefited people’s serotonin levels and decreased symptoms of depression.
As the study summarized “More sunlight meant better moods; less sunlight leads to symptoms of depression.”
4. Seawater is great for your skin
A rarely mentioned benefit of going to the beach is that salty seawater is full of anti-aging minerals that can hardly be found elsewhere (5). This is great for people who want to keep youthful and beautiful skin.
Of course, there are other ways to combat our skin’s aging, including artificial sources of those same minerals or other cosmetic tools and procedures, but none are as easy, cheap, pleasant, and effective as simply going to the beach from time to time and spending some time in the water.
5. Sand is great for your feet
Sunlight and seawater are not the only benefits of going to the beach – sand too is very helpful as it’s a natural exfoliant. Wet sand, in particular, is great for peeling off dead skin cells from our feet and bodies, making our skin literally renewed and younger. If you think that’s a minor benefit that isn’t worth a trip to the beach, keep in mind that our skin sheds ~50,000 dead skin cells every minute (6) and most of those stay attached to us for a very long time. Clogged pores often lead to acne, blackhead, and other more serious skin problems so frequent skin exfoliation is very beneficial.
Not to mention that it also feels great – our feet have between 3,000 and 7,000 nerve endings (7) which is what makes walking on sand feel so good.
Beach sand is much better for foot and body exfoliation than sand in the park or in our backyards for a lot of reasons – the seawater allows us to easily wash our feet whenever we want, it also washes a lot of unwanted debris from the sand itself, making it even more pleasant to walk on.
Of course, the sand on crowded beaches can have its drawbacks too but you can easily avoid that problem by visiting clean and well-maintained beaches or ones that are rarely visited.
6. Going to the beach gets us moving
Going to the beach with family or friends typically includes a lot of swimming, walking, running, playing games, digging, and other physical activities. Even just taking a stroll across the beach is a much better workout than walking on the pavement (8) as it requires more physical effort.
Swimming also is a great exercise as it’s one of the best ways to burn calories (9) and maintain a toned body. Why go to the gym when a leisurely swim can easily burn ~200 calories and playing frisbee or volleyball on the beach can take care of another ~300?
7. Seawater is great for a lot of physical conditions
Swimming in seawater is a great way to reduce pain and symptoms of various conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (10). This doesn’t apply to all people, of course, but if you do suffer from such a condition that can be benefited from the many different seawater minerals, going to the beach is a much better thing to do than taking pills. Or, at the very least, it’s a very good addition to your standard treatments.