7 reasons to head to the seaside

For centuries we’ve been heading to beaches for a health top-up – the Victorians loved their beach huts and endless ailing characters in period novels are sent to the seaside to recuperate. Our ancestors may actually have been onto something, as spending time at the coast has been shown to boost our wellbeing in a number of different ways. These benefits come from multisensory engagement: read on to find out how the smell, sight, and touch of the sea positively impact on our health.

Ion out the creases

Hungrily gulping in the sea air is one of the first things we do on a beach holiday, though we rarely think about why lungfuls of fresh, salty air are so good for us. Sea breeze contains tiny drops of sea water lifted by the waves and wind, leaving us with scrubbed skin and tousled hair. When the wind and waves break apart the air molecules, they take on a negative charge – it is these negative ions that are thought to be responsible for improving our mood and helping to alleviate depression by triggering reactions that increase our serotonin levels. If you feel more alert and on form at the seaside, this may be because negative ions are said to increase the flow of oxygen to the brain.

Breathe in

After a trip to the beach, we often feel thoroughly cleansed from the inside out – and some of this may be literal. Negative ions may protect us against airborne germs that can irritate noses and throats – literally cleansing the airways. Australian-based researchers studying cystic fibrosis in surfers found that sea air helped clear the surfers lungs of mucus, which resulted in new saline treatments for patients.

Skinny dip

Seawater can be great for our skin: offering cleansing, repairing, soothing and hydrating qualities. Salty water is naturally antibacterial, and bathing in it can show marked improvements in cuts, sores and acne. Dermatitis, a rash caused by common chemicals, is also thought to be improved by the sodium chloride and potassium in seawater.

Walk on water

Working out in water is a great way to try resistance training without the impact of land-based exercise which can be hard on our joints. Working out in water, however, can support our joints and offer a gentler alternative to running, all while improving our circulation.

Out of the blue

A team of scientists have found that we respond positively to images of ‘blue space’ such as the sea, rivers and lakes. This team even discovered that the closer we live to the coast, the healthier we are. Even listening to the sound of the sea can be beneficial: research has shown that the sound of waves can genuinely relax us. While loud, unexpected noises can leave us restless and on high alert, the repetitive ‘swoosh’ of the waves is perceived as an unthreatening sound with minimal changes to capture our attention, this means we can tune out from consciously listening to it, and it can also help to block out other disturbances.

Catch of the day

Spending time by the sea also makes it so much easier to fill up on freshly caught, local fish. Opt for a delicious fatty fish like mackerel to top up on brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids and fat soluble vitamin D. Look out for fish which score well on the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide, to ensure that you are enjoying sustainable seafood with minimal environmental impact. Hake is a great sustainable option if you like mild white fish, and it is a good alternative to cod if you want to try something new.

We ‘sea’ vegetables, we eat them…

Sea vegetables provide a dish with an additional nutrient boost. Seaweed is a really sustainable food, rich in minerals such as calcium, copper, iodine and iron, as well as fucoidans which are thought to support immunity and cardiovascular health.

With so many undeniable benefits, a trip to the seaside may be just what you need, whatever the weather. All together now: Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside…

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