Spending time by the sea is a sure-fire way to reinvigorate mind and body, as we discover with these health-giving activities.
As the saying goes ‘life’s a beach’ and there are so many reasons to make that your mantra this summer by spending quality time by the coast.
Few destinations can match the raw, natural beauty of the humble seaside: the fresh sea air, the sand between your toes and the sound of the waves lapping against the shore – just some of the elements that make the beach a prime health spot.
The magic of the sea
‘There’s something quite magical about being by the sea,’ says Michelle Moroney, who runs the Cliffs of Moher Retreat yoga holidays on the West Coast of Ireland (read a review of this stunning location). ‘It’s as if it has far-reaching powers that clear away stale thoughts and refresh your mind and body like nothing else can.’ Whether you enjoy majestic walks along the sand or diving straight into the waves, there’s no doubt time at the beach can change the way you feel, and it’s thought to be thanks to the quality of the ocean air.
‘Sea air is much cleaner,’ says Michelle. ‘It contains higher levels of negatively charged ions – atoms that have an extra electron, giving them a negative charge. These not only clear the air of allergens, spores and bacteria, they also increase oxygen absorption into your lungs, leaving you feeling recharged and refreshed. This cleaner air also allows for better breathing thanks to reducing sinus pain or a tight chest.’
Listening to the waves lapping against the shore is also incredibly relaxing. ‘Partly this is due to the huge connection between the rhythm of the waves and the rhythm of your breath,’ says Michelle.
‘They mirror each other. As you inhale, think of a wave forming, full of power and energy, steadily building and growing until that moment where it breaks… just like when you exhale. This rhythmic motion helps to calm your brainwaves, switching them from faster beta waves, which you need in order to perform daily tasks, to slower, more relaxing alpha waves, putting you into a slight meditative state.’
A knock on effect of this relaxed, meditative state is a better night’s sleep. ‘The combination of the fresh air, physical activity and time to properly unwind all contribute to better kip,’ says Michelle.
But the main hero when it comes to hitting the hay is magnesium. ‘Your body needs this essential mineral in abundance to enjoy restful sleep, and the sea is packed with it. Spending time swimming or even just paddling in the ocean will give your body a chance to absorb some of this mighty mineral.’
Keep on moving
Simply strolling along the sand or taking a dip might not seem like much in the way of exercise, but these activities certainly contribute to your daily quota of movement. Time at the beach can be an easy way to fit in your workout without even breaking a sweat.
‘There are so many fun activities and water sports to take advantage of if you really want to ramp up the calorie burn,’ says Michelle, who has suggested the following acvitities this summer to recharge your body and mind. Whether in the Tropics or closer to home, the coast is calling so why not try our top tips for getting the most out of the beach…
Stand up paddle boarding is a fantastic water sport. Gliding across the surface of the water, using your whole body to stay balanced and propel yourself forward is a great workout even though it may not feel or look like it at the time, as you’re engaging all your core muscles. Check the tides before you head out and pick a calm day.
Yoga on the sand is a great way to connect with nature. It’s also a perfect warm up before a dip in the sea (see below). Why not try a few rounds of the aptly named Sun Salutation? This flowing sequence of moves boosts circulation, and promotes flexibility and a calm mind.
This activity is just as it sounds and perfect for thrill seekers. It’s described as one of the coolest activities you can do on the water and is a little higher-octane than its windsurfing cousin. It involves balancing on a small board while holding onto a kite. As the wind carries you across the water, you can glide along and jump over waves. It’s great for building arm and core strength. You’ll want a wetsuit, too! Find out more at britishkitesports.org.
Wild sea swimming
Swimming in the sea is completely invigorating; it’s the perfect way to bookend your day and keep fit. Exposure to cold water also encourages your cells to make more brown fat, which is a healthier form of fat and actually helps you burn more calories. As an added bonus, the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of the salty water can help soothe irritated skin and calm conditions such as eczema and acne.
Walking without shoes along the beach, the sand between your toes, is one of life’s simple pleasures and a great way to keep fit, but there’s another important benefit you might not know about… grounding. The theory goes, when your body connects to the negatively charged sand, it allows you to release any built-up positive charge you may have accumulated from your environment, such as electromagnetic field energy from the use of electrical devices, and sand is said to be one of the best surfaces to achieve true grounding.