SEP 06, 2017 4:57 AM PDT

Go to the Beach, It's Good For Your Brain

The expression, "It's no day at the beach" is sometimes used to describe an experience that is unpleasant or difficult. In contrast, then, it can be inferred that a day at the beach is pleasant and easy. As it turns out, many scientific studies support the benefits of being near an ocean. Hurricanes and horrible traffic jams aside, getting to a beach can be good for the brain and here are a few of the many reasons why.

In 2013, an analysis of British census data showed that those who lived near coastal areas reported feeling better, both physically and mentally. While the study involved self-reporting and not objective measurements of general health and mental health, factors like employment and education were considered, and the results showed much higher levels of general well-being from coastal residents than those who were not near the ocean. Follow-up research to this study looked at the connection to coastal proximity and physical activity, finding that those on the west coast of England engaged in more physical activities and exercise, which could be part of the reason they tended to feel better. On the east coast of England, there was no connection between coastal residence and increased physical activity.

On the other side of the world, near a different ocean, the Pacific, a study conducted by researchers at Kobe University showed that people living in homes that had an ocean view showed higher positive psychological effects and lower rates of negative psychological effects than those who could not see the sea. Both men and women reported a significant effect on their general well-being from being able to look at the ocean from their homes. The group that reported the strongest influence of living within sight of the coast fell into the older age bracket of the study. The sample size was 518 study participants, but among those over the age 60, there was a statistically significant increase in feelings of peace and well being for those who lived in homes with a seaside view.

Other research points to environmental factors at the beach. While sunscreen is a must and overexposure to UV rays can be a health concern, getting enough sunshine increases the production of vitamin D, which has been shown in some studies to impact mood and lower the risk of some forms of dementia. The sand is a factor as well. Many beachgoers walk barefoot, digging their toes into the sand. Feet have more nerve endings per square centimeter than any other part of the body (anyone who has stepped barefoot on a Lego brick knows this) so walking barefoot in the sand is a way to get all the feels the beach has to offer. It also requires more muscle effort to walk or run on sand, so endorphins kick in from the exercise, boosting mood and happiness even more.

The water is a key factor as well. Sea water contains minerals like magnesium, iodine and potassium and these ingredients have all been linked in research studies as having potential positive effects on mood and health. Swimming is great exercise too, and since it's non-impact, even those with joint issues or other mobility concerns can benefit from working out in the water.

Finally, the salty breeze. Ocean water droplets contain salt and negative ions. The oxygen atoms in salt air include an extra electron as well. Negative ion therapy has been investigated in some studies for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and the use of salt lamps that diffuse salt into the air in our homes is both a popular way to decorate and to de-stress. So take that trip to the beach, it's good for your brain (and your feet, and your heart and your muscles and so much else.) Check out the video for more information.

Sources: Medical Daily, Health and Place, Preventative Medicine, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Journal of Coastal Zone Management via Kobe University, NBC 

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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