Unless you’ve spent the day gorging on ice creams, everyone feels good after a day at the beach. And who hasn’t been prescribed some ‘sea air’ by an old aunt at some point in their lives? Well, here are ten scientific (ish) reasons why Great Aunty Edna was right all along.
My name’s Louis and I’ve recently finished a week's work experience with Common Seas.
I’ve always loved how the ocean makes me feel, and so I spent some time looking at the science behind why this might be.
I’ve shared the highlights of what I found in the blog post below. Thanks for reading!
Seawater is overflowing with minerals such as potassium, magnesium, chloride and sodium. Not only do these sneaky substances make our hair and skin look amazing; they also help fight infection and reduce inflammation. That’s why people with skin conditions such as eczema are often advised to swim in the sea as part of their treatment.
Always putting off that run? Move to the seaside! Living around the ocean or seeing views of natural beauty increases your desire to be outside and take part in activities such as running, cycling or team sports. Of course, swimming is also much more common around beaches. Aerobic activities like these keep your respiratory system working well and are known to increase life expectancy.
When the sun’s UVB light rays shine on us, it stimulates the production of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is very important because it helps our bodies to produce calcium, which in turn prevents diabetes, MS, heart disease and reduces the chance of cancer. However, AS EVERYONE KNOWS, it can be dangerous to stay in the sun for too long without protection – so be sensible out there.
Get this. Because sea air has high salt content, it is quite thick. This means that as you breathe it in, it’s clearing your throat and respiratory system, allowing clearer breathing and better-quality sleep. Sea air is also known to keep you awake and energetic during the day because it is much cooler.
Due to the saltiness of seawater, it has many properties that are beneficial to us. Small cuts or grazes are healed by salt and minerals. The sea has also been proven to help muscle problems or joint pains by relaxing them and soothing the surrounding area.
Walking on fine sand at the beach is just like going for a pedicure. Except it’s free. The sediment will help exfoliate the dead skin off your feet and body, keeping your skin smooth and healthy.
Brain imaging research has shown that proximity to water is strongly linked to your brain releasing feel-good hormones, including dopamine and oxytocin. This is likely why Hawaii has been ranked the happiest of all states for the last six years. Marine biologist and conservationist Wallace Nichols describes the sea as “a trigger telling your brain you’re in the right place” and says that “our response to water and the oceans are deep”.
The sound of waves has also been proven to relax the mind. As waves come in, crash, and then recede again, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which slows down the brain and helps promote relaxation. Shuster describes this as “de-stimulating our brains”. This process makes the part of the brain responsible for stress emotions shrink, while areas such as empathy and memory grow.
There are also benefits to swimming in colder water. The Wim Hof Theory states that swimming in colder temperatures turns you into a high-functioning zen ninja (not his words). When you are cold, adrenaline is released to keep your muscles active and your senses alert. Regular swims in cold water strengthens your muscles, sharpens your mind and is strongly linked to longer life expectancy.
Being near the ocean has mental health benefits as well as physical ones. Scientific research from Richard Shuster shows that just being near the colour blue has led to “an overwhelming amount of people to be associated with feelings of calm and peace”. Staring out at the ocean can also result in a relaxing, meditative state, and can even change the frequency of brain waves to match that of the sea, putting you really in touch with nature.