The Health Benefits You'll Reap From Spending a Day at the Beach

Whether the nearest beach is a plane ride or a quick stroll away, spending a day there can yield both physical and emotional health benefits.

Natural beauty aids

Sand and salt are common ingredients in beauty products–and with good reason. We pay a lot of money for coarse hygiene products, but the sand acts the same as a pumice stone. If you have rough heels, a walk in the sand has a smoothing effect.

Playing in the water, body surfing or just digging around in the sand provides the same exfoliating properties as many expensive beauty balms. Your skin will often feel softer and more supple after a day at the beach, and that’s the effect of the water softening and loosening the skin, and the sand sloughing off those dead skin cells the water has softened up.

Salt water can also help alleviate some skin conditions. People with acne can notice an improvement in their skin because of the healing properties of salt water. It has similar benefits for other skin conditions that often seem to worsen in winter, such as eczema and psoriasis.

Walk the walk

The health benefits of walking or playing at the beach are magnified by the effects of the shifting sands. Walking on sand requires 1.6 to 2.5 times more mechanical work than does walking on a hard surface at the same speed, and 2.1 to 2.7 times more energy expenditure. Running doesn’t give you quite the same increase in benefits, but it’s still greater than the effort required to run on a hard surface.

Don’t forget to play in the water too: Body surfing and other water sports offer great toning and aerobic benefits. For those with bad joints, just bouncing around in the surf is a great low-impact exercise because of the effort required to stay balanced and afloat against the waves and water.  

Healthy vitamin D

The impact of possible vitamin D deficiencies due to wearing sunscreen has made headlines recently, but does this concern supersede the previous health guidelines about sunscreen? Absolutely not. You do need adequate vitamin D levels for calcium absorption in the intestines, but concerns about those levels shouldn’t lead you to become careless about sun protection.

There’s a real risk of skin cancer through exposure to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight, not to mention its aging effects. Sunlight contains two forms of ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB. UVB is a source of sunburns, but UVA penetrates deeper into the subcutaneous tissue and can be more dangerous in the long term, so it’s important to use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that blocks both types of UV rays.

As for getting enough vitamin D, just wear your sunscreen and don’t worry about what you’re missing out on at the beach. Most people get plenty of sun exposure inadvertently in between sunscreen applications.

Beachy keen

Of course, spending time at the beach offers benefits beyond beauty and fitness. Studies show that women who take regular vacations are less likely to become tense, depressed or tired, and are more satisfied with their marriages.

There’s definite proof that sunlight improves depression and cognition. It’s also healthy for your soul to spend time relaxing, away from the rat race and stressors of everyday life. 

Protect your skin

To shield your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays at the beach, try these tips:

* Avoid direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

* Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out into the sun. Use a shot glass-sized amount on your body and about a tablespoon’s worth on the face.

* Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after activities, sweating, swimming or toweling off.

* Sit under an umbrella.

* Wear sunglasses–UV rays can damage eyes as well.