Travel | 20 Oct 2014 | By Sun International

Fact: Being by the Seaside Is Good for Your Health

Friends playing in the ocean | Photo by Sun International

Recharge your batteries and save your sanity with a coastal holiday. Here’s why being by the seaside is good for your health.

Proximity to the ocean can have a positive impact on your health: the closer you are to the sea, the better you feel. In fact, doctors have been prescribing curative trips to the shore from as early as the 18th century, and recent studies suggest the link between the ocean and health is a scientific fact.

Not only does the seaside promote good physical health, there's much to be said for how it improves your mental wellbeing too. A family holiday at the Wild Coast Sun may be just the right medicine for stress, while a romantic getaway to the Table Bay Hotel on the V&A Waterfront could relieve stress and revitalise your relationship.

Here's why you should plan your next holiday at the beach:

Physical health benefits

Being near to the ocean is relaxing. Researchers have found that the sound of waves alters brain patterns, which lulls you into a deeply relaxed state and rejuvenates body and mind. Also, the seaside encourages physical activity, even if it's simply a walk on the beach.

Besides the natural exfoliation your feet get from beach sand, walking on the beach provides considerably more exercise than walking on a flatter surface, like lawn. This is because your body is constantly counter-balancing the uneven surface of the sand, effectively working your calves, thighs, and gluteal muscles, without you even realising it.

Swimming in the sea gives you a full body workout, improves circulation, and increases your immune system function. Studies have shown that the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids in seawater produce antibiotic and antibacterial effects that promote immunity. Furthermore, swimming in warm seawater activates the body's healing mechanisms to fight conditions such as asthma, arthritis, bronchitis and inflammatory diseases, as well as common aches and pains.

The seaside is good for your skin too. Scientists have claimed that the magnesium in seawater increases skin's elasticity, hydrates it, and improves its appearance. Salt and potassium chloride, which are naturally found in seawater, are great healers. And, a certain amount of sun can be good for some skin complaints such as psoriasis. This is because a small amount of ultra violet radiation from the sun's rays helps dry the skin and promotes healing.

Ocean air has health benefits too. The negative ions in sea air accelerate your ability to absorb oxygen, and balance your seratonin levels, a body chemical linked with mood and stress. Which is why you feel more alert, relaxed and energised after a beach holiday at the Wild Coast Sun or Table Bay Hotel.

Mental health benefits

Being near to the ocean greatly affects mental wellbeing. As you sit on the beach listening to the roar of the waves, feeling the ocean breeze blow through your hair and enjoy the warmth of the sun on your skin, you feel wonderful. This seaside buzz is known as "thalassotherapy", a term coined by Hippocrates.

The rhythmic sound of the waves pounding the shore enables a meditative state. The benefits of meditation are far reaching: stress reduction, deep relaxation, increased happiness, improved peace of mind, spontaneity and heightened creativity. Furthermore, meditation is said to help you discover your purpose in life. Think of it as perspective: a year spent in an office cubicle and city environment shortens your visual horizons – you stare into a screen all day, and when you look up, your view of the sky is framed by an office window or traffic light. At the beach, the endless horizon of the sea is so large, you can almost (almost) perceive the curve of the earth. The visual stimuli your brain receives from this view literally opens your mind to new opportunities and experiences.

While you're sitting on the beach pondering the meaning of life, the heat of the sun is working away at your endocrine system, enabling it to secrete endorphins – the body's feel-good chemicals. The salt in seawater also aids your mental wellbeing by preserving the melatonin, tryptamine and serotonin levels in your brain, which fight off depression.

Oceanside vacations promote healthy eating too, which in turn affects your state of mind. Scientists have discovered that people who eat fish regularly are less likely to suffer from depression than those who eschew seafood. A marine diet is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids that promote brain cell growth.

How to make the most of the seaside and achieve ultimate relaxation

Go to the beach every day (even if the weather isn't ideal) to take advantage of the health providing benefits of the ocean. The Wild Coast Sun is situated on the beach, making it easy to get up early and enjoy a long sunrise walk. Sunset walks are great way to wind down after a long day of sunbathing or beach cricket. Plus, you're getting exercise.

Swim as much as you can and enjoy the healthy benefits of salty seawater. Read a good book while sunbathing, but look after your skin. Take advantage of your location and stick to an Omega-rich marine diet. Plate your fish up with a crunchy side salad.

Most importantly, unplug your devices and reap the benefits of the negative ions in the air. In today's society – thanks to computers, television and electronics – we are surrounded by too many positive ions (free radicals). Shutting down your gadgets and increasing your exposure to negative ions will enhance your immune system, increase alertness and improve your concentration. And, you'll sleep well.

Thalassotherapy? Get it.

It's good for you!