Taking a breath of fresh air, a dip in the sea and a walk on the sand is certainly a pleasant way to spend your time. But recent research shows that not only do we like to be beside the seaside, but it may actually be good for us too. Here we explore the health benefits of coastal living.
The British love a summer vacation abroad don’t they? A chance to unwind and relax on a tropical beach and while away the hours on a sun lounger.
But can we get the same sense of recuperation that a foreign holiday can provide from beaches closer to home?
Well studies suggest so.
Research, carried out by Plymouth University, recently concluded that those who live by the sea are healthier than those living inland.
And scientists from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter backed this up, claiming those who indulged in regular seaside trips were happier than those stuck in land-locked towns and cities.
Here are a few of the ways you benefit from a beach break:
· Sunshine - Getting outside for 15 minutes a day, even in our climate, can significantly affect wellbeing. Increasingly, doctors around the world are warning that in our desire to avoid the risk of skin cancer, we have swung too far the other way and aren't getting enough of the vitamin D the sun provides. Studies show that the higher the level of vitamin D in the body, the lower the blood glucose level, suggesting that sun avoidance may be linked to the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
· Sea water - According to the journal Skin Research and Technology, researchers have treated dermatitis with sea water. The salt and potassium chloride content ''sealed" the damaged skin and speeded its healing. The British Association of Dermatologists says many parents report that their child's eczema improves after swimming in the sea. Sea water is also touted as a cure for hay fever, colds and sinus infections, as it has strong antihistamine effects and is a good decongestant.
· Sand - Sand acts as a natural exfoliator, helping the old skin to shed more quickly and improving its natural regeneration.
· Sea air - The smell of the seaside is caused by dimethyl sulphide gas and getting a lungful at the beach has been proven to help you to sleep better. This is because sea air is full of negative hydrogen ions, charged particles abundant in sea spray and concentrated in fresh air, which improve our ability to absorb oxygen and help to balance levels of seratonin, the feel good hormone, making us less prone to anxiety.
· Seafood – Living by the sea means you have better access to low-fat, high-protein brain food. Studies have shown that the Omega 3 oils it contains can help prevent heart disease, boost brain development, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, improve skin and hair and ease depression.
The idea that beachside living can do wonders for your physical and emotional well-being is a theory that has stood the test of time.
The Georgians and Victorians used to flock in their masses to the British coast every summer to lap up the benefits.
And many care homes, rehabilitation units and convalescence hospitals have been – and still are - built by the sea.
Here in Felixstowe, The Bartlet Hospital was founded in 1926 as a convalescent home using a bequest of £250,000 from Dr John Bartlet, a local surgeon.
The building, which overlooks the beach and rows of beach huts was closed in 2006, but has now been given a new lease of life developed into prestigious apartments and town houses which are being snapped up by those who want a slice of the good life.
Heather Blemings, a gradmother of five, has bought one of the flats with a sea view.
She said: “Dr Bartlet’s vision of drawing upon the regenerative power of this special location remains just as relevant today.
“This was a sanctuary of recovery by the sea – and still is.
“I think I will certainly enjoy a better quality of life by the sea during my retirement but I can also see that this is an ideal spot for families who spend the majority of time living in the hustle and bustle of the City and want a weekend seaside retreat.”
There are now more people over the age of 65 living in the UK than there are those under 16.
And a survey carried out in 2009 found that in England, 43% of over-50s plan to move away when they retire - and only 2% of them were interested in moving to London.
More than 80% wanted to live in a more rural location – with many saying they would like to indulge their sentimentalism for places where they holidayed as children – such as the British coast.
Of course, anywhere with a sea view is hot property. But, as Heather points out, you can’t put a price on good health.
“Coastal living is healthier for a number of reasons,” she said.
“Coastal villages and towns generally form a closer-knit community than you would find in the hustle and bustle of more densely populated urban areas.
“They also stimulate the senses - boasting views of wide expanses of open water, the sounds of crashing waves and seagulls and the smell of salt and sea spray – all of which are proven to act as mood enhancers.
“And on top of this, a seaside environment encourages physical activity – something which is beneficial to people of all ages.”