Healthy Living

Living Close To The Coast Inspires People To Be More Active, But Why?

South England coast
You suspected as much, but science confirms the health benefits a trip to the beach can boast. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Is beach life the best life? Perhaps, according to a new study from the University of Exeter that decided to investigate whether or not people who live near the coast are healthier than those inland.

Researchers analyzed data that Natural England, the government’s advisor on the natural environment, collected from over 180,000 people. This data included the amount of exercise people get through leisure activities, like a simple walk on the beach. Their findings showed that visiting the coast, as opposed to only living near it, greatly encouraged and enabled physical activity.

Dr, Mathew White, lead study author, said in a press release that “participants reported a number of activities from simply walking to more obvious exercise such as swimming or running,” though mostly in western regions of the country. White isn’t sure why he and his team didn’t see similar patterns along the east coast. Yes, east coasters are getting their sweat on, but it seems to happen less so by the beach. This study, at the very least, may prove inspiring for eastern dwellers, resorts, and destinations looking to exercise and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Of course, not everyone is in a position to live near the coast or a beach, which means this doubles as an excuse to take that beach vacation. Just look at the benefits of walking or running on the beach. "Sand, like soft snow, gives with every step, so your leg muscles (hello, burning calves) will feel the burn," Lisa Jhung, an outdoor sports journalist, told Runner’s World. "This can be really convenient, though, if you don't have much time for a run. Doing a short workout in deep sand will rarely leave you wishing you had more time for a longer run."

But, a coastal environment can be restorative to a person’s health without them breaking a sweat, a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found. Provided, a person lathers up with broad spectrum SPF, sun exposure produces more vitamin D for strong bones, endorphins, and helps protect against autoimmune disease.

In addition to taking leg day to a whole other level, sand stimulates the nerve endings in feet for more relaxation and muscle strength. It also provides time for “earthing,” or grounding,” a practice believed to exchange electrons that "neutralize free radicals" with the earth's surface. Then, there’s the water. Swimming is a non-impact exercise, which helps the body heal and detoxify, and doing as little as two-and-a-half hours a week will help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Source: White M, Wheeler B, Herbert S, Alcock I, Depledge M. Coastal proximity and physical activity: Is the coast an under-appreciated public health resource? Preventive Medicine. 2014.

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