Surprising Ways the Beach Affects Your Body

Friends playing in waves on beach
Playing at the beach | Sam Edwards/Getty Images

It’s summertime, and this means we’re headed to the beach — or at least dreaming of it. Many of us overlook the health benefits of a little bit of sunshine. If you’re already planning a trip to the beach, this list will help you make up your mind. Plus, we’ll learn how the beach affects your body negatively, too.

The good: stress relief

We all know the sights and sounds of the beach work together to relieve stress. But what’s going on in your body physiologically is amazing. When you go to the beach, you get a release of serotonin, which is a hormone that makes you feel happy.

Fight off infection

Maybe you’ve heard the myth that salt water can help heal a cut or infection. But this actually a fact. Even the medical community advises treating minor skin infections with salt water soaks or compresses. Both antibacterial and antifungal, salt water helps with thyroid gland health, too. What better way to treat a minor infection than playing in the ocean? 

Daily dose of vitamin D

Hopefully, if you take a trip to the beach, you’ll experience sunny days in the sand — and quickly get your daily dose of vitamin D. This vitamin is an essential one. And amazingly, our body creates it from exposure to direct sunlight (UVB rays). You don’t have to get a tan or a burn to get vitamin D. It only takes about half the time it takes to burn to get the needed amount.

Skin health

Now before you take this as a license to bake your skin, slather on SPF or use an umbrella. Thankfully, there are other ways the beach is good for your skin. First of all, sand is a fantastic exfoliant for your feet! Being in the sun opens your pores, too. When you follow that with a plunge in the salt water, it can clear out acne-causing bacteria.

Better sleep

You don’t have to play with the intensity of a child to get the positive sleep effects of the beach. Just a walk on the beach is hard work because of the stability it takes to walk on sand. And when your body is tired, you sleep better. Plus, less stress helps with a better night’s sleep, too.

Breathe more easily

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It’s no wonder many people retire to beach communities. But one reason why, knowingly or unknowingly, is the beach’s air quality. People with asthma, COPD, and other breathing issues thrive here. The Lung Institute reports that people with chronic lung conditions had clearer lungs after breathing the salt air at the beach for nearly a year.

Regulate your body with iodine

We know iodine is essential to our bodies because it’s added to our salt. Our bodies need iodine to create thyroid hormones, which control our metabolism and many other vital body functions. And your skin absorbs the iodine present in the ocean when you take a swim in the water.

The bad: Sunburn

Sunburned at the beach
Man got sunburned at the beach | ajr_images/Getty Images

Most people can relate to the experience of a bad sunburn. If you are in and out of the water a lot — even if you reapply sunscreen — it will wash off. Check out this list of the best waterproof sunscreens. Alternate spending time in the sun and shade, so your skin isn’t baking all day. And find a fun hat to provide lots of shade to your face, neck, and shoulders.

Sun damage to your skin

Wrinkles and age spots are inevitable. But spending time in the sun ages your skin more rapidly. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, every time you go out in the sun without protection, your skin is exposed to UV rays. You can protect your skin by keeping it covered, staying in the shade, and using sunscreen. Your dermatologist can also help with treatments to reverse the effects of sun damage.

Dehydration

It seems crazy to get dehydrated as all that water surrounds you. But it’s easy when you are in the sun all day. Drink 16 ounces of water an hour when you’re at the beach, and you should be good to go! Also, if you feel like you’re overdoing it, get in the shade and drink something with electrolytes right away.

Jellyfish stings and other first-aid concerns

Any fun outing has associated health risks. But there are plenty of ways to avoid the risks and be prepared if anything unfortunate does happen. Always bring a first aid kit to deal with scrapes and cuts. Make sure you know how to treat a jellyfish sting. Be smart and don’t swim outside of your ability. Be aware of any undertows. If you’re at the beach with children, consider a beach spot with a lifeguard.