There's no doubt that the luxury of lying on a beach on holiday can be just the tonic needed for a busy lifestyle. And, according to research, there seems to be genuine psychological benefits to a spell, however short, spent beside the sea.
And there are excellent physical benefits too if you take a regular swim, go snorkelling or head off down the beach for a long walk. These are the sort of pleasurable things we all tend to do on a beach holiday without really considering it as taking exercise. But exercise it most certainly is.
Being beside the sea has long been a way of recharging our batteries but a recent study suggests it has real psychological benefits. Researchers from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health looked at data on 2,750 participants aged from 8 to 80 in a two-year study of people's engagement with the natural environment. All outdoor locations were associated with positive feelings of enjoyment, calmness and refreshment - but visits to the coast were the most beneficial.
The trend remained after taking account of factors such as age, distance of travel, the presence of others, and type of activity.
Mathew White, from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health in Truro, Cornwall, says: 'There is a lot of work on the beneficial effects of visiting natural environments, but our findings suggest it is time to move beyond a simple "urban versus rural" debate and start looking at the effect that different natural environments have on people's health and well-being.' Dr White added that there was growing evidence that positive feelings have an impact on health.
Of course, when you're lying on the beach soaking up the sunshine it is very important not to over-expose your skin to the sun's potentially harmful rays. Be sure to apply appropriate sun screen and to regularly re-apply it, particularly if it's very hot or you seek the cooling sanctuary of the sea or swimming pool. A regular swim, we all know, is great exercise, especially if you can swim for at least 20 minutes at a time. This has excellent cardiovascular (heart) benefits and is also beneficial for your lungs. In fact, regular swimming throughout the day - for reasonable periods of time - would mean that you're benefiting from a good deal of healthy exercise. Swimming for an hour can comfortably burn up 750 calories.
If you're out in the sunshine, on the beach or anywhere else, your body will be making vitamin D. This vitamin is essential for strong bones, as it regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Vitamin D also helps regulate the growth of skin cells. Your body can actually make all of the vitamin D it needs just by catching some rays outside.
Lastly, study after study shows that regular exercise, such as swimming in the sea, snorkelling or jogging down the beach, increases the positives benefits that sleep brings. Regular exercise enables you to fall asleep faster and remain in a deep sleep for longer. Sleep is important because it allows time for your muscles to repair themselves and, let's face it, there's nothing quite like the wonderful feeling of waking in the morning feeling refreshed.
So, don't let anyone tell you that a beach holiday isn't healthy! Particularly if you combine it with a reasonable amount of pleasurable, immediately available exercise such as swimming or snorkelling.
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