We’ve all heard that sea air is good for us. Well it seems there are definite health benefits to being by the sea, probably even more so during the winter months when we’re more likely to suffer with coughs, colds and depression.
Can being by the sea help our mental health?
We tend to associate the sight and sounds of the sea with feelings of calmness and relaxation. A combination of the rhythmic sound of the waves, the fresh, salty air and the sense of looking out to a limitless horizon has a lot to do with this. All our senses are stimulated when walking along a beach, especially if it’s warm enough to go barefoot.
If you’re struggling with the winter blues then getting out to the coast could be a real benefit. One US experiment in 2016 suggests that even looking at the sea can lift your mood. During the colder months you’re also more likely to be walking along a beach, rather than lying on it, thus raising your heart rate and releasing those feel good endorphins – proven to help mild to moderate depression.
Walking is one of the most accessible ways of keeping fit and maintaining good mental health. So why not combine a brisk walk with the benefits of being by the sea? The South West Coastal Path takes in a variety of sea views, across different terrains and covers an amazing 630 miles of coastline. Whether you’re a serious hiker or more of an afternoon stroller, there are sections on the path which will inspire you. FIND OUT MORE
Can the sea air help with breathing problems?
Long before modern medicine was invented to treat respiratory problems, ‘taking the sea air’ was a real prescription given by doctors to urban folk who were struggling to breathe polluted city air. Although things have improved since the regular smogs of Victorian times, pollution is still a real issue and cases of asthma are on the rise.
It is believed that the relatively high amount of salt in sea air helps to absorb some of the water in the respiratory tract and open up the airways, so breathing becomes easier. During the winter this effect is increased as most people spend more time indoors in dry centrally heated atmospheres. So the doctors of days gone by were right to advise patients to take a trip to the coast. In fact, seaside resorts such as Torquay on the English Riviera, became popular as holiday destinations during the Victorian era as people started to see the health benefits of being by the sea.
Is a winter dip good for you?
You may not be brave enough to take a dip in the sea in January, but there is growing evidence that it has numerous health benefits. The initial cold shock response increases breathing and heart rate and in time can help boost your immune system. It also enhances circulation and gives you an endorphin high, known to raise mood levels. And you can certainly justify that steaming mug of hot chocolate afterwards as you will burn extra calories compared to swimming in warmer weather.
(A word of warning though, immersing yourself suddenly in cold water can be risky if you have other health issues. If in doubt check with your doctor first and never swim in the sea alone.)
Where can I get a seaside fix this winter?
Being an island, the UK has plenty of options, but we have to say we are biased in recommending the South Devon coast. Winter temperatures tend to be a little milder than the rest of the country and the variety of landscapes, heritage and wildlife is second to none.
The English Riviera, comprising the seaside towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham has lots to offer the winter visitor. After your invigorating walk on one of the many beaches in the area, you may like to enjoy the theatre or a bite to eat at one of the harbourside restaurants. There is a whole host of things to do in the area right through the year.
Whatever the reason, it is safe to say people often feel better after spending time by the sea, so give yourself a break this winter and spend a few days on the coast.