Beach Therapy

beach therapy

If you need an escape from the busy schedule of everyday life, pack up the car and head toward the ocean. Treat yourself and indulge in some much-needed beach therapy for the whole family. There are so many benefits of a beach getaway everyone is sure to enjoy. Learn how the sun, sand and sea can boost your health, both physically and mentally, on your next family vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey.

Physical Health Benefits of the Beach

Anyone who’s been to the beach knows how relaxing and fun a vacation can be. However, you may not know that a trip to the beach can also have numerous physical health benefits. As you’re soaking up the sun, your body is producing vitamin D — the “sunshine vitamin” — which can help reduce the risk of numerous ailments. Additionally, the sand and saltwater both have properties beneficial to physical health, and there are plenty of options available when it comes to staying active at the beach. With a beach getaway, you’re getting the best of both worlds. Not only are you relaxing and spending quality family time, but you’re also promoting your physical health.

1. Vitamin D

On your next day vacation, make the most of your sunny beach days and get vitamin D levels up to reduce your risk of health problems

Vitamin D is one of the most significant benefits of physical health when it comes to the beach. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble steroid hormone obtained through sun exposure, your diet or supplements. However, 50 to 90% of all vitamin D in the body comes through the skin by absorbing it from sunlight, while the rest is a result of diet. Everyone needs to produce enough vitamin D to stay healthy, as vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency link to an increased risk of numerous diseases. Currently, about 32% of Americans suffer from vitamin D insufficiency, while about 42% of U.S. adults suffer from a deficiency. On your next vacation, make the most of your sunny beach days and get those vitamin D levels up to reduce your risk of health problems. Here are just a few of the different health concerns vitamin D can help with.

  • Heart health: Many studies on vitamin D and heart health show a correlation between low vitamin D levels and increased risks of cardiovascular disease. One study associated high vitamin D levels with an ideal lipid profile and fewer instances of metabolic syndrome, while low levels of vitamin D may lead to things like hypertension, coronary artery disease and higher cardiovascular mortality. Low vitamin D levels could also link to other cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity and hypertriglyceridemia.
  • Bones and muscles: Vitamin D is a crucial part of bone health. It helps your body absorb calcium and regulates phosphate homeostasis, which helps keep bones and muscles strong and healthy. Both vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency link to poor muscle health. Specifically, vitamin D insufficiency connects with fibromyalgia, musculoskeletal pain, low muscle mass and falls.
  • Multiple sclerosis: Research shows a link between low levels of vitamin D with risk for multiple sclerosis (MS) and disease activity, so frequent beach trips and sun exposure can help minimize your risk for developing the disease. Studies have shown MS is more prevalent in higher latitudes with less intense sunlight, and that there is an association with sun exposure and decreased risk for MS. Newer studies suggest a causal relationship between low vitamin D levels and MS. Researchers believe vitamin D supplementation may be beneficial for MS patients, although they haven’t found the specific recommended levels to reduce the risk of MS.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: People with vitamin D deficiencies are also more likely to contract some different autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Many consider vitamin D to have anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to regulate your immune system, so a deficiency or insufficiency puts you more at risk. Vitamin D deficiency is more common in rheumatoid arthritis patients, as serum levels are much lower. In one study of 50 healthy subjects and 50 rheumatoid arthritis patients, 84% of rheumatoid arthritis patients were vitamin D deficient, whereas 34% of the healthy controls were deficient. Therefore, research suggests vitamin D deficiency is one of rheumatoid arthritis’ leading causes and may contribute to the disease worsening.
  • Pancreatic cancer: Every year, roughly 32,000 Americans receive a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer — making it the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women alike. However, ecological studies associate sun exposure with a lower incidence of pancreatic cancer, as the increased vitamin D levels work to protect against the disease. There is an inverse correlation between sun exposure and cancer incidence, so as you spend more days on the beach, you’re also reducing your risk of cancer.
  • Rickets: Bone growth and mineralization depend on calcium and phosphate. Vitamin D deficiency is the most common cause of rickets in children, a bone deformity in growing bones from not enough mineralization. Lack of adequate vitamin D compromises bone mineralization, so it’s essential for expecting mothers and young children to get plenty of sun exposure.

2. Sand and Saltwater

Everyone loves the feeling of sand between their toes and cooling off in the ocean on a hot summer day, but sand and saltwater also have beneficial properties for you and your family’s physical health. For instance, they can help your skin. The sand acts as a natural exfoliant and helps get rid of any dead skin cells. The ocean’s minerals can also have a soothing or healing effect for those with skin conditions. People with psoriasis, an extremely common incurable, chronic dermatologic disease, may find relief after sun exposure and bathing in the ocean. After all, spas use balneotherapy, a water therapy where patients bathe in natural mineral-rich waters, to treat psoriasis. Balneotherapy can reduce psoriasis symptoms like inflammation and improve the patient’s well-being overall.

People with eczema, aka atopic dermatitis, may find the ocean’s saltwater can help soothe their skin. However, those with skin conditions should still be cautious, since everyone reacts differently. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that causes itchy skin. One study that looked at bathing effects of seawater on hairless mice with dermatitis-like skin lesions found the severity of atopic dermatitis decreased significantly after bathing in seawater. These results suggest bathing in seawater could be a future alternative therapy for those suffering from eczema.

The ocean’s natural minerals are also essential for cosmetic and pharmaceutical purposes. For instance, companies use algae in cosmetics for its rich bioactive compounds, antioxidant and anti-aging properties. Specifically, marine algae can help fight hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, dry skin, inflammation and even skin cancer, so be sure to take a swim while you’re at the beach.

No one likes a stuffy nose. For those suffering from hay fever, sinusitis or other respiratory diseases, a swim in the ocean can also help you clear your sinuses. As salinity indicates salt content in seawater, oceans with higher levels of salinity can help clear nasal passages, as many stuffy nose remedies require saline nasal irrigation.

3. Plenty of Opportunities to Be Active

There are numerous bike rental shops up in OCNJ, so you and your family can enjoy an early-morning ride before hitting the beach

Not only is the beach an excellent place to relax, but it is also the perfect place to stay active through various activities. On your next family vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey, take a walk on the 2.5-mile-long Boardwalk in the evening when the weather starts to cool down and explore various shops, restaurants and more. Plus, walking helps you and your family maintain good physical health, as it helps you burn calories, eases joint pain, lower blood sugar, makes your heart stronger and gives you a little energy boost.

There are also numerous bike rental shops up in OCNJ, so you and your family can enjoy an early-morning ride before hitting the beach. Biking is also extremely beneficial to physical health, as it can also help you burn calories and fat, improve heart health, build muscle, relax your joints and provide a great aerobic workout.

Here are just a few other ways you and your family can stay active on your next vacation to the beach:

Mental Health Benefits of the Beach

For many people, the beach is an escape from everyday life where you can sit back and take a break from worrying. Why is the beach so relaxing? The light sand and blue waters make for a picturesque summer scene that can evoke a sense of calm and peacefulness. The shining sun works to bring up your mood while the sound of ocean waves crash in the background. Therefore, it’s no surprise there are scientifically proven mental health benefits of making a trip to the beach on your next family vacation. Here are just a few ways the beach can benefit not only your physical health, but also your mental health.

1. Sunlight Triggers Serotonin

Sunlight helps control multiple effects

Basking in the sun’s warm glow on the beach can help trigger your serotonin levels and improve your mental health, as there is a connection between varying levels of serotonin and the amount of sunshine available. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for modulating almost all human behavioral processes and is essential in regulating psychiatric and neurological disorders, along with serotonin receptors. While it helps with things like motor control, your sleep schedule, body temperature and respiratory drive, it can also control behavioral effects such as the following.

  • Mood
  • Perception
  • Anger
  • Aggression
  • Memory
  • Stress
  • Addiction
  • Appetite
  • Sexuality

During the winter months, when days are shorter and darker, people are more likely to experience mood disorders. Researchers found people with mood disorders experience higher levels of depressive, bipolar and anxiety symptoms from November through March. One study that sampled 100 men’s blood each month for a year found serotonin levels were lowest during the winter, proving that these changes in serotonin release are likely due to underlying mood seasonality and seasonal affective disorder.

Roughly 10% of the population at temperate latitudes experience some form of seasonal affective disorder. Women, people who live far from the equator, have a family history of depression, young adults or people with bipolar disorder or depression are more likely to experience seasonal affective disorder. Plus, vitamin D insufficiency has also linked to depression symptoms.

For those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, symptoms generally come in the fall and winter and go away come spring or summer, when the days are longer and the sun is out. Some doctors may even use a bright light to alleviate symptoms for those with seasonal affective disorder, nonseasonal major depressive disorder, subsyndromal winter mood disturbances, antepartum depression and eating disorders. Studies suggest a direct relationship between sun and serotonin production, so the sun on your skin on a beautiful beach day can enhance your mental health and make you feel happier.

2. The Ocean Can Evoke Feelings of Calmness and Creativity

Merely looking at the ocean can help make you feel calmer, and maybe even ignite a creative spark. For starters, many consider blue the color of calmness. One study of English-speaking participants who looked at 13 colors and assigned an adjective for each color revealed that the majority of participants associated blue with calm. Some people even use blue lighting to accelerate post-stress relaxation, so it’s no surprise people feel particularly peaceful by the blue ocean.

Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols believes humans have a “blue mind” that’s triggered when we’re in or around water, which puts us in a calm, mildly meditative state. Nichols says our brains are automatically wired to react positively to water, writing about it in his book, “Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected and Better at What You Do.”

Nichols believes our brains work differently when we’re in, on, under or near water, allowing for a cognitive break but not switching off completely. Instead, it goes into what psychologists refer to as the default mode network, which enables you to think more creatively, since the worries of everyday life aren’t bombarding you. After all, many people find their best ideas when they’re in the shower, so why would the ocean be any different? Make the most of your family beach vacation near the sea and enjoy the mental health boost that goes along with it.

3. The Beach Activates Your Senses

Walking barefoot on the beach can help you feel connected to nature and boost your mental health through grounding

Listening to the waves crashing, smelling the ocean breeze and walking along the sand all help bring your senses to life and likely evoke a feeling of nostalgia, perhaps from your early visits to the beach. However, all of these things can also improve mental health. Many people use ocean sounds to fall asleep because of the relaxing nature of each whoosh. The sound of crashing waves can help you reach a state of meditation. Meditation can help get rid of stress, decrease levels of anxiety, depression, reduce both physical and psychological pain, improve memory and increase your energy and efficiency — all beneficial to your mental state.

When you inhale the salty ocean air, the negative ions are also working to improve your mental health. Negative ions, which are oxygen ions that have an extra electron produced by water molecules, are throughout the air and can work to calm your mind as you inhale. Negative ions promote healthy air quality and relieve symptoms of dust, mold or other allergies, and also have psychological effects. Studies show a connection between negative ionization and lower depression ratings. It can also help treat seasonal depression.

Walking barefoot on the beach can help you feel connected to nature and boost your mental health through grounding. Grounding, also known as earthing, is the electrically conductive contact between the body and the Earth’s surface. Studies show grounding has many benefits, such as reducing stress, inflammation, pain and helping you sleep. Just like you need sunshine at the beach, don’t forget to kick off your flip-flops and get grounded for your mental health’s sake.

Take Your Next Family Vacation at Ocean City, New Jersey, for Some Beach Therapy

It’s easy to get caught up in life’s busy schedule, but don’t forget to take a break every once in a while. Family vacations at Ocean City, New Jersey, can provide some overdue beach therapy for the whole family. Improve your physical health with some sun, salt and sand along the eight-mile-long coast, and take advantage of all the opportunities to be active. Let the sun shine down while you clear your mind by the ocean at America’s Happiest Seaside Town. Treat yourself to some much-needed rest and relaxation and plan your vacation today, or contact us if you have any questions about your visit.

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