Whether you’re looking for a high-energy vacation destination or one that focuses on relaxation, a trip to the beach can fill the bill.
A beach vacation offers many proven health benefits. Below are five ways a beach vacation can make you and your family feel better and more productive.
The Beach Magnifies Creativity
Rooted in science, the beach is believed to boost creativity.
That’s because the color blue (big blue skies, blue water), while also associated with feelings of calm and peace, can actually improve your ability to brainstorm.
“Through associations with the sky, the ocean and water, most people associate blue with openness, peace and tranquility,” says Juliet Zhu, who conducted research on color association for the University of British Columbia. “The benign cues make people feel safe about being creative and exploratory. Not surprisingly, [blue] is people’s favorite color.”
Her study found that blue environmental cues, such as those seen at the beach, prompted study participants to produce twice as many creative outputs as the color red, for example.
The Beach Relieves Stress
When you’re lying on the beach, the rhythmic washing in and out of the waves and the gentle call of the seagulls are predominant sounds. These sounds work to de-stimulate our brains.
Furthermore, the fragrant salt air naturally inspires what’s called the “relaxation response,” a phrase coined by American Institute of Stress Founding Trustee and Fellow Dr. Herbert Benson.
Benson says that the relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional response to stress, actually decreasing the heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing and muscle tension.
At the beach, people tend to breathe a little deeper—from the abdomen—thus reducing stress.
The American Institute of Stress reports that abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes each day will reduce anxiety and reduce stress. It says that “deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body—it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.”
Staring out at the Gulf can also change the frequency of our brain waves so that we are put into a mild meditative state. Simply put, watching the waves helps us zone out for a little while, creating a quieter mind.
A quieter mind leads to better sleep. In fact, as early as the 1700s, a walk on the beach was prescribed as a remedy to a variety of ills, including sleeplessness, depression and bad mood.
A study conducted for the United Kingdom’s National Trust found that participants who walked by water slept an average of 47 minutes longer than the group who stuck to land. In addition, those who walked near water experienced greater alertness in the morning.
Researchers said they attribute this improvement in the ability to sleep to the restorative benefits of the coastal environment coupled with the “escape” from daily life typically experienced when on a beach vacation.
The Beach Elevates Vitamin D
The beaches of the Gulf Shores area are bathed in sunshine the majority of the time, giving beachgoers the opportunity to reap the benefits of Vitamin D year round.
The Vitamin D Council says the most natural way to get Vitamin D is by exposing bare skin to sunlight while paying particular attention to avoid burning your skin, of course.
Vitamin D plays an essential role in regulating calcium and maintaining the appropriate levels of phosphorus in the blood. These are two factors that are very important in maintaining healthy bones.
Vitamin D also supports the health of the immune system, brain and nervous system; regulates insulin levels; supports lung function and cardiovascular health; and influences the expression of genes involved in cancer development, according to “Medical News Today.”
With beaches bathed in sunlight, spending time at the beach can provide a very efficient means to increase Vitamin D intake and improve overall health.
The Beach Gets You Moving
Regardless of whether you exercise regularly, a beach vacation will get you moving, aiding in overall fitness and well-being.
Of course, a beach is a great place for a regular workout thanks to the fresh air, open space and extra cardiovascular benefit of moving while sand is shifting under your feet. Not to mention the benefits gained from all that good Vitamin D your skin will produce from exposure to sunlight!
Build a sandcastle with the kids and walk back and forth to the water. Play a game of Frisbee and do a little running (running on sand, while challenging, provides less resistance on joints), or take an early morning run on the beach to sneak in some exercise.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an active person, the energy required to walk out onto the sugar-white, soft sand to stake your claim for the day is likely to elevate your heart rate.
A walk, whether by the water where the sand is a bit firmer, or in the soft, dry sand set back from the water, is a healthy way to get moving.
Don’t think of a beach walk as exercise. View it as a way to explore the area’s diverse wildlife, collect shells, see beautiful beach houses from the water, and so much more.
There are so many great places to explore on foot in and around Gulf Shores. Enjoy the 2.5-mile-long Gulf State Park beach area, including the Gulf State Pier or the lovely pavilion.
Head down to Fort Morgan for a walk on the beaches just outside the Civil War-era fort. Bring your leashed dog to the beaches of Fort Morgan. Your best friend is welcome there as long as you clean up after him!
While you’re in the Fort Morgan area, be sure to visit the beaches of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, where you will enjoy views of Little Lagoon, perhaps an alligator family, a bobcat or an Alabama beach mouse.
A favorite spot to walk for locals and visitors alike is the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. The trail takes walkers and bikers through more than 15 miles of unique landscapes in Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Gulf State Park, where you’ll see the Butterfly Garden, freshwater marshes and coastal hardwood swamps.
Feed your body and your mind by taking in the natural beauty that surrounds you during a walk on the beaches, trails or other areas.
The Beach Boosts Beauty
The beach is good for your skin. The sand is a natural exfoliant, rubbing away dead skin cells and letting your pores breath.
Saltwater contains many vitamins, amino acids, and minerals like magnesium, potassium and sulfur. Even in ancient times, the Greeks proclaimed the curative powers of seawater.
Saltwater has a natural antiseptic drying agent that can be used to treat acne breakouts. It can also be beneficial for healing minor cuts and calming conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
And, swimming in Gulf waters can be less drying to your skin and hair than, say, swimming in a pool.
As with anything, moderation is key to experiencing maximum benefit. Thus, it is important to remember to rinse saltwater after swimming and also to apply sunscreen to avoid excessive exposure to the sun.
Enjoy the beach and all the activities you can do during your visit from a four-bedroom condo in Orange Beach or a 5+-bedroom beach house anywhere along the 38-mile stretch of beach stretching from Fort Morgan to Perdido Key.