Whether on dolphin watch or soaking up sun, there is no shortage of reasons to love the oceanfront. It isn’t just boat docks and sea shells, though. There are documented health benefits to living by the sea. This article “How the Ocean Breeze Contributes to Healthier Lungs and Brain” discusses the benefits of breathing salt air. That’s only half the beach, though. What’s a beach without the occasional sandcastle? Walking up and down a stretch of sand is refreshing for all the salt air and ocean’s song, But the effort of walking in the sand, too, has a score of health benefits.
Many of us share the memory of trying to carry too much onto the beach. It’s early in the morning and there’s still a good chance of sectioning off a piece of beach before the crowds come out. Hooked under arms and into elbows are chairs, coolers, an umbrella, a bag with books and sunblock, and ten toys for every child. There’s a sense of bliss as you look out over the expanse of ocean and take the first step into the sand. By the third or so step everything feels heavier, legs included. And the nearest opening starts to look further away.
Although next time maybe take two trips, don’t beat yourself up too much. The sand makes it harder to walk. It crumbles underfoot. And every step in a little hole to pull out of. Walking in the sand takes more than twice the energy as it does to walk on hard surfaces. And walking slowly in loose sand requires the same effort as jogging. It is a piece of ocean zen that a deliberate and slow stroll would take the same work as an ambitious run.
The ocean breeze is invigorating. Many people find that they walk further than usual when ambling down the beach. Whether crowded and crashing or vacant and still, it is easy to become surprised by how close that distant pier has become. This is true for people with joint and back pain, also. Sand acts as a natural cushion, absorbing the shocks from walking. Whereas walking on hard surfaces creates a jarring in the back and joints, sand provides a softer landing. People with joint and back pain find a respite from concrete on the beach.
Walking in the sand also improves balance. When the surface you’re on is always changing it acts a proprioceptive exercise. The body adjusts to the changes underfoot and it heightens agility. Although it might be subconscious, the body adjusts to better and better accommodate these changes and becomes better coordinated. It might now feel that way when balancing all the beach gear but it’s happening.
Sand also acts as a natural exfoliant. Long, barefoot walks on the beach are nature’s pedicure. Not only does sand make us stronger and better balanced, it’s a fuss-free way to fight callouses.
There are endless reasons to love the beach and also endless perks to living by it. Sand gets a bad rap sometimes. It might be dirt with better PR and we can’t argue that it gets everywhere. But the beach wouldn’t be the beach without it. And playing in the sand makes us healthier so we can enjoy playing even longer.