While writing this, the sun finally rose over the marshland for the day, providing a golden glow to the pale visual of miles of grey-green marsh grasses punctuated by live statues of white birds evident in the horizon.
A soft rippling current glides by my window as the canal makes its way into the bay that greets it around the bend.
In the Feb. 3 Herald, I shared experiences of taking my Portuguese water dog, Oakley, to the beach for a romp in the winter sun. Not only is it a delight for both of us, but it is also great for our health. As Valentine’s Day approaches, combining optimal health with a sense of romance takes advantage of our wonderful beach surroundings.
As we see neighbors and visitors tromping resolutely in the sun-washed sand, I invite you to ask yourself what is so healthy about the beach? Finding five benefits for it is easy.
1. Enjoy being able to breathe easier during and after a day at the beach. Serotonin is released once Oakley and I begin our brisk walk and her beach dance. She relaxes as she dances up to her knees in the frosty ocean, and I smile at the sun and waves as we make our way.
Serotonin is a chemical that helps us relax. Our bodies release it almost immediately when we hit the beach.
The natural inclination to inhale deeply when you first step on the beach is an automatic response to the air's quality. People with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or breathing problems will find it is easier to breathe at the beach than almost anywhere else. This is because not only are the chest muscles surrounding the lungs relaxed when a person steps onto the beach, but the air is clean.
2. The beach creates peace and wellbeing. The beach's peaceful sounds and visuals are soothing. I think of the sound of crashing waves and plan to remember the sound's power as I go about my day.
3. Natural sunlight heals anxiety. Light therapy helps clients temper their anxiety through the delight of the sunlight on a winter ocean.
4. The beach is a healthy exercise machine. I know the beach will create a peace that will help me sleep soundly at night because it pushes me to use my entire body as I walk. Unlike working out to a tape or exercise class, the exquisite landscape of a nearly empty winter beach creates immediate relaxation as I enjoy pushing my body forward through the resistance made by the soft sand. The beach beats an exercise machine for challenging my legs to keep going for the few miles that I decide to speed walk as Oakley runs in circles around me.
5. Sun is better than a nutraceutical. Many people use nutraceuticals from a pharmacy or food store to ensure an adequate dose of needed substances to remain healthy. A dose of Vitamin D is easy to get in a few minutes of afternoon winter sunlight that sends precious vitamins through the skin.
I drink Vitamin D-enriched milk, but sunlight is better, so I appreciate a format for fun that helps my body battle infections.
This Valentine's Day, hit the beach with your two or four-legged loved one.
To Consider: This Valentine’s Day, do something healthy to create a sense of romance with yourself. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, stay in shape, or expend stored energy, you’ll find the beach waiting.
Do you agree the beach is perfect because there are so many possible outlets? Why or why not?
To Read: Charlton Ogden Jr. The Winter Beach: Quill Publisher, 1990.
ED. NOTE: Dr. Judith Coche practices clinical psychology in Stone Harbor and Philadelphia. She invites responses through her website, www.cochecenter.com.