Is blue the new green?
While the beneficial effects of green spaces on health have long been studied, the effects of water landscapes on health have received relatively little attention from the scientists. Now, however, the ECEHH’s work seems to back up what we already knew in our bones: that the sea in particular, as well as rivers, lakes and even urban water-features, impact positively on our health and wellbeing. Commenting on his research team’s results Dr Matthew White said they suggested that the coast was the ‘most likely outdoor environment to create a feeling of wellbeing’.
ECEHH scientists have yet to pin down the reason/s why seeing or being near water could be so good for us but one of the team, Professor Michael Depledge, has suggested: ‘One possibility is that human beings have evolved in intimate contact with nature, and it is only really in the last 200 years that people have been increasingly removed from nature.
‘Professor Sir Alister Hardy [zoologist, died 1985] first suggested that the big step in human evolution was not necessarily when hominids came out of the trees and into the savannah, but was when they got to the coast and were able to access sea food rich in omega 3 fatty acids … there is something deeply profound about water and humans, and it may reflect evolutionary history.’
Visit Wellness-on-Sea and…
Relax Settle down in your deck chair and listen. Studies have shown that hearing the sound of waves alters wave patterns in our brain which help to lull us into a deeply relaxed state and, when we emerge from this reverie, we tend to feel more alert and physically fresher.
Lie back in the water and float. When body and mind are profoundly relaxed our brain triggers the release of endorphins, as do pain, stress and exercise. Often referred to as the body’s natural morphine, endorphins act to soothe pain but they also – as in this case – stimulate good mood and feelings of bliss or wellbeing.
Soak away aches and pains? While the science remains inconclusive, there is strong anecdotal evidence that soaking or bathing in seawater helps to ease muscle tension and joint stiffness.
The smell of the seaside is not in fact ozone (a form of oxygen) but dimethyl sulphide gas, given off by the sea, which enriches the air with negative hydrogen ions. As well as improving our oxygen uptake, these negative ions help to balance serotonin levels – a body chemical linked with good mood – so that we feel calmer and become less prone to stress and anxiety.
It’s stating the obvious but a day at the seaside is awash with opportunities for physical activity. Exploring coastal paths, swimming, surfing, boating, beach games, rock-pooling and, of course, building sandcastles – to name but a few. Treat body and soul to fresh air and fun and we positively glow with health and wellbeing.
Spend a day drinking in lung-fulls of sea air and we can expect to sleep more soundly that night. This is because sea spray, and therefore the sea air, is charged with healthy negative hydrogen ions which accelerate our ability to absorb oxygen by neutralising damaging free radicals (positive ions).
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan