Exercise by the sea for a more intensive workout

Kids at the seaside
Kids need little encouragement to get active at the seaside!

Just as the northern hemisphere moves steadily into Autumn the University of Exeter announce their study into the health benefits of living, and exercising, by the seaside. In Victorian Britain many people were sure that the seaside was a healthy place to be – this was the time that many little villages and towns, such as Bournemouth and Brighton, were turned into seaside resorts.

The new study aims to find out if exercising by the sea really is better for us than exercises elsewhere, and more importantly, to see if we bottle this effect to help those inland.

The focus of the study looks at the impact of surroundings on exercise intensity. Past studies have shown that people exercise harder when their moods are lifted, and also that environment has a positive effect on mood.

To perform some of the research, subjects are exercising in laboratories which have various outdoor video landscapes projected onto the wall, along with the sounds of the seaside too.  In one of the studies the health impact of exercising in blue and watery environments is assessed. This mostly includes the seaside. We do not know is they played the sounds of the brass bands playing “Tiddely-om-pom-pom!“.


Of course, even if it can be proved that the seaside makes people exercise harder and more intensively, the big question is why? What is it about the sound of the sea that makes us work harder? Is it the brighter light, the smell of the salt, the sound of the waves, or simply that being by the seaside brings back happy childhood memories, which in itself lifts mood?

Do people who have never been to the seaside before exercise harder by the sea?

Calm mind?

The studies have shown so far that the sound and vision of the sea seems to have a calming effect.

“What we’re finding, if anything, is a lot less activity in the brain when the sea is being shown [compared to green spaces], which tells us that it’s possibly less stressful and more familiar to the core human being.” – Dr Mathew White, lead researcher.

Recently another study showed that people living by the seaside were happier than those living inland. Maybe part of this happiness is caused by good health? The main factor could be exercising outdoors, rather than by the sea specifically. We shall report on the results once they are fully known.

“We’ve been contacted by countries with very small coastlines, such as Germany and Switzerland, who are quite worried. Are they missing out on health benefits?” says Dr White.

The Swiss do seem to be an active nation; outdoor living is far more common than it is in the UK where the study is being carried out. Maybe in Switzerland people are more active when they see ice-covered mountains and hear the sound of cow bells?

The study concluded that “Although individual level coastal proximity effects for general health and mental health were small, their cumulative impact at the community level may be meaningful for policy makers“.

The research is certainly interesting. How the findings will be implemented to make society healthier and happier is not clear though.

How to exercise by the sea

The study examined the effects of environment on cycling performance only. So let’s look at some popular ways to exercise at the seaside:

  • Swimming
  • Surfing
  • Wind surfing
  • Kayaking
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Beach football
  • Beach volleyball

What exercise do you like to do at the seaside?

And now a song.

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
I do like to be beside the sea!
I do like to stroll along the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play:
So just let me be beside the seaside
I’ll be beside myself with glee
And there’s lots of girls beside,
I should like to be beside
Beside the seaside!
Beside the sea!

By John A. Glover-Kind

News source: www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24214646

About Dr Mathew White:

Dr Mathew White’s publications (University of Exeter)

Research paper:

“Coastal proximity, health and well-being: Results from a longitudinal panel survey” by Mathew P. White, Ian Alcock, Benedict W. Wheeler, Michael H. Depledge. Health & Place. Volume 23, September 2013, Pages 97–103.

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