The Science Behind Our Love of the Beach

A relaxing day at the beach is a classic summer pastime enjoyed by millions of Americans each year. What is it about the combination of sun, surf, and sand that can induce such calming effects? Let’s dip into the physiological impacts of beachgoing. The health benefits are more profound than you may expect.

1. Negative Ions

Even as we approach the shore, we are bombarded by negatively charged particles called ions. These ions are a product of the shearing forces of water at work in the pounding ocean surf. Negative ions have been demonstrated to improve many biomarkers that affect mood and well-being. Ions can bind with and remove particulate matter such as dust, pollen, and other allergens, reducing allergy symptoms.

2. Positive Ions

The electromagnetic influences (cell phones, computers, appliances) that typically surround us emit positive ions which can build up in our body. As your toes sink into the sand, there’s another electrical phenomenon at work. Walking barefoot (also called “grounding”) allows this charge buildup to dissipate into the earth, lowering the oxidizing effects of positive ions.

3. Solar radiation

We’ve been cautioned to stay out of the sun to avoid potential skin-damaging effects. Sadly, this has led people to miss the many health benefits of reasonable exposure. The sun shining on our skin encourages the release of nitric oxide (NO), facilitating blood vessel expansion. Elevated NO is associated with reduced blood pressure and may reduce cardiovascular stress. Amounts vary based on several factors (skin tone, age, health history, location, etc.), but aim for 5-30 minutes of mid-day sun, several times per week.

4. Broad spectrum wavelengths

Natural light contains many wavelengths of electromagnetic spectra. The quality of light that reaches our eyes has regulatory influence through its effects on the pineal gland, a small organ located deep within the brain. The pineal gland is critical to balancing our chemistry and biorhythms, striving for a physiological state known as “homeostasis.”

Listen to Maine Public Radio’s story on Maine beaches at


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Queirós CS, Freitas JP. Sun Exposure: Beyond the Risks. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2019 Oct 31;9(4):249-252. doi: 10.5826/dpc.0904a01. PMID: 31723456; PMCID: PMC6830553.

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About the Author

Joel Hall

Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness Staff

At Coastal, Joel is our go-to guy for anything related to supplementation and the complex role nutrients play in every bodily function. Although he may be reserved, helping people find their way to optimal health drives what he does. If you see him staring intently at his computer screen, he’s most likely researching something that most of us can only partly understand. He loves sharing his accumulated knowledge and spends as much time as necessary to explain things in a way to help you make good health decisions. He's been working in the wellness arena since the early 2000's and has been in the pursuit of nutritional knowledge since way before that. You can find him behind the wellness desk Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information read our profile on Joel.


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