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The Mind & Body Benefits of our Beach Walks, According to Science.

Let’s get straight to it: there’s a reason we set up our Norfolk Retreat just a short walk from the beach, and it’s not just because those sunset reflections are next-level stunning -- it's also because sand is kind of epic when it comes to maximising the benefits of exercise. Simply strolling along the beach comes with a whole bunch of mind and body goodness.

But don't just take our word for it because, according to a bunch of scientific studies, training on a constantly shifting and unstable surface, such as sand, can dramatically boost your aerobic capacity, improve your explosive power, see you jump higher and help you sprint faster, all while reducing your risk of injury, minimising that post-workout ache and burn a serious amount of calories when compared to training on a harder surface, like that stuff gym floors are made from. Basically, this all adds up to a pretty badass exercise experience, according to science. That’s why all of our retreats – from St. Tropex to the Algarve – are located just a few miles from the beach.

So with that in mind, here’s a quick look at six of the biggest benefits behind a beach walk:

Benefit No1: Strength + Conditioning

Beach strolls are one epic form of exercise. Just walking across sand requires more effort than walking on a hard surface, which will not only help strengthen your ankles, hips and core, but will also lower your injury risk. Step it up a bit though and you have the ultimate piece of strength and conditioning equipment.

No dumbbells. No kettlebells. No resistance bands, rowing machines, pull up bars or even a gym membership. All you need to boost your fitness, strengthen your muscles and increase your endurance is your wits, a dollop of creativity and the finely crushed rock n’ mineral particles washed ashore by Mother Nature.

Benefit No2: Calorie-Burner

Walking anywhere is beneficial, but walking on sand is proven to burn 2.7 times more energy than pounding the pavement. That’s because your body is having to exert more effort to balance, move and lift your feet out of the loose surface.

To lay that out in Layman terms, where your usual half-an-hour walk will burn off around 170 calories, that same 30-minute walk along the beach will burn more than 400. And that’s in the summer. Embracing the elements by taking a brief winter’s walk along the beach is a great way to reduce your visceral fat even further, which is all thanks to your basal metabolic rate increasing dramatically in colder temperatures.

Benefit No3: Stress Relief

Research again and again and again shows that time by the beach is uber-beneficial to your mental health. It doesn’t matter whether you’re stressed out by work or just have a lot on your mind, taking the time to wander across the sand as the waves gently crash against the shore is a great way to reduce the risks of depression in everyone.

That’s because beach strolls have a way of calming the cortisol response in your brain, actively encouraging you to feel more awake and alert and alive, reducing stress and increasing your well-being. In short, booking that fitness escape isn't an indulgence or just a way to sculpt your body; it's a way to look out for your own mental well-being.

Benefit No4: Vitamin D

Before you start sharing snaps of yourself on our beach hikes with the caption ‘Vitamin Sea’, let’s dive into the true epic-ness that is Vitamin D. Yepp. Beaches are a great place to soak up that natural sunlight, our greatest source of Vit-D, which is pretty cool for anyone looking to improve their overall health.

You see, when you get outside and into the sunlight, your exposing yourself to all benefits of this awesome nutrient; benefits that involve healthier bones, a stronger immune system, an improved nervous system, greater heart health and, yup, those feel good vibes too, which can only help your mental health.

Benefit No5: Fresh Sea Air

Don’t get us wrong, there are definitely some old wives tales that don’t hold up under the microscope of science, like eating carrots will improve your eyesight or swimming after you eat will cause abdominal cramps. But sea air being good for you is as far from a myth as you can get. That’s because fresh ocean air will help keep your lung function healthy by breaking down the layer of mucus found here. How? The salt air has natural antibacterial properties known to ease up any coughing, clear irritants from your airways, and decrease sinus pressure.

Benefit No6: Feet & Back

One of the most unsung benefits of a beach walk is building strength in both your back and your feet, both of which are super-important when it comes to your balance and your posture, especially in your lower body. The way this works is simple: walking on an unstable surface, like sand, requires more balance, strength and effort, helping to strengthen your feet and stabilise the posterior chain at the lowest level.

How To Maximise The Benefits of a Beach Walk

As with every kind of exercise and every form of workout, knowing what you’re doing is the best way to get the most out of any activity and, yes, this includes something as seemingly simple as strolling across a sandy expanse. So with that in mind, here are some top tips to help you make the most of your next beach-based sweat sesh:

Start on solid ground: Before you go straight into your beach walk, run or workout, try walking on a more solid patch of ground for a few minutes first, as this will get your body moving, blood pumping and help prepare you for the less even terrain that is the beach.

Warm-up and cool-down: Every workout should start and end with some stretching, no matter what kind of workout it is, including a beach walk. This is to help you avoid an injury or even just a twinge. The ones we’d recommend bookmarking your walk-slash-run with are standing calf stretches, ankle rolls, standing quadricep stretches and bent-over hamstring stretches.

Find a variety of sand: To really push yourself, you want to walk along soft sand or, better yet, among the dunes where the terrain is undulating and the going is a lot tougher. Then, when you want to take it down a notch, head closer to the water’s edge where the sand will be firmer and you’ll find it easier to tread on.

Embrace the incline: Most beaches tend to slope toward the water. Sometimes this slope will be gentle and sometimes it will be dramatic. Now this might not sound like much, but strolling along a sloped surface (especially one made from constantly shifting sand) can increase your risk of muscle strain. To avoid this, the best thing you can do is walk in zig-zags. Will it feel weird to start with? Yeah, it will. But doing so will spread the demand on your body equally from one side to the other.

The Conclusion

The benefits of A walk on the beach is great for the body and mind. It’s a wonderful workout and is especially good for strengthening the legs, knees, and ankles. It also burns more calories than walking on flat surfaces like concrete or a treadmill. Just be sure to know your limits, especially on super steep slopes or rocky terrain.

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