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Gone to the Beach

With the summer months approaching, I can’t help but think of the nice weather, sunshine, and, of course, the beach. Millions of people flock to the beach each year for so many reasons, but do they ever really stop and think beyond relaxation and a nice tan? You might be surprised by the connection you actually make with the beach. This article may give you some insight into why we are so drawn to the shores. The beach literally sings to our subconscious mind as well as our physical being. Let me explain…

We must first accept that the beach represents the coming together of two elements, water & earth. In actuality, it is the coming together of three elements: water, earth and air. This has great meaning to practitioners of Chinese medicine and to many religions of the world. It is believed that there is a more intense collection of energy at the threshold of these elements, thus providing an atmosphere for healing and a spiritual connection to the universe. Scientifically speaking, the water in the ocean contains billions of salt molecules, giving it a strong ionic quality. In other words, the ocean possesses a strong electrical charge. With all of these electrically charged particles constantly crashing on the beach, is there any question why we feel such a rush as we approach the water? The waves are no joke either; they can also provide a good test of balance. Believe me, trying to maintain your ground is very tough against any body of water. The temperature change our body must react to brings me to the next concept: thermotherapy.

The erratic and sudden temperature change that takes place in our body when we first enter the water actually exercises our capillaries, unless you are in one of the Caribbean bodies of water where the water is so warm it’s like a bath. Capillaries are one of the smallest tributaries of our arterial system. The cold to hot and hot to cold contrasts actually dilate and constrict our arterial system. This type of treatment, called contrast therapy, is more common in the Europe and countries of the Far-East. What is more common to us are the relaxing sounds of the crashing waves. People purchase audio-tapes and CD’s of the beach sounds, just to try and tap into that feeling of being there. It is well known that constant rhythmic sounds, or continuous oscillations, relax the Central Nervous System (CNS). Whether it’s the sound of seagulls or the random ever-crashing waves, we lay on the beach hypnotizing our mind, which then allows us to relax our body.

Appreciating the CNS, I now focus on the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). The PNS is responsible for communicating information from the outside world into the CNS. The hot sand that envelopes your feet stimulates millions of skin receptors, providing an overload of input for your brain. The sand has also been well-known for its ability to pumice your feet as you walk around. This neural stimulation is excellent because it exercises the connections between the CNS and the PNS, providing constant attunement of these nerve cells. Besides tactility, the proprioceptive and kinesthetic systems are awakened. With the uneven surface of the sand, your body is forced to make constant corrections in order to remain upright and well-balanced. This can obviously be very dangerous for a post-operative patient, but for the uninjured, and even the elderly, the sand can create a perfect environment for goal-oriented balance training. The repetitive co-contractions of muscles around a joint ensures stability and approximation. Barefoot walking on the soft sand is a great way to strengthen the muscles of the feet. Walking by the shore or on the soft sand can provide a great stimulus for exercise, as well as a good shock-absorbing surface.

Now, take a look at the brightest star in the sky, the sun. Not only does it provide for life on earth, but it provides so many positive qualities. Here are some, just to name a few: First, it is accepted that with twenty minutes of sunlight, we receive all the Vitamin D needed for the day. Moreover, Vitamin D is necessary for the development of strong bone, and is also used in the synthesis of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is necessary for vision, maintenance of skin, teeth, and hair, as well as immune, reproductive, and cardio-vascular function. The sun also increases the body’s core temperature, providing an external warm-up. Just don’t over-do it in hot environments. Drink plenty of fluids, monitor your urine, and wear sunscreen. As your body sizzles, so does your skin. What we know of as a tan is really our body protecting us from the sun. We produce a pigment in our skin called Melanin, which actually comes from the Greek word Melas meaning black or dark. Although a tan may look great, without protection you severely increase your risk of skin cancer. When you want to be cooled off or just refreshed, just jump in the water.

Aquatic therapy and water-based treatment have been around since the Greek and Roman times. The properties of the water such as buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, density, surface tension, and drag are all variables when considering exercise in the water. The salt water has long been known for its ability to help skin-related wounds. The salt water has a way of cleansing and debriding the skin. Water submersion also is known to physiologically lower your heart rate by 7-15 beats. The hydrostatic pressure actually helps the heart beat, thus decreasing its work capacity. Another attribute of the water is the reduction of stress on the body. When you are in the water up to your belly button, you are reducing your body weight (BW) by about 50%. If you are in up to your solar plexus, you have 75% of your BW reduced. Finally, if you are in up to your neck (no pun intended), you are only bearing 10% of your body weight. This reduction in force relieves pressure on all joints and can be very therapeutic for patients with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and many more chronic pain sufferers.

It will be hard to keep your balance with all the waves hitting you on the way out but, if you do so, the reward is worth it. As you have read, the beach atmosphere can provide an assortment of treatment and therapy for the body. Just take the proper precautions regarding skin care and hydration, and I am sure it will be a very positive and uplifting experience for the body, mind, and soul.