The symptoms of depression sneak up on us ever so slowly….manifesting as disturbed sleep, reduced energy, appetite changes, body aches, and increased pain perception, all of which can easily result in less motivation to exercise.
As technicians with Achieve TMS, we have seen how taking care of the body can improve the depressive symptoms. One critical tool is exercise. Exercising starts a biological cascade of events that results in many health benefits, such as protection against heart disease and diabetes, improved sleep, and the lowering of blood pressure. High-intensity exercise releases the body’s feel-good chemicals or endorphins, resulting in the “runner’s high” that joggers report. But for most of us, the real value is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time. That kind of activity spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. The resulting improvement in brain function makes you feel better.
Living on the Central Coast of California, we have amazing weather and many opportunities to be active. Many of us can be on a local beach in less than 30 minutes’ drive. One prominent stretch of our lovely coast is actually comprised of 4 beaches,: Oceano, Pismo, Shell and Avila Beaches — prime walking spots in our backyard. And our favorite way to walk is barefoot! Who wouldn’t enjoy a barefoot stroll along a sandy beach?
It’s no secret that going barefoot on sand has its appeal, but did you know it also has many health benefits? Here are a few reasons why walking and running “unclod” on sand is a great idea:
1. Strength Training
You know that mild struggle you feel when take a step forward in dry sand and your foot sinks a bit trying to gain traction? That’s your muscles at work! It takes 2–3 times more energy to walk or run on sand than it does to move at the same pace on a hard surface. This extra work you are doing is strengthening the muscles everywhere from your feet to your back, especially your calves, quadriceps and glutes. The dryer the sand, the harder the workout!
2. Calorie Burn
The energy used to strengthen those muscles has to come from somewhere. The more work and energy the greater the calorie burn!
If your feet are confined to tight or constricting shoes all day, kicking them off and letting your toes move and stretch out naturally is a great way to give yourself some relief. Sand conforms to your feet without restricting them, so it’s almost like a walking foot massage. And if your stroll or run takes you past a body of water , then the sound of waves and seagulls will help your stress fade away too.
The theory behind grounding, also known as earthing, is that electrical energy from the earth can be absorbed through your feet when you walk barefoot (especially on wet or moist sand) and lead to a multitude of health benefits. Even if you take this theory with a grain of sand—ha ha—few people would disagree that turning off your cell phone and walking barefoot is a meditative activity that will help you feel mentally grounded and centered. Don’t underestimate the benefits of a clear and relaxed mind!
5. Natural Exfoliation
Who needs to spend big bucks at a spa when you can revive your feet for free? Wet sand acts as an exfoliant that helps peel dead skin cells from your body. Try it out by walking in loose sand and then wandering into the path of shallow waves from time to time to wash it off. It will work for the rest of your body, too!
6. Vitamin and Mineral Boost
Vitamin D is obviously plentiful on any sunny beach, and it has been shown to help improve calcium absorption, autoimmune response, and mood. Increased sunlight also leads to reduced stress and improved sleep and appetite. If you’re on a salty beach, then the water also contains a multitude of healthy minerals like magnesium, potassium and iodine. Many saltwater minerals are used in topical anti-aging products, so why not step into the waves for a bit and get a free dose?
Even if you aren’t on the beautiful beaches of our Central Coast, getting out and getting moving will help improve both your outlook and your health. Simply walking around the block will help and over time that one block will turn into 10!
Here’s to your health!