Seaside History

“Gee, the Water’s Fine”

September 4, 2013 | by Nate Burke

Feeling melancholy? Anxiety keeping you awake? Well, perhaps you should take a cue from this photo of a happy swimmer in the 1930s. A trip to the beach and a dip in the ocean may be exactly what the doctor ordered. Recently, The Atlantic featured an article called “The Historic Healing Power of the Beach,” where the tradition of doctors prescribing an excursion to the beach is explored. Apparently, starting in the 16th century, physicians would recommend a restorative retreat to the sea for all sorts of ailments from depression to tuberculosis: “Seaside resorts offered a kind of holistic self-improvement retreat where the mind, body and soul were treated simultaneously and with equal attention. Horseback riding purged bad air, sailing calmed the nerves, dancing and dinners promoted social connections, and geologically themed beach excursions stimulated the intellect.” If you’ve been to Seaside lately, all of this sounds awfully familiar.

Even in the 16th century the doctors must have been onto something, because it was all downhill after that. Seaside resorts sprang up all over the world, and thrive to this day. Even though it seems like outdated medical advice, going to the beach to rejuvenate is far from obsolete in the eyes of modern health care. In fact, The Atlantic goes on to cite a British study on the benefits of Seaside living. Who knew vacation could be this healthy?

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