UK Study Finds Coastal Living Offers Health Benefits

A UK research study has found that people who live close to the coast are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than people living inland.

Read the Report: White et al Coastal Health

The study, which was conducted by a research team at the University of Exeter Medical School, involved analysing data from more than 180,000 people living in different regions of England. The study findings support previous research work in Australia and New Zealand which found there are marked regional differences in the relationship between coastal proximity and physical activity.

Examining the amount of exercise people get through leisure activities as well as simply getting around, the study has shown that visiting the coast, rather than just living near it, is a crucial factor in stimulating physical activity.

“It’s clear that our coastal paths and beaches provide a wonderful resource for encouraging and enabling physical activity,” said Dr Mathew White, the lead author of the study. “Participants reported a number of activities from simply walking to more obvious exercise such as swimming or running.”

When the researchers broke down the national pattern by region they found the nexus between coastal proximity and increased physical activity was present in the northwest and southwest of the country but was not as evident in east coast regions.

“We’re unsure why we’re only seeing these effects in western regions,” Dr White said. “Of course, people in the east also exercise but it doesn’t seem to be so connected to coastal activities. We might have uncovered untapped potential for east coast resorts and destinations to be used to encourage exercise and promote healthy lifestyles.”

Regular exercise can lower the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression and plays an important role in keeping people healthy. Current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.

Dr Ben Wheeler, one of the paper’s co-authors said there are around 8 million people in England who live within 5km of the coast. “Combined with over 130 million visits a year from those living further inland, it’s clear that coastal locations could offer a fantastic opportunity to get more people active,” he said.

The University of Exeter researchers conclude that further work is needed to gain a better understanding of the coast’s role as a public health resource. “Whilst plenty of questions remain unanswered, our research suggests that government policy needs to ensure these natural spaces are protected and responsibly promoted,” Dr Wheeler said. More information at – (link to pdf)

Meanwhile, new analysis of census findings for England and Wales has identified several coastal communities where up to a third of the local residents are using the internet to run their businesses or work remotely from their own homes.

The study, by the Office of National Statistics, shows that a small number of coastal communities now enjoy some of the highest employment rates in the UK, which has been boosted by the increasing ability of people to work from home.

Read the Report: White et al Coastal Health