The beach as a setting for families’ health promotion: A qualitative study with parents and children living in coastal regions in Southwest England

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This study explores the neglected issue of how families engage with beach environments in their local areas and use them in health promoting ways. Fifteen families with children aged 8–11 years living in coastal regions in Southwest England participated in individual semi-structured interviews. The findings indicate that beaches encouraged families to be physically active. Although families valued the opportunities for physical activity and active play afforded by beaches, the key health benefits emphasised were psychological, including experiencing fun, stress relief and engagement with nature. Increased social and family interaction was also highlighted as benefits. Despite perceiving health benefits, not all families regularly visited the beach. Barriers to visits included parents having limited time, cost of parking, lack of car access and cold weather. Parents played a key role in enabling visits by choosing to share these environments with their children. The social dimension of visits also encouraged families to make regular trips. The findings support the use of beach environments to promote families’ health and wellbeing and positive relationships with nature.HighlightsFamilies report children engage in a variety of physical activities at the beach.Families are active together as parents join in activities with their children.Families perceive beach visits as having health benefits for children and parents.The primary health benefits perceived by parents and children are psychological.Multiple factors act as barriers or enablers to families’ engagement with local beaches.

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