Do we really need to persuade you? Most people love to travel, and think of the health benefits! Whether you are on the beach, swimming in the ocean, or exploring an historic city – you will be doing something! And an active body leads to an active mind.
It also allows ‘me-time’; and disconnects your digital life. How wonderful to exchange the inbox for a cup of what you fancy, no distractions and a leisurely stroll with your loved one on the beach or in the park.
So take a trip somewhere. Anywhere. It doesn’t have to be thousands of miles away. It can be in the neighbourhood. The whole point is to experience change and to do something different.
The psychological and physical benefits are undeniable. It gives an all important shift in perspective, a chance to break away from responsibility, to try new things, meet new people, exercise and bask in the sunshine, and to come home renewed with incredible stories to tell!
You may not be scuba-diving, kayaking , skiing, or even hiking, OK, but a daily swim will do you the world of good – not to mention all the walking you will do whilst exploring new places – even shopping! You will soon clock up the extra steps on the way to a healthy heart.
New experiences, new foods, new people, new places, all take us away from the day-to-day stresses and strains of daily life. It’s difficult to be stressed when you’re laughing with friends or hurtling down the highest water chute at your favourite theme park. And you’ll return home relaxed , refreshed and rejuvenated with lots of new memories.
Whether your trip is an adventurous one or simply taking it easy, you’re more likely to be outside in nature, on the beach, in the countryside, or on the mountain top. The benefits are manifold when spending time in nature and breathing fresh air, not to mention the D-vitamins you’ll soak up from the sun, as long you protect yourself accordingly.
The Best Medicine
Travel is good for the health; that’s the finding of a study linking travel to decreased risks of heart attack and depression, and even the promotion of brain health. The Global Commission on Ageing and Transamerica Centre for Retirement Studies, in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, has released research that shows travel offers the same sort of physical and cognitive benefits as crossword puzzles or museum visits. According to the study:
• Women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared with women who vacationed at least twice a year.
• Men who did not take an annual vacation were shown to have a 20% higher risk of death and about a 30% greater risk of death from heart disease.
• Benefits of travel are almost immediate. After only a day or two, 89% of respondents saw significant drops in stress.
The study also noted that 59% of respondents dream of travelling during their retirement, and that the most impactful trips are those spent with family and friends. And, yes, researchers did account for factors such as income levels and pre-existing poor health.
Mental Health Benefits
There are mental health benefits too. The Mind Body Centre at the University of Pittsburgh surveyed 1,399 participants recruited for studies on cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and other conditions, and found that leisure activities, including taking vacations, contributed to higher positive emotional levels and less depression among the participants. Other benefits include lower blood pressure and smaller waistlines.
Women especially seem to benefit from taking vacations, according to an earlier 2005 study conducted by Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal, women who vacationed less often than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and increased stress than women who took breaks at least twice a year.
Travel takes us to new places filled with new stimuli, and this opens up a world of wider mental associations. Our own lives may look quite different when they’re miles behind us, and we see our challenges in a new light. We can also see more possibilities than we’d previously thought; and find that there are different ways to approach our day to day challenges.
Being exposed to new cultures and people, sights, sounds and places will require mental processing and filing, and after stepping away from home for a while, you’ll return with renewed energy and a healthier perspective, ready to take on the next big project. Travelling exposes us to these different concepts in a way that stirs the imagination and stimulates our thinking. The experience can help to loosen rigid cognitive habits that may have been holding us back. New doors open, and the world suddenly seems filled with endless possibility once more.
Stepping outside our usual routine is therefore beneficial for both mind and body, and although the actual getting there may be stressful, the long-lasting benefits of visiting somewhere new, far outweigh the costs and time of travel. Of course, the benefits also apply if you stay at home and do something different.
The great travel writer Pico Lyer said: “Travel is not really about leaving our homes, but leaving our habits.”