5 Fantastic Health Benefits of Taking a Vacation

A friend (and client sent) me an article relating all the health benefits of taking a vacation. Health benefits of vacationing? Why hadn’t I put that together before? It all makes sense now…why I’m so relaxed after a vacation…and happy…and ready to take on the next big project and…

A study a few years ago by Glassdoor indicated that in the United States the average employee only takes about half (54%) of his or her vacation…and from those that do take vacation, about 66% work while on vacation. I can honestly say that in our house, yep, “we” have definitely been known to work on vacation. I know, I know, that has got to stop if we want to reap all of these benefits of traveling.

According to Forbes, there are not only health benefits to taking a vacation, but benefits to the employer, too. Those benefits include: greater employee retention, higher productivity, and stronger workplace morale. So taking a vacation is not only good for your health, but it’s good for your employer…sounds like a good reason to take those vacation days.

1. Better Brain Function

There have been many studies recently on how to improve brain function and decrease your risk of dementia. The things that often are mentioned with better brain function are:

  • Eating healthier
  • Exercise
  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Learning and experiencing new things

Eating Healthier

Photo Credit: Disney Destinations

I can hear you now…I’m on vacation, I am a gluttonous eater when I’m on vacation. But in today’s world where the travel industry is catering to the “foodie” generation, healthy options abound.

Disney is known for offering its travelers menus for all sorts of diets: nut-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, sugar-free, dairy-free…the options are endless. Simply ask your server know what your dietary restrictions and preferences are, and they are (usually) happy to oblige.

Cruise lines are doing all they can to join “foodie” trend. On our recent cruise the menus were marked with a key at the bottom so you would know which items were dairy-free, vegan, etc. The all-inclusive resorts have hopped on the band wagon and most of them proudly advertise on their websites all of the healthy options.

Of course, if you want to indulge in a delectable dessert, no one’s gonna stop you.

Exercise

Whether or not you exercise on vacation is up to you. But I find that when I’m on vacation that I’m personally more active day in and day out.

Cruise ships offer unlimited opportunities to stay active. Most cruise ships have a gym, walking track, dancing, and pools…while the larger ships offer activities like yoga classes, Zumba, miniature golf…the list goes on and on.

Did you know the average person walks approximately 9 miles a day while experiencing the Walt Disney World theme parks? Personally, we average between 5 to 7 miles a day in the parks (and I consider us taking things at a “slower” pace).

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

I must admit that I almost never sleep well the first night of vacation. It takes a night for my body to get used to the time difference, new bed, sounds that are different from my room at home, etc. That being said, as a vacation gets underway, I find myself sleeping better and relaxing easier. Whenever I’m near the sound of water at a beach or on a ship, I can drift off to sleep in seconds. I’m getting drowsy just thinking about napping on a balcony of a cruise ship as we’re headed to our next destination in the Caribbean. Zzzzz……

Researchers have found that vacations help interrupt the habits that disrupt our sleep. When on vacation, there is no working late into the night or watching a back-lit screen before bed. Vacations help reduce anxiety and tension and helps your body to learn to reset your sleep pattern.

Learning and Experiencing New Things

The Roman Forum, Italy

Did you know that one of the best things you can do for brain health is to learn and experience new things. When you are young, your brain is constantly learning and experiencing new things. Learning and experiencing things allows your brain to make new connections and improves cognitive functioning.

Go ahead. I’m giving you permission to experience new destinations, learn a few words in a language, do some research for a future trip. It’s all good for your brain!

2. Helps Your Heart Stay Healthy

One of the many factors linked to a reduction in heart disease is taking an annual vacation. An article titled “Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial: Risk Factor Changes and Mortality Results” (published by The Journal of American Medical Association) shared the results of a study that indicated that men who take frequent annual vacations were 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease than their counterparts who didn’t take an annual vacation.

Another study, titled the Framingham Heart Study, also found that negative effects on the heart are found when women do not take vacations. In this 20-year study, researchers found that women took vacations once every six years or less were almost 8 times more likely to have a heart attack or develop coronary heart disease than women who took at least 2 vacations a year. (Yes, I said 2 vacations a year…give yourself permission to vacation more than once every year.)

3. Improves Personal Relationships

This is one of my favorite benefits. My personal motto is: The Family That Plays Together Stays Together.” I say this all the time and am so grateful for all the bonding experiences I’ve had with my family and extended family. So…many…awesome…memories that bind us together!

A study was conducted by Purdue University and published in the Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research. The study found that families who take vacations together undergo shared experiences, communication, and togetherness. All of these things contribute to overall well-being and positive relationships.

4. Mental Health Benefits

Often when we experience things that make you feel like you’re being adventurous and trying something new, your brain will give you a nice boost of dopamine (that hormone and neutransmitter that makes you feel good). Find a vacation destination where you can experience things outside your normal day-to-day routine…hiking, snorkeling, zip lining, the experience choices are endless.

In addition, often when you’re on vacation, you are outdoors while you enjoy your activities. This gives you an increase in Vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to play an important role in regulating a person’s mood and helping to ward off depression.

5. Reduces Stress

Taking a vacation can drastically reduce stress. In today’s world, it’s easy to feel stressed when they have so many responsibilities pulling at them. Taking a vacation can help reduce that stress because it stimulates the brain to produce more serotonin and relax your mind. It’s no secret that often after a good vacation, people feel happier and they are ready to get back to work.

Vacations May Help You to Live a Longer and Healthier Life

It should be no surprise that after reading through all of the physical as well as mental benefits of taking a vacation to find out that European countries where workers receive up to 30 days of vacation per year enjoy longer life expectancy and lowered health costs.

“Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted.” -Denis Waitley

Don’t let your health and time with loved ones become depleted. Take that vacation and encourage those around you to do so, too. Share this article with anyone you think could benefit from taking a vacation!

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