6 Reasons Why Travel is the 'Best Medicine'
Are you missing travel? Evidence tells us that travel benefits us more than getting a fresh tan, new social media posts of us having fun in some exotic location, or even new stories to entertain our friends and family.
When we had the privilege of unrestricted travel, we took for granted all the benefits it brought, including real benefits to our health that research was beginning to reveal.
The old cliché that laughter is the best medicine could really be said of travel. Maybe not quite a magic potion, like the fun image above suggests, but something that explains how our missing travel is not just nostalgia.
Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host of BestTrip TV, explains 6 reasons how a return to travel will help our health as well as our enjoyment of life.
Recently, I was the guest expert invited to speak about ‘Travel in the Age of COVID’ on a radio show and podcast called Aging Better in Uncertain Times, and it encouraged me for a couple of reasons.
Not only did the conversation between me, broadcaster Gord Martineau and Dr. Fabio Varlese include valuable information about how to stay healthy while traveling, which you might expect, we also talked about why travel itself is a pursuit that’s good for us.
It inspired me to gather some of the latest information that makes the health ‘case’ for travel. It…
1. Boosts Your Immune System
My farmer grandfather used to say every kid should ‘eat a peck of dirt’ before they were 10 to stay healthy. Granddad was on to something. Research shows being in contact with new bacteria can help develop stronger antibodies, make your gut stronger, and build your body’s resistance to diseases.
Of course you should continue practicing hand hygiene on the road, but studies suggest exposure to new environments help make our bodies adapt and makes us stronger.
2. Increases Our Activity
Working from home likely isn’t doing much to help us achieve our goals to move more. Travel does.
A new environment encourages us to get out and experience it, whether it’s walking the streets of a new city, along the beach of our resort, cycling through vineyards, or even trying a more active or extreme sport. Movement is health, and nothing gets us more active than a new destination.
3. Strengthens Our Hearts
First, they told us moderate amounts of wine and chocolate were good for our hearts. You can add travel to that list, too. Life doesn’t get much better than this, does it?
Heart health and travel have been studied in both women and men. Reportedly, women who vacation twice a year are substantially less likely to suffer a heart attack than women who travel only once every few years. Men who skip an annual vacation are at a 20% higher risk of death overall, and that jumps to a 30% higher chance of dying from heart disease.
Another long-term study revealed that women in their middle years who travel more have less likelihood of having heart problems 20 years later, and the same study found travel also helped with blood pressure.
4. Supports Our Brains
We want our brains firing on all cylinders now… and protected from ailments like dementia in our later years. Happily, travel helps our brains throughout our lives.
New experiences, which are the essence of travel, including new scents, sounds and minor challenges like navigating a different town or language, give our brains a workout, and that is good for creativity and mental health in the short term, and the new connections we build in our brain as a result of processing new sensations help reduce the risk of dementia and even Alzheimer’s in the long term.
Researchers say the more engagement and immersion we have in a new location and culture, the more our brains have to adapt, and the more powerful the brain stimulation results.
5. Reduces Stress and Depression
This one is a no-brainer. You can tell – and research agrees – that taking a vacation makes you feel less anxious, better rested, and lifts your overall mood. Studies confirm these effects linger for weeks after our return home, reinforcing how important regular vacations are for our mental well-being.
One study revealed 90% of people showed significant stress reduction after just the first couple of days of a vacation, along with a more positive outlook on life.
Another showed that women who vacation twice a year are less likely to suffer from depression than those who take a holiday less than once every couple of years.
6. Increases Happiness
I don’t want all this good news about the health benefits of travel to actually depress you, considering we can’t do all the traveling we want right now.
You’ll be happy to hear that even planning a trip provides a direct increase in happiness. Anticipating your vacation, one study shows, is much more powerful than the anticipation of acquiring objects.
So planning a trip during our pandemic downtime can help us stay cheerful and happy until we can travel again. Crack out the guidebooks along with that wine and chocolate and here's to your good health!
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