With summer on the way, the thoughts of many turn toward lazy days filled with sipping umbrella drinks and lounging on the beach. However, one out of every four Americans will forgo their summer vacation this year due to financial restraints. Ironically, this may make them less productive on the clock and may lead to illness. But what are the real health benefits of taking a vacation?
Vacations allow people to give their minds and bodies a much-needed break. Anecdotal evidence has long revealed taking regular breaks from the daily grind makes people feel healthier overall. Science now confirms it: Taking a vacation is good for human health.
What Are the Health Benefits of Taking a Vacation?
One of the health benefits of taking a vacation includes improving mental health. However, the healing power of a little rest and relaxation doesn’t stop there. Before nixing the idea of getting away this summer, consider all the positive health effects of taking a break.
- Vacations lower heart disease risk. Heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of both men and women in America. While many factors, such as genetics, body weight and smoking status, impact an individual’s risk of developing heart disease, chronic stress from overwork ups the chances. Plus, many who take a hard pass on the annual vay-cay adopt other less-than-healthy behaviors, such as overeating to the point of obesity, to cope with ceaseless stress.
- Vacations help crush insomnia. Everyone experiences the occasional sleepless night, but many Americans develop chronic insomnia due to constantly hopping from one activity to the next without a break. Lying awake at night impacts more than the individual plagued by the condition — being too tired behind the wheel can lead to fatal accidents. One recent survey found that one out of every four Americans admitted to falling asleep while driving at least once in the past 30 days. Taking a vacation can help sufferers get some much-needed Zs.
- Vacations strengthen the immune system. Who knew taking the family to Disney World could help ward off the common cold? Most people get outside more while on vacation than they do during the typical workweek, and spending time in nature improves immune system function. Even those suffering from autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, report feeling better after spending some time in the sun.
- Vacations may ease tummy trouble. Going on a road trip can result in downing some pretty sketchy gas station food, but those prone to stomach ulcers may feel better all the same. While scientists disagree on the role stress plays in forming ulcers, recent research suggests what happens in the stomach impacts the brain. Squeezing in well-deserved R&R certainly won’t exacerbate the condition, so why not see if taking a trip eases that bellyache?
- Vacations alleviate depression and anxiety. Getting away may not cure every mental condition, but symptoms of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety often abate while on vacation. It makes sense: These disorders create pathways in the brain that are reinforced during the daily grind, and a change in scenery can help the mind heal and make new, more positive, connections. Young people most often cite a lack of time and money as reasons for staying home, but given one in six develop an anxiety disorder, working too long without a break adds to their suffering.
Adopting a more flexible vacation policy is just one of the many things modern employers can do to improve employee health, morale and dedication. Because in addition to all the health benefits people reap from vacation, most report that taking time off improves their performance on the clock! Travel also helps people see the world in new ways, which can bolster creativity. Those who regularly take time off to recuperate from the daily hustle also report feeling happier and more satisfied with their positions overall.
How Long and How Often Do We Need to Recharge?
Considering all the health benefits of taking a vacation, why do so many Americans resist taking time off to recharge? It’s not as if the companies they work for will go out of business if they spend a week or two in Tahiti. Think of it this way: Even if Mark Zuckerberg gets abducted by aliens tonight, Facebook will be up and running tomorrow nevertheless — and no doubt busy as people spread the news through social media.
That said, do people need to take off an entire two-week block of time to recharge, or can they get the same benefits by taking the occasional long weekend? Taking any time off provides some health benefits, but science reveals most people need eight days off to get the most from their holiday.
Do people have to travel in order to reap the health benefits of taking a vacation? While travel does offer additional benefits. the trusty staycation can also result in lower blood pressure and an improved mental outlook. The trick to making at-home breaks improve health? Resist the urge to use the time to clean out closets and garages — visit a museum, catch a minor league ball game or dive deep into a novel.
Give It a Break
Everyone needs time to relax and unwind from time to time. Taking a well-deserved vacation refreshes more than just the mind — it improves physical health, too. Start planning a getaway today for a healthier, happier tomorrow.