5 Ways Science Says Travel Is Good for Your Health

By Nick Wharton on 21 April 2016 0 comments

People have always said that travel is food for the soul, and that it broadens the mind, but what does it do for one's health? Recent studies have shown that taking annual vacations and spending more time on the road can reduce heart disease, increase libido, and even lengthen lifespans, in some cases. Here are five ways that travel can be beneficial for your health, with the scientific studies to back them up.

1. It Prevents Dementia and Alzheimer's

The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, the U.S. Travel Association, and the Global Commission on Aging conducted a study in late 2015 and their findings were staggering. A poll revealed that travel can significantly reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease, especially in retirees.

Travel helps the brain by forcing it to deal with new environments, smells, scents, and sounds. By shocking your brain with new experiences on a regular basis, you can effectively build new synapses. One of the best cerebral exercises is culture shock. By traveling more frequently, you're essentially giving your brain a workout and helping it to build these vital connections on a daily basis.

Alzheimer's is known to destroy synapses, but if you have a healthy brain with strong cellular formations and a thick cortex (such as one built by frequent culture shock), the effects of the disease can be minimized or even halted, in some cases.

2. It Can Save Your Heart

According to the results of the same study mentioned above, men who don't take annual vacations are at a 20% greater risk of death from any cause and a 30% higher risk of dying from heart disease. Women were also tested and the outcome showed that women who travel less than once every six years are at a substantially higher risk of heart attack when compared to those who travel twice a year.

A second study, known as the Framingham Heart Study, tested women between the ages of 45-64 and asked them how often they traveled. And 20 years later, they followed up with the same women and they found that those who had said they traveled more often were less likely to have heart problems. They also found that travel helped with blood pressure and overall health.

3. It Spurs Your Creativity

Now that we understand how travel can build new synapses in the brain to help reduce the risk of mental disorders like Alzheimer's and dementia, it's no surprise that exercising your brain can also increase your overall mental health, and even help your creativity.

Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and travel, says that "Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms." In other wards, travel helps us recognize connections between things we normally wouldn't connect.

His most recent study, conducted in February of 2015, showed that the more countries people have lived and traveled in, the more creative their minds tend to be. Galinsky claims that the effects are not so cut and dry, however.

He states that the key to mental stimulation through travel is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. A person who lives in another country and actively engages in the culture will likely enjoy a stronger creative boost than someone who simply travels to lay on a beach.

He says: "Going to Cancun for spring break probably won't make a person any more creative, but going to Cancun and living with local fishermen might."

4. It Helps You Be More Productive

You may think that working through your holidays is actually helping you to get ahead, but studies have shown that the exact opposite is true. People who take less than three holiday days per year, are far less likely to complete their annual goals.

According to a study conducted on 971 employees by the U.S. Travel Association in October 2013, Americans who haven't taken all of their holidays tend to have lower productivity, poorer morale, and decreased health.

Unfortunately, the same study showed that 34% of employees said that their employer didn't encourage them to take time off and 17% of managers surveyed considered their employees "less dedicated" if they chose to take vacations.

This national disconnect is a large part of the reason why hardworking North Americans consider Europeans to be "lazy," when in fact, their extended holidays probably make them more productive at work.

5. It Reduces Stress and Increases Happiness

We all know that a stressful life can lead to all sorts of health complications. By taking annual vacations, you are more likely to relieve the stress and tension of your day-to-day life, making you feel more rejuvenated after returning to work.

The same study conducted by the Global Commission on Aging, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, and the U.S. Travel Association, showed that nine out of 10 people showed signs of significant stress reduction within just a day or two of being on vacation.

Nearly 90% of those people tested also showed signs of having a more positive outlook on life and on the world.

Another study conducted by the San Francisco State University revealed that people are actually happier when they spend their money on travel, rather than material possessions. One study showed that even though people thought that a purchase would bring them happiness, most respondents reported that spending money on life experiences actually ended up making them happier than material purchases and was "the better value."

Who doesn't want to be happy and healthy? Travel is the cure to many ailments, not the least of which are naivety and intolerance. By traveling more, you will broaden your mind and open your heart, but you can potentially extend your life and prevent deadly disease, as well. So get out there and explore... It's good for you.

How has travel improved your life? Share with us in the comments.

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