For a healthy life, get out of the house

mother_son_movingA vacation can be good for renewing the mind and spirit, but there are physical health benefits as well. The Framingham Heart Study found that women age 45 to 64 who vacationed at least twice a year had a significantly lower risk of heart disease than women who hardly ever took a vacation. Another study found that regular vacations also reduced the risk of death from heart disease in men. Here are some reasons why it’s good to get on the road every once in a while.

1. A vacation typically gets your body and mind active, which is beneficial for both. Hauling luggage through the airport and hotel, climbing stairs in a park or walking along the beach, and biking through the mountains gets your heart and lungs going, which reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

2. Traveling in groups also encourages social contact, which has psychological as well as physical health benefits. Sharing new experiences with others and making new friends widens our outlook and improves our emotional well-being. Visiting relatives and friends in other cities or even other countries also expands our perspective and renews social connections. There are also educational vacations where you can get a change of scenery and learn about a new country and culture at the same time.

3. Visiting a new town and exploring an unfamiliar environment and culture provide mental stimulation. Taking in new surroundings for a while gets us out of our routine and helps stretch our minds. The activities involved with planning and taking a trip exercises our cognitive functions. Studies show that regularly engaging in new experiences like learning a foreign language, playing a musical instrument, or taking a vacation can help prevent dementia in later life.

4. Travel improves our mood and outlook. Surveys show that people who travel regularly have lower stress and better outlook on life, as well as higher confidence in their abilities. These benefits continue even after they’ve returned home.

So along with diet and exercise, you might  include regular travel in your plan for a healthy retirement. If finances are an issue, consider that you don’t have to go far or spend two weeks at a traditional vacation destination like Hawaii to reap the benefits. A short trip to visit old friends or relatives, or a jaunt to a nearby state or national park, if repeated regularly, will work just as well. You can travel off-season for savings, take advantage of senior and group discounts, and volunteer with a church or school group.


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