There’s growing evidence that vacations are good for your health. Taking time off to travel is for most of us a form of reward for the hard work, stress and commitment to our daily routines. We all realise how vital it is to recharge our batteries and break out of the 9 to 5 hedonistic treadmill. But vacations are not simply a luxury – a way of rewarding ourselves for hours spend at work. There is increasing evidence that they really are good for your health. I’ve already tackled the subject of the impact traveling can have on your mental health and creativity levels, but there are studies that prove that traveling and taking time off is good for many other aspects of your health.
Elaine Eaker – president of Eaker Epidemiology, a private research company – with a team of other researches conducted a study that provides some interesting findings. The study, published in 1992, used information from the Framingham Heart Study, which started in 1948. Eaker and researchers looked at questionnaires women in the study had filled out over 20 years about how often they took vacations. The study showed clearly how body reacts to stress of not taking time off. Women who took a vacation once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year. Elaine Eaker says that, “This is real evidence that vacations are important to your physical health.” Another study that looked into the effects of not taking vacations looked at 12,000 men over nine years who were at high risk for coronary heart disease. It was published in 2000 and shows that those who failed to take annual vacations had a 21 percent higher risk of death from all causes and were 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack.
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Even if you don’t have heart problems, a vacation of at least one or preferably two weeks can be more than just a fun escapade. They can help you relax and sleep better. as one more study focused on sleep quality proves. In 2006, Mark Rosekind, president and chief scientist at Alertness Solutions, was commissioned by Air New Zealand to see if he could scientifically measure the benefit of a vacation. In his study 15 people who were flying from the West Coast of the United States to New Zealand for vacations lasting from a week to 12 days were asked to wear a wrist device. This device would monitor quantity and quality of sleep for three days before the trip, during the vacation and three days afterward. In addition people taking part kept a sleep diary and took a vigilance test to determine how good their reactions were before, during and after the holiday. The study was completed with the participants also being hooked up to a brain monitor during the 12-hour flight. Also other variables, like health, jobs and gender were factored in to give the full picture. The study proved that after a few days on vacation people were averaging an hour more of good quality sleep. These gains were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during the vacations they had taken. Rosekind adds that, “When they got home, they were still sleeping close to an hour more, and their reaction time was 30 to 40 percent higher than it had been before the trip.”
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Restful vacations can relieve stress, stave off burnout, and enhance overall health and well-being. But they can only do the trick when you not only physically remove yourself from the daily routines, but go away mentally as well. Thinking of your agenda, projects and even the most amazing challenges at work won’t help. Checking your smartphone every few hours won’t either. You don’t have to feel guilty, though. Workers who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts. In fact, a study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that the psychological benefits that come with more frequent vacations lead to increased quality of life, and that can lead to increased quality of work on the job. And if that was not enough, the study also proved that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages. Well, it really seems that next time you start to hesitate when booking that time off, you have a lot of scientific data to back up your holiday plan. It just does not only feel good – it is good for you to travel.