Don’t give up those vacation days just yet. Research has shown that taking a few days (or weeks) traveling can pay off long term, reducing the risk of heart attack and disease. There’s no better stress reliever than a long trip, whether you plan on flying to Europe for a Parisian adventure or driving cross-country to stop at every state landmark. Taking time off to explore a new place will not only open your mind, but it’ll extend your life–not to mention that it’ll give you something to look forward to year round.
So if you’re feeling like you’re in a slump, consider packing a bag, because these are some of the top health benefits of traveling:
1. Traveling Relieves Stress
There’s no doubt that adding an extra day to your weekend can help you recover from a particularly stressful time. It’s not just the time-off that’ll get you back into fighting form, however. You’ll want to see and do as much as you can while you’re traveling, taking in the local sights and sounds (which isn’t a bad way to get in your daily steps). And you’ll find all the exploring to be a huge stress reliever, shaking up your usual schedule and taking you far away from the everyday grind. Even taking a trip just once a year has the potential to boost overall happiness in the long term.
2. Road Trips Benefit Your Health
Some studies have shown that even something as simple as taking a road trip can improve your overall health and wellbeing. Driving a car can help boost cognitive function in older adults, but even younger adults can find Zen in driving cross-country. So now you have an excuse to load up the Mazda CX-5, load your camping gear onto the roof rack and head out for the weekend. It’s a good opportunity to take in new sights and sounds and increase your overall awareness. Plus, there are few ways to travel that are more quintessentially American than the time-tested road trip. Just be sure you’re prepped with a few podcasts and good company (maybe even the dog can join, too).
3. Stuck in a Creativity Rut? Traveling Can Fix That
You’ll inevitably have new experiences as you travel somewhere for the first time, and that’s a good thing. There’s even research to suggest a link between international travel and boost creativity. But it isn’t just about getting out of town for a few days. When you arrive in Crema, Italy, or pull up just outside Mount Rushmore to snap a few pics, you’ll want to do more than just get there. Try something new—pick an unusual location to visit, or skip the highway to take a road off the beaten path. Schedule activities that you wouldn’t otherwise try, and leave plenty of time to wander–plan on making a few unscheduled stops on your way, whether to it’s an out of the way café or a cute and kitschy highway stop. Seeing new sights, tasting foreign dishes and hearing local music can spark your creativity and benefit your mental health.
4. There’s Physical Health Benefits Too
If you’re trying to lose a few extra pounds, you’d be surprised at what a trip can do for you. You might be planning to hike the Appalachian Trail along the East Coast, or you might be planning to relax on a beach—whatever your dream vacay, you’ll be packing way more walking, running, and activity into your trip than you do in the typical workday. Maybe you’ll find yourself doing a little sunset yoga on the beach, or maybe you’ll be walking winding city streets looking for a rare bookstore. Who knows, you might find a new workout routine or favorite activity in the process. If you need some inspiration, here are some tips for exercising while on vacation.
5. It’s A Challenge for Body and Mind
One of the hardest things you can do is pack up and travel to a new place, though it’s often one of the most rewarding. It can take a lot to plan an exciting trip, but you’ll find that a vacation can challenge you in ways you hadn’t expected. Traveling to a foreign country can push you to interact and engage in ways you’ve never had to before, but traveling within the states can challenge you just as much. You’ll meet new people and see parts of the country you’ve never seen before. You might find yourself with a new appreciation for your surroundings.
6. It’ll Help You Learn New Things
Some folks do puzzles, others go for jogs. There’s plenty of things you can do to become more adaptable (and a better problem solver), but there’s one thing you may not have tried. If you’re looking to become more adaptable both in your work and personal life, you’ll likely find a trip hugely helpful. New experiences are essential to learning new flexibility in your life, and there are few experiences more novel than traveling to a different country, city or state. Traveling can help you learn a new language, new skills and new ways of thinking. You’ll be exposed to different cultures and experiences, and you’ll be pushed outside of your comfort zone.
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