Why travel is good for your health

The feel-good factor of travel is hard to ignore. (Rawpixel pic)

Anyone who has travelled will be fully aware of the pleasure and enrichment it brings. But what about the health aspects?

According to a study by the Global Commission on Ageing and Transamerica Centre for Retirement Studies, research resoundingly highlights the positive effects of travel on physical and cognitive well-being.

The researchers determined that the benefits of travel were almost immediate: 89% of respondents noted a significant decrease in stress.

Women who enjoyed a holiday at least twice a year had a considerably lower chance of developing a heart attack or suffering from coronary death compared with those who only travelled every six years or more.

As for the men, it was found that those who didn’t take an annual holiday had a 2% greater risk of death, and a 30% higher risk of death from heart disease.

Countless other scientific studies have drawn the same conclusions: the feel-good factor of travel is indisputable.

Here are just some of the reasons why:

Mind and body

Travel is the ideal medicine for easing mental stress and revitalising the body. Taking a break from the everyday pressures of life in a different environment is ideal for recharging your batteries.

You’ll return to work, or family commitments, with a spring in your step, a clear brain full of new ideas, and a renewed sense of enthusiasm.

It obviously helps if you leave your laptop behind, and the smartphone in the hotel room while you lounge around the pool.

But even if you have to (or want to) stay connected, just being in a more relaxed setting can help lower cortisol levels and give you a greater sense of serenity.

These improvements will often last for weeks after your return – hopefully almost taking you up to your next trip abroad.

An aromatherapy massage is a great way to soothe tired muscles and relax your mind. (Rawpixel pic)

Spas and sports

Most major hotel chains, and even more intimate boutique establishments, offer guests excellent spas, treatments and fitness amenities.

No longer are you limited to long days of relaxing on a sunbed sipping cocktails (OK, that’s still an attractive option), and gentle evenings strolling into town for a gin tonic.

In between, you can pamper yourself with a sauna, a revitalising ice bath, an aromatherapy massage and a hydrating body scrub with seaweed.

Maybe even a session in the gym to keep everything moving smoothly after several hours in a semi-horizontal and mostly prone position. Travel doesn’t get much healthier than that!

Sport is also a fun way to stay active and fully capitalise on the health benefits of travel.

A golfing trip with friends, for example, ideally coinciding with a major tournament being held in the same area so you can pick up some first-hand tips.

Nature and therapy

For a more intense health experience, ecotherapy is another holiday option many travellers are taking up.

Also known as green or earth-centred therapy, this can involve anything from gardening in the backyard at home or walking in the local park to hiking in the Himalayas or forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) in Japan.

Studies have found that these kinds of activities, in a natural setting, can reduce depression, and improve mood and motivation.

Depending on the level of commitment, and individual characteristics, ecotherapy can also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases, and can improve sleep.

Being at one with nature can help reduce depression and improve your mood. (Rawpixel pic)

Cultural and creative

On just about every level, travel will enhance your appreciation and tolerance of other cultures and ethnicities. It provides you with an enriching new perspective on distinctive lifestyles, including a greater propensity to savour diverse local cuisines. You can then take home a couple of recipes to dazzle friends at the next dinner party.

Observing other norms and habits first-hand will also often provide a healthy new mindset for dealing with outstanding issues back at home or inspiring positive changes to your normal way of life.

Creativity is another personal aspect that can receive a welcome boost. Not restricted to the confines of an office desk, and being exposed to distant museums, galleries, workshops, or architectural masterpieces, can all provide refreshing insights and inspiration.

In addition, your communication skills are given a great workout. Whether it is dusting off your school French in a patisserie or chatting to a new friend in your own language, travelling gives you the opportunity to meet different people and learn more about their distinctive outlooks on life.

Young travellers

Finally, adults are not the only ones to benefit from travel. A study involving teachers concluded that youngsters who travelled developed greater independence, self-esteem and confidence, enjoyed better adaptability and sensitivity, and had improved self-expression.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the world’s first blog psychologist and founder of Psychreg. As an international mental health advocate, he speaks at various conferences around the world and believes that everyone experiencing a mental health problem deserves both support and respect.