Health benefits of travelling
The money that you spend on travelling, is an investment in yourself. Sounds cliché, right?! Read that again! Well, scientists have proved that travelling has a positive effect on your body and mind. So, every time you travel, you invest in improving your health. If mental, physical and emotional health tops your priority list, the 10 health benefits of travelling, listed in this article, will change your take on travelling.
We know this might not be a good time to travel. But it's a good time to know the benefits of travelling so that when its safe to do so, you know what to prioritize. Travelling has several health benefits that have been scientifically proven and lets take a deeper look at what they are.
10 Health benefits of travelling are:
Decreases stress levels
Lowers risk of depression
Rewires mental (brain) health
Improves muscle health
Strengthens immunity system
Improves sleep quality
Keeps your heart fit
Improves respiratory health
Helps in maintaining strong bones
Curbs period problems
1. Decreases stress levels
Stress is a silent killer. It can cause an increase in blood pressure and an increase in stress hormone named cortisol. This eventually leads to weakening of the circulatory system and increased risk of cardiovascular disorders, gastrointestinal problems and fertility issues. Travelling takes your mind off the on-going stressful situations in your life. It helps release happy hormones and decreases cortisol level, thus making you calmer and content.
A research study conducted by ‘University of Pittsburgh’s Mind & Body Centre’, determined that a holiday enhances positive emotional levels and causes a drastic drop in stress levels in corporate employees. It was observed that just by removing people from the activities and environments that tend to be the source of stress, the levels of cortisol decreased significantly. A significant drop in stress levels was noted in more than 80% of participant subjects just after a day of travelling.
Stress reduction is one of the most important health benefits of travelling. Travelling resets your body and mind and takes you away from your daily stressful routine. You feel less anxious, well-rested and in a better mood when you are on a vacation. And these improvements don’t disappear as soon as you return home, but they last for several weeks after your vacation.
Of course, this works better if you do not miss your flight/ bus and don’t lose your baggage! If you tend to put yourself in financial difficulty by travelling, then you will find it harder to reduce stress.
2. Lowers risk of depression
A survey done by ‘Diamond Resorts International’ found that over 75% vacationers reported feeling happier when they planned a holiday at least once a year. Just the trip planning phase can give you a lot of happiness. And reminiscing vacation memories triggers happiness long after you have returned from a holiday. Hence, travelling either takes you out of a depressive state or lowers your future risk of depression by a significant percentage.
Travelling tends to lift your mood and can be a source of motivation for you. Visiting specific places, like mountains, forests and beaches, are shown to be effective at lowering rates of stress-related diseases including depression and anxiety. Since light regulates melatonin level and you tend to absorb a lot of it on a typical vacation, it has a positive effect in treating/ lowering depression.
A survey conducted by ‘Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin’ found that women who vacation at least twice a year are less likely to suffer from depression and chronic stress than women who vacation less than once every two years. Treating depression is indeed one of the major health benefits of travelling.
3. Rewires mental (brain) health
According to ‘Merzenich's Body of Research’, people who - travel to new places, keep learning about new languages and culture, encounter novel experiences, and interact with new people, are far less likely to develop cognitive decay and encounter degenerative disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A fixed daily routine does not exercise your mental faculties as your brain does not have to deal with any new information. Travelling exposes you to new unpredictable situations. This forces your brain to new pathways and creates fresh neuronal connections which increase emotional stability, cognitive flexibility, and creativity.
Travelling gets your brain involved in making new decisions, learning new languages, navigating through new pathways and encountering novel stimuli. You have to think about every small thing when you are in an unfamiliar place, which gets your neurons firing. This keeps your mind young and improves memory and concentration. Apart from these, travelling often gives you much needed time with yourself or your loved ones. It lets you introspect and reflect upon your life in a different way, something your daily life does not allow. Hence often best solutions or ideas come during or right after travelling.
4. Improves muscle health
While on travel, you work your muscles more frequently as you are excited to learn about your new destination. You walk, you swim, you hike, you participate in adventure activities; much more than you would do when you are back home. This helps develop and tone your muscles nicely.
In a usual routine day of work, you tend to be inactive for long periods by sitting on a desk in front of your computers. The lack of movement tightens your muscles and causes spinal deterioration. While travelling, you are more physically active and get enough exercise to develop muscles without even realising it.
Research states that you tend to walk at least 12,000 steps a day when you are sightseeing. Even a walk on a sandy beach forces your muscles to work twice hard than the usual. And it’s not just about the muscles in your limbs. The heart is also a muscle. Travelling keeps your heart healthy. We have often observed that our muscular strength increases after a good hike/ trek.
5. Strengthens immunity system
While travelling, you get exposed to various foreign substances like new food, different environment, altering weather conditions and novel surroundings. The interactions of these fresh foreign particles (read antigens) with your immune system leads to the development of new antibodies (proteins that fight against foreign particles) in your body. These antibodies further protect you from illnesses in future by strengthening your immune system.
When you are constantly on the go, travelling from places to places, you provide your body with a chance to adapt to thousands of germs, bacteria and viruses. These pathogens, in turn, make your body and your gut stronger. Well, research says that some new pathogens are not at all a bad thing! Even we have observed that after years of travelling extensively, we seldom get sick when exposed to new weather, environments or food.
However, this does not mean that you shouldn’t be practising basic hygiene like healthy eating and sanitizing. With proper precautions, you can easily boost your immunity without any risk of falling sick. Strong immunity builds up hence turns out to be a vital health benefit of travelling.
6. Improves sleep quality
Bad quality of sleep results in irritability, chronic disorders, and poor cognitive efficiency. Research states that an adult should sleep at least seven to eight hours every night. This sleep time can be easily achieved during travelling as you tend to get tired after walking, sight-seeing and carrying out activities.
Devices such as smartphones and laptops emit light that causes melatonin suppression. Poor sleep is one of the results of the decrease in melatonin content in the body. While travelling, you are less likely to use these gadgets which eventually helps in improving the quality of sleep. Also, the natural light that your body absorbs when you are outdoors, increases the melatonin levels in your body.
Furthermore, it is easier to sleep when you are less stressed and free of anxiety, which we know are the major health benefits of travelling. A planned trip can help regulate your circadian rhythm and help improve your sleep cycle. This, we have experienced first hand. Whenever we are on holidays, we tend to sleep more deeply and peacefully than the other nights we are at home.
7. Keeps your heart fit
The more you walk and the more activity you do, the more you get your heart pumping. And travelling makes you indulge in more activities. If your heart pumps stronger, you will be at very low risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol problems. One of the biggest health benefits of travelling is that it makes your heart healthy and strong.
Research has proved that walking more while travelling helps in releasing happy hormones, thus reducing stress levels. Lesser stress means a lower risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. In ‘Framingham Heart Study’, the researchers found that men who didn’t take a vacation for several years were at 30% more risk to have heart attacks.
8. Improves respiratory health
City pollution and other urban toxins are taxing on your respiratory systems. These increases your chances of susceptibility to various respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and sinusitis. You may not even realise, but your respiratory system is struggling each day to keep you away from these ailments.
Travelling to places that takes you away from urban pollution and industrial set-ups offer your lungs a respite from the toxicants. It helps the lungs to detoxify and recoup back to a healthier state. Breathing in the fresh and oxygen-rich air of forests and greener spaces significantly cut down the risk of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Travelling to beaches and breathing in the salty ocean air helps in reducing cough and decreasing sinus pressure. On the other hand, travelling to high altitude places like mountains helps in improving lung capacity and lung functioning. Keeping lungs fit is an important health benefit of travelling.
9. Helps in maintaining strong bones
When you travel, you tend to spend a great deal of your time outdoors while doing activities and sight-seeing. This naturally results in absorbing a lot of sunlight (if you travel to a warm place). The sunrays provide Vitamin D, a very essential nutrient that can’t be gained even through proper diet.
Vitamin D is directly linked to increased absorption of calcium through the digestive system and mobilizing calcium into the bones, thus making the bones strong and healthy. Vitamin D also significantly reduces the onset of osteoporosis (weak and fragile bones due to decreased bone density).
Hence, taking a break from work and travelling to a warm place that provides ample sunshine (read beach!) is extremely good for your health. We make sure that while travelling, we absorb as much Vitamin D as possible, by getting up early and soaking up in the morning sun. Strong bones are one of the scientifically-backed health benefits of travelling.
10. Curbs period problems
Generally, women do not prefer travelling during their periods as they believe that the period problems dampen their travelling experiences. But travelling can help in curbing period problems like irregularity, heavy bleeding, mood swings, abdominal cramps and bloating.
While many hormones play a role in controlling your menstrual cycle, the two most important ones are – cortisol and melatonin. Excessive cortisol release causes mood swings that include irritability and anxiety. Research has proved that travelling lowers cortisol levels, thus relieving the body of excessive stress and helps with the mood swings during menstruation.
Decreased level of melatonin causes women to suffer from PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome). Travelling involves soaking up in the sun, that increases the level of melatonin in the body, thus alleviating period problems like irregularity and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Higher melatonin also leads to better sleep and decreased crankiness.
Moderate exercise and activities during travel help improve blood circulation, hence relieving abdominal cramps and bloating. So, do not hesitate to travel while on your periods. But also make sure you do not overdo things that elevate menstrual stress. Also, do not be careless in maintaining proper hygiene and sanitisation while travelling during periods.
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Health benefits of travelling are huge and there are several other benefits apart from the ones mentioned above. Travelling helps you reinvent yourself, it makes you mentally resilient, it enhances creativity, improves your productivity, betters your communication skills and broadens your horizons.
Now that you have finished reading about all the good things that travelling does to your mind and body, it’s time to wait for the pandemic to get over, pack your bags and get going! Happy travelling.