Here’s something you’ve all been waiting to hear: going on holiday really is good for your health. So if you want to put your health first this year, start looking at some holiday destinations. As if I need to tell you twice!
Shockingly, approximately a third of people don’t take their full holiday allowance, and ironically this is more likely to lead to absence through illness. It’s an important issue that really could be affecting your health.
On a more serious note, taking time out of the chaos of day-to-day life to rest and reboot may be just what you need. Trust me when I say I know how difficult it can be to justify holidays. There are many reasons why they can get pushed to the bottom of the list: too busy at work, too expensive, wrong time of year, will save up for something bigger next year… these are all excuses that get in the way of taking holiday time as seriously as we should.
For me, it always worked that got in the way. In my former career, I was a city lawyer and it’s fair to say that work consumed my life. The thought of handing files over to another (already overworked) colleague often seemed too much to bear.
The time it would take to write holiday notes, get important work out of the way, and actually have time to book or even pack for the holiday was overwhelming. Then of course, if I did manage to get that far and find myself free from the office, there was always the dreaded Blackberry which would make my stomach lurch every time I saw its little red flashing beacon.
I would find that it would take at least three days for me to start to unwind and then the last couple of days would be spent stressing about what I would be going back to at the office. So if it was a week’s holiday it often didn’t seem worth the effort. I look back now and realize what a sad state of affairs it was and it’s really not surprising that my health suffered dramatically as a result.
Making time for holidays is an important part of your health and well-being and you should always make sure that you take your full holiday entitlement from work. Shockingly, approximately a third of people don’t take their full holiday allowance, and ironically this is more likely to lead to absence through illness.1 It’s an important issue that really could be affecting your health.
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A Study on the Health Benefits of Holidays
A 2013 study carried out by Kuoni Travel and Nuffield Health2 clinically measured the health benefits of taking a holiday. A series of clinical and psychotherapy tests were carried out on participants in an attempt to provide an accurate picture of how getting away can influence a wide range of key health indicators including blood pressure, ability to recover from stress, quality of sleep, of course, emotional health.
The study used 12 participants and ran full health assessments and psychological tests. Participants were also asked to wear heart monitors. Half of the group were sent on holiday to either Thailand, Peru, or the Maldives while the other half remained at home. Two weeks after the holiday group returned, all participants had further medical and psychological tests and again were asked to wear heart monitors for several days.
Whilst you would expect the holiday group to be more relaxed both on the holiday and immediately after their return, the results showed that the effects were much longer-lasting. The holidaymakers’ ability to recover from stress, their sleep quality, and their blood pressures were significantly improved compared with those who had stayed at home.
- Stress: The ability to recover from stress improved by 29% whilst the stay-at-home group experienced a 71% reduction in their ability to recover from stress.
- Sleep: Sleep quality improved by 34 points whilst the stay-at-home group dropped by 27 points.
- Blood Pressure: An average blood pressure reduction of 6% compared to an average increase of 2% in the stay-at-home group.
Other noteworthy improvements discovered were:
- Decrease in blood glucose levels, reducing the risk of diabetes.
- Improved body shape (in particular losing weight around the stomach) may lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- Improved energy levels and mood.
What was really interesting about this study is that the results seemed to be much longer-lasting than expected. Rather than just feeling better on and immediately after the holiday, the benefits were reported to last, in some circumstances, for months. Further, you do not have to have a relaxing beach holiday to get the maximum benefits. The study actually found that the couple who had the most active holiday had the longest-lasting reduction in stress.
It seems that whatever type of holiday you choose – busy and active or doing nothing more than moving from the sun lounger to the pool – it will have a positive impact on your health. The study focused on the most pertinent health issues of sleep and stress, but there are many more reasons why you will feel better after taking time out for a holiday.
It is often said that laughter is the best medicine. Being away from the stressors of everyday life and spending time with family and friends is going to make you more relaxed. When we laugh it not only lightens our mental load, it can have an appreciable impact on our health. Health benefits of a good belly laugh include improving your immune system, stimulating circulation and aiding muscle relaxation, increasing the number of feel-good endorphins released by your brain, as well as reducing anxiety and depression.3
When we are on holiday we tend to try new tastes and flavors and often new ingredients. If you are staying in a hotel you are likely to have access to a breakfast buffet that is often packed full of fresh fruits and an egg station meaning you can have a whole range of fresh, local produce at your fingertips to start the day. Plus you can sit and relax rather than have to eat at the speed of light to make the train work.
In warmer climates, we also tend to lean towards lighter, fresh foods such as salad, fruit, and vegetables and drink much more water. By eating a variety of foods you will be increasing your nutrient intake, and as an added bonus you might even pick up some cooking tips!
Whilst it’s important to stay safe in the sun, it does have health benefits. The majority of people in the UK suffer from a vitamin D deficiency simply due to the fact that we don’t have access to year-round sunshine. Vitamin D is important for maintaining a healthy gut and stimulates the absorption of calcium, playing a vital role in bone health and development. If you’re going away somewhere warm then you’ll have a chance to top up your vitamin D intake. Be sensible – cover up and seek shade in the heat of the day.
Whatever you choose to do for a holiday the important thing is to make sure you take it. Whether it is somewhere hot and exotic or a trip to sunny Cornwall, just make sure you get away, relax, and create some memories.
Where will you be going on holiday this year? Have you noticed the health benefits of a holiday long after your return? Let us know your thoughts and holiday plans below!