It's not like you need an extra excuse to travel, but even so, we may have just found the best one going: traveling can help you to live longer. Yep, really. A study recently conducted by the U.S Travel Association, the Global Commission on Aging, and the Transamerica Centre for Retirement Studies has delved into this idea and the results were good news for all of us. They actually found that travel helps prevent the onset of dementia, depression, and Alzheimer's Disease, as well as reducing the probability of heart disease and heart attacks. So just in case you ever feel the need to justify your travel addiction, here are some of the health benefits of travel.
Travel can inspire a healthier lifestyle
We might not always eat as healthily as we should when we're traveling. It's too easy not to. But, that aside, traveling exposes you to many different lifestyles, and there's a good chance some of them are healthier than your own. You might, for example, become inspired by the absence of processed food in Italian cuisine (who needs chicken nuggets with all those beautiful fresh ingredients to hand?) or develop a fondness for biking or walking after a break in the Swiss Alps.
To make the most of this, it's a great idea to keep a food journal when you're on the road. Note down the dishes you taste, and don't be afraid to ask for the recipe if you're staying in a home-stay (your host will be flattered by this!) If you enjoy the physical exercise you experience when you're away, keep the ball rolling by bringing this into your home life as soon as you get back. Don't let yourself sink back into your old routines!
Travel isn't just exercise for the body
It's no secret that keeping the brain active can reduce chances of diseases like Alzheimer's. But forget sitting down with a crossword or Sudoku puzzle; the challenges we face when traveling are the best mental workout. Whether you're using a map to navigate your way around an unfamiliar city or learning a new language, traveling means exercising your brain in ways you rarely get a chance to at home. Even just being in a new place stimulates your brain, helping to improve memory power and mental focus.
Happy people are healthier
There's no two ways about it, travel makes you happy. The benefits of travel in the fight against depression are widely documented and discussed, if not yet scientifically proven. But even if you're not suffering with a mental illness, travel is a known booster of happiness levels. Studies have reported that 86% of people who travel feel content with their lives, in comparison to only 75% of people who don't.
A study conducted in Australia has discovered that travel boosts happiness by contributing to three of the main factors of happiness: positive emotions, sense of involvement, and sense of purpose. This study confirmed that happiness levels of individuals are boosted by all stages of travel, from the excitement of booking a trip to the nostalgia of looking back at photographs after a trip has finished. With separate research concluding that happy people tend to be healthier and live longer, increased happiness levels are another way that travel can help you to live longer.
It's good for your heart ...literally
With our mental wellbeing so closely linked to our physical wellbeing, it's no surprise that these statistics are reflected in studies done into the effects of travel on physical health. It's been proven that women who go on holiday twice a year or more have a much lower risk of heart disease or heart attacks compared to women who don't travel at all. The same study also reported that men who don't travel at least once a year are 30% more at risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who do. Happy heart, happy soul, longer life.
It also boosts your immune system
It's common knowledge in the medical world that exposure to some germs and minor illnesses actually strengthens your immune system. When we travel, our bodies are exposed to a range of foreign bacteria we wouldn't encounter at home. The more our bodies adapt to new and varied bacteria, the better defended we are against illness and infection in general.
With all these health benefits in mind, it's also important to remember that travel can involve exposing ourselves to dangers we wouldn't usually face in our everyday lives. So in order to reap the benefits of the prolonged life of a traveller, it's important to keep yourself safe on your travels. Always make sure you take the following precautions:
Take the recommended vaccinations if you're travelling to somewhere exotic
Practice proper hygiene (e.g hand-washing) to avoid picking up any nasty bugs
Take out travel insurance which will cover treatment for illness and injury
Be responsible for your own safety and carefully assess the situations you put yourself in, especially if you're travelling alone or in a high risk country.
With all these boxes ticked, you're free to travel your way to a longer, healthier, happier life. Who could resist?