Vacationing More May Improve Long-Term Health

Summer is winding down but there is still time to plan a little getaway and new research has found that taking a vacation more often may help protect long-term health and well being.  A recent study makes a compelling case for taking time off work to unwind, pursue leisure activities or visit new places to help reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome which increases the chances of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. 

According to a recent study, published in the JAMA Psychology and Health, although nearly three-quarters of all American workers have paid vacation time, they only use about half of it.  And skipping vacations could be increasing the risk of heart disease among men and depression among women.

How one vacations is also a key variable in determining what health benefits will be derived from taking time away.  If vacationing increases stress because of the cost, the difficulty reaching a destination or challenging travel companions, it will not hold the same advantages for well being.  But if taking time off, even with a “staycation” at home, creates time to get extra sleep, enjoy outdoor activities and unplug from the worries of work, it could be as beneficial to health and well being as stopping smoking.  Study participants who reported that their vacations were pleasant, with little stress and who didn’t drink much alcohol and slept well benefitted most. 

Researchers also found that with each additional vacation, the risk for metabolic syndrome among study participants was reduced by 24 percent.  Even a short vacation was found to lower the risk for metabolic syndrome which is defined as having three or more of the following traits:  a large waist, a high triglyceride level, reduced HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure or an elevated fasting blood sugar. 

Taking a vacation from work, or from being a caregiver, is valuable not only for mental health but also for physical well-being.  While it’s still the weekend, take a moment to block out some time for a vacation from stress and worry and your future self will thank you.  Don’t let working too hard be your greatest regret when you reach the end of the road.