5 Health Benefits of Taking a Summer Vacation
June is here and the official start to summer is not far away. Do you have plans for this summer? Although for many, money is tight or paid time off is scarce, but it really is in your best interest to schedule a summer vacation if you can. Do it for your health.
As a kid, we all took a three-month long vacation from school during the summer. Although the practice originally started because of families in agriculture – farmers’ children were given the break to help parents with crops during the major growing seasons – we continue today in most schools to let the kids out for summer to give them a much-needed break from the day-to-day grind of studying.
Of course, adults today do not get a three-month vacation along with the kids. Our work life typically provides us with two to three weeks off during the course of an entire year. Families often use one week of this to take off with their families to the coast, the mountains, or even schedule a “staycation” just to relax and unwind.
But fewer Americans are taking the full benefits of their vacation time. According to a 2009 study commissioned by the travel service Expedia, more than 30% of American workers do not use all of their vacation days, primarily out of fear of losing their jobs. Unfortunately, this is not only bad for the employee’s stress levels; it can also be detrimental to the employer and the overall American economy.
Taking time off from work, even for a long weekend, allows the body to replenish and repair itself. Leisure activities contribute to higher positive emotional levels, lower levels of stress hormones, less depression, lower blood pressure – and even smaller waistlines!
• Relieve stress
The very first benefit of leaving everything behind and relieving your brain of all your worries is reduced stress. Several studies have shown a direct link between stress and health conditions such as headaches, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other types of infections acquired as a result of a weaker immune system. It has also been established that taking vacations reduces the incidence of burnout.
Relief from stress often gives us a new perspective on life, allows us to regain energy and often to find simple and sometimes obvious solutions to problems that had previously seemed impossible to solve.
• Improve your mental skills
Some studies have found a positive relationship between vacations and intellectual function. A well-rested mind that is free of worry is often more effective.
Keep in mind that taking a vacation can actually benefit your work when you return. Taking regular breaks can boost your productivity and creativity. It can also improve your long-term vision as getting away for a while sometimes brings clarity to a problem you may have been mulling over for weeks.
• Improve your physical health
Besides getting you away from daily stressors, a vacation often gives you the opportunity to catch up on sleep and exercise, two simple remedies for many aches and pains. Insomnia and disordered sleep can be a major player in health problems, from from weight gain to aggravating conditions such as heart disease. For example, one UK study found that the average blood pressure of those on vacation dropped by 6% while those who remained at work saw a blood pressure rise of 2% over the same period.
About that smaller waistline – keep in mind these six tips for maintaining a good diet and exercise routine while on vacation.
• Strengthen family ties
Too often, in our fast-paced daily routine, family relationships suffer. A vacation is a great opportunity to discover each other in a different setting and to build lasting memories. According to a Disney study, quality family time not only increases while on vacation, but parents and children are also more likely to learn something new about one another during this time. Vacationing together has also been found to make families more affectionate toward one another.
• Enjoy life
Taking time off can be a great opportunity to meet new people, laugh and do the things that you most enjoy! If you must, give yourself just 20-30 minutes a day to check email or voice mail to ensure there are no emergencies but after that, release any guilty feelings you have about being away from work. Your co-workers will help keep you from falling too far behind, and then you’ll return the favor when they go on vacation too!
Laing S, Garet B, Cawley K, Crabtree S. Year-Round and Extended-Year Schooling. Department of Economics at the University of Georgia.
Psychology Today: The Importance of Vacations on Our Physical and Mental Health
NPR: Relax! Vacations are Good for Health