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Wellness Blog

3 Surprising Ways Travel Is Good for Your Health

 senior couple enjoying travel and the beach with their bicycles

If you’re looking for ideas on how to spend your time during retirement, consider putting travel on the top of your list. It’s good for your health, both physically and mentally. Here are three reasons why!

1. Travel makes you more creative.

You know what they say: a change is as good as a rest. When you visit new places and try new things, it stimulates your brain.

In fact, researchers have been examining the effects of foreign travel and have found that traveling abroad can make you more creative.

“In general, creativity is related to neuroplasticity, or how the brain is wired,” Brent Crane writes in an article for The Atlantic. “Neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit, meaning they’re also sensitive to change: New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.”

Researches noted that a creative boost typically comes only when the traveler makes an effort to engage with the local culture. And, interestingly enough, they found that if a culture is vastly different from the traveler’s native one, it’s associated with lower creativity levels than those found in more similar cultures.

“The reason for that, they hypothesized, was that an especially different culture might come with a bigger intimidation factor, which may discourage people from immersing themselves in it—and no immersion, they explained, could mean none of the cognitive changes associated with living in another country,” Crane says.

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Related: Senior Trends: Travel Tech and Apps

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2. Travel improves your physical health, even on a leisurely vacation.

Taking a vacation may not seem like the best way to boost your physical health. After all, can laying on a beach all day and indulging in big meals every night really make you healthier?

As it turns out, yes, it can.

A study on travel and its effects on healthy aging followed 5,209 participants to get a better sense of how their lifestyles affected their overall health. At the end of 20 years, researchers found that women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year.

In other studies on travel and senior health, it was found that men who didn’t take a vacation every year had a 20 percent higher risk of death and a roughly 30 percent higher risk of death from heart disease. Women who don’t take vacations are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression.

So why does vacation boost your physical health? It’s likely due to lowered stress levels. Stress can affect your immune system, heart, lungs and weight, among other things. Therefore, lowering your stress levels with a relaxing vacation can be enormously beneficial.

3.  Travel improves your social wellness.

Technological advances in recent years have made keeping in touch easier than ever. You can see pictures of your grandkids at the zoo on Facebook, talk with your daughter across the country on Skype and email your brother important life updates with the click of a button.

However—and you may have already suspected this—it’s a scientific fact that nothing can replace in-person socialization.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researcher Alan Teo, M.D., M.S. and his colleagues found that older adults who met in-person with family and friends were less likely to report symptoms of depression. This was compared to participants who emailed or spoke on the phone.

“We found that all forms of socialization aren't equal,” Teo said. “Phone calls and digital communication, with friends or family members, do not have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression.”

While using technology to keep in touch can be both beneficial and enjoyable, you may want to consider visiting some friends or family on your next trip.

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Related: New Opportunities for Social Engagement

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Live Life to the Fullest

Travel is just one of many ways to enjoy life in retirement. For more ideas on how to expand your horizons and put your talents to work, download our free eBook, Continuing to Make Your Mark.

Continuing to Make Your Mark eBook