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Vacations Are Good For You, Medically Speaking
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Vacations Are Good For You, Medically Speaking

Back in 2008, the New York Times ran an article called "Vacations are Good for You, Medically Speaking".

The article went into depth about many unknown benefits of regular travel for both men and women.

For example, one finding that studied 12,000 men over 9 years found that men who didn't take at least 1 vacation a year were 21% more likely to die from all causes, and 32% more likely to die of a heart attack.

Another study showed that women who only took a vacation every 6 years were almost 8X more likely to develop coronary heart disease than women who took 2 vacations/year.

One of the authors of this study reported that, "It shows how the body reacts to a lifestyle of stress. This is real evidence that vacations are important to our physical health."

Unfortunately, 2008 was also the year that the U.S. (and the world) was plunged into a recession. People stopped going on vacations. One study showed that over 1/3 of all Americans weren't taking all their vacations, leaving an average of 3 unused vacation days on the table. This was also the trend in Europe and other industrialized countries.

In fact, at the time of the article, the United States was the only industrialized country in the world that didn't mandate paid vacation time.

In April of 2008, 2 months before the NYTimes article, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that the number of people in the private sector who reported they would be going on vacation that year was at a 30-year low. Just 39%.

But gas prices were doubling, the economy was sinking, and most people were just glad to have jobs, right?

Isn't it enough to relax at home with a good book, watch a little TV or take a few day trips?

In a word, No. We can no longer afford NOT to go on vacations. They are no longer a luxury. The evidence is mounting that taking regular vacations is necessary for good health.

In addition to the findings already listed, let's look at some more results from these studies:

Another study involved a scientific consulting firm that worked with NASA pilots and astronauts on sleep issues. They found that people gained an extra 1 hour of good sleep a night while on vacation, and reaction time improved by 80%. These results continued after returning home from vacation where their "good extra sleep" continued long after they got home, and their reaction time was 30-40% better than it was before their vacation.

What would you give for an extra hour a night of good sleep?

Employees also report feeling more productive both right before going on vacation and also upon returning to work when they got back. Obviously, there's something very energizing about taking a vacation, both mentally and physically.

And there's some extra "fringe" benefits as well for couples...

Couple who vacation regularly together report "intimacy" 40% more while on vacation... not to mention increased romance upon returning home.

Ok, now that we've talked about all the good things about going on vacations, it's time to acknowledge the "bad", too.

When most people think of vacations, especially with children in tow, they think of noisy airplanes, cramped hotel rooms trying to pretend your bed is your couch and your bedroom is your "living room", and Happy Meals every other meal.

On a humorous note, Robert Benchley wrote, "traveling with children corresponds roughly with traveling 3rd class in Bulgaria..."

No wonder most people get home from vacation and feel like they need another one...

Hey, I know this first-hand. I grew up with 11 brothers and sisters and family vacations were always an "adventure" to say the least.

But the crazy thing is, I still remember all the great memories of them (and laugh about the "bad" ones)...

Dr. William Doherty, a Professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota said this,

"Vacations tend to create memories more than any other family activity, and the bad times are some of the best memories."

The trick is to have a vacation that enhances family bonding... but not too much :)

Believe it or not, there are ways to avoid the traditional headaches that quickly come to mind when we think of vacations.

For example, when my family (wife and 3 young kids) go on vacation, we don't stay in cramped hotel rooms, we stay in 1-3 bed condos. We don't eat at Olive Garden or Taco Bell every other meal. We save about $800/week in food costs by going to Costco on Day 1 and using our full kitchen in our condo to have home-cooked meals.

We're also able to do this without endless searches on Expedia trying to save a couple of nickels, and we end up paying less for this than if we stayed in a Holiday Inn for a week.

And the best part? The memories we know will stick with us for a lifetime.

My wife and I are making it a point to help our children enjoy vacations and the world even more than we were able to growing up ourselves. And it's paying off. The excitement in our kids' eyes when we talk about our next vacation is like Christmas morning.

And I'm not going to complain about the "fringe benefits" either... :)

So just do it. Find a way to take more vacations. It will pay you back for the rest of your life!

Happy Travels!

Street Talk

Good article! I just got up from a 3-hour nap. Sometimes a mini-vacation like that helps too. Growing up we traveled in bright orange pup tents, six of us poured into a small car. We camped all over Germany one summer, where they set up "hotel" sized tents. We brought a plastic "sink" complete with mirror - funny what you remember! Except instead of eating out (ever) we made dinners where we started with leftovers for meal one at home and packed away the choice pieces with our freezing sealer. We'd make a big turkey dinner, complete with rice, mashed potatoes and pasta, gravy, you name it. We packed up individual servings so we could all have "our" dinner... in one big pot of boiling water... over a campfire. Thanks for bringing up fun memories. Went on to next generation! My nephew and now-niece got married in October. She'd just started a new job so they decided to save their honeymoon and went backpacking May and June starting from Paris and on through the Swiss alps, staying in bed and breakfast's for some of the days between hiking.

  about 1 decade ago

My first memories of vacation are dad driving the Suburban all night long to get to Grandmas (Utah to Oregon), and walking in half-asleep to Grandma's black and white tile kitchen. Felt so comforting! Good memories!

  about 1 decade ago

Indeed! We did that too (NJ to town of 100 in Maine) for my dad's side of the family! Mom's side grandfather came from Germany and grandmother from Ireland, so when my dad worked overseas we turned it into family gatherings.

  about 1 decade ago
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