11 Science-Backed Ways Going on Vacation Is Good for Your Health


American workers let 768 million vacation days go unused in 2018, according to research from the U.S. Travel Association. And that's a huge problem for the well-being of those who don't use their paid time off. Ask anyone who does take advantage of their PTO, and they are likely to tell you that they feel happier and healthier because of it. That's because, according to science, going on vacation is important for both your physical health and mental health. Keep reading to learn more about the hidden health benefits of going on vacation.

It eases stress.

You can save your sanity and eliminate some stress from your life just by using your vacation days. When you go away, you escape from the demands and deadlines of everyday life, allowing yourself some time to decompress and unwind. One 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health even found that subjects who took a four-day vacation vacation saw improved stress levels a month after returning from a much-needed break.

It lowers your risk of heart disease.

Traveling is good for the heart both figuratively and literally, according to one 2019 study published in the journal Psychology & Health. Syracuse University researchers found that people who vacationed more in a 12-month period had a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of heart disease, than those who spent less time on vacation. Another 2000 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine also concluded that vacationing every year significantly reduced a person's heart disease risk.

And it improves your heart rate.

According to a 2012 study from UC Irvine, workers who took a five-day hiatus from their email had more natural and normal heart rates. People who eliminated email from their lives for a few days also showed an improvement in their ability to focus, the study found. Even if you can't take a vacation, consider limiting your time spent on email to avoid distractions, maximize productivity, and keep your heart health.

It can fight off dementia.

Getting away is good for the brain—literally. In a three-year study of older adults published in a 1995 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, scientists determined that participating in leisurely activities like traveling significantly reduced a person's risk of developing dementia.

It eases symptoms of depression.

When you're feeling down, consider booking a holiday. One 2005 study of 1,500 women published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal found that subjects who vacationed at least two times annually were less likely to have depressive symptoms than those who went away only once a year.

And it helps increase your overall happiness.

Unsurprisingly, people who take vacations regularly tend to be happier than those who let their vacation days go unused. That's partially because, according to one 2014 study published in Psychological Science, experiences are better for your mental health than material goods. Evidently, the mere anticipation of waiting for an experience provides more happiness than waiting for a new computer or pair of shoes.

It improves marriage satisfaction.

Want to ensure your spouse is happy in your relationship? Just take them on vacation. The study in the Wisconsin Medical Journal found that women who vacationed more regularly were also generally more satisfied with their marriages. One more great reason to plan your next getaway.

It resets your sleep schedule.

Sleep is a critical factor in just about everything you do. Without an adequate amount of rest, your body can't function properly, and you're left feeling not just tired, but generally unhealthy.

Thankfully, a short vacation is often all it takes to get your sleep schedule back on track. In an article for Aurora Health Care, psychotherapist Robert L. Riegert, LCSW, explains that "a good vacation can short-circuit … bad work-related sleep habits and get you back to sleeping better."

And it gives you more energy.

Getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life can do wonders for your energy level. When the American Psychological Association (APA) surveyed some 1,1512 working adults in 2018, an average of 68 percent of respondents reported feeling more energized following a vacation. This is one of the many benefits of vacation that also has a positive impact on your work performance.

It can help you lose weight.

Though sitting by the pool sipping piña coladas probably won't whittle away your waistline, going on a more active and adventurous vacation could very well make your more fit. For instance, one 2010 study published in the journal Sleep and Breathing found that subjects who participated in three-week-long hiking vacation simulations saw significant weight loss. Even if you can't take weeks off, spending a few days of your vacation being physically active can have a positive influence on your health.

It provides the opportunity for a digital detox.

Being glued to your phone all day is bad for your psyche. Research has shown that increased technology and social media use causes unnecessary stress and anxiety, among other things. And one way you can successfully take a break from technology is by taking a vacation. In fact, in a 2019 study published in the Journal of Travel Research, researchers found that tourists who traveled sans technology were generally less stressed and spent more time with their travel buddies.