What do coronary heart disease (CHD) and vacation have to do with one another? Nothing, you might think. But Dr. Brooks B. Gump and Dr. Karen A. Matthews studied 12,866 men between the ages of 35 and 59 with high risk for CHD for 10 years and proved otherwise.
It has now been scientifically established: going on vacation is good for your heart!
Gump and Matthews gave men questionnaires at their annual physicals that asked them to rate how they felt after going on vacation. Their research determined that vacations “reduce ongoing stressors,” “eliminate potential stressors and anticipated threats,” and “provide a unique opportunity for behaviors having restorative effects on anabolic physiological processes, such as social contact with family and friends (36–38) and physical activity (15), in the context of reduction of stress-initiated catabolic effects.”
The reason it took a scientific evidence to prove what we want to believe in our hearts to be true is that, in the American work culture, taking time off is seen as something “bad” employees do. If you think you haven’t succumbed to this mindset, ask yourself these questions:
Would you like to grow your brain, have more energy, eliminate stress, and decrease your risk for a heart attack?
How does travel grow your brain? Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, explains.
“When you expose your brain to an environment that’s novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 2014. That exposure causes the brain to sprout dendrites — dangling extensions — which Nussbaum said grow the brain’s capacity. Who doesn’t want a bigger brain?
A recent article in Forbes Magazine by Robert Szczerba pointed out some rather gaping holes in the travel and health app world. They all relate to dealing with medical emergencies while traveling abroad. This is one aspect of travel many people overlook; they don’t think that a sudden ailment or accident will come up as they daydream about their glorious trip to Italy they’re taking next summer.
Unfortunately, accidents do happen. Being struck down by a car or strep throat is no fun at any time, but especially if you’re in a foreign country where you don’t understand the customs or language.
Here are four useful apps Szczerba suggested and we’d like to see.Find-A-Clinic could help you find the closest clinic or medical care facility that could help you with whatever medical situation you’re dealing with. It would even have a way to notify the facility you were on the way.
InsuranceAssure would interface with your insurance and let you know what is covered and what isn’t in real time instead of waiting several days. (This may take longer than the others, given that it isn’t always possible to get a straight answer from someone on the phone, but it would at least be a start.)
MedBox would guide you to find the nearest pharmacy that carries the over the counter or prescription drugs you need for the situation you find yourself in. We’re fairly close on this one, since you can use a barcode scanner to read the UPC code of the needed product. You can do that right now in the United States and a few other parts of the world, but you need to have the UPC code on hand.
HealthyFoodAnywhere can help you find the healthiest places to eat. This is useful for healthy eaters, of course, but it could also help those with health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease. The app could also be invaluable for people with food allergies or even people who choose to eat a specific type of diet, such as vegetarian.
Even if these apps are never developed, it’s a good idea to carry a list of your prescriptions, health problems, and any other key information a health care worker would need if you do become sick while traveling.
What health travel apps have you been using? What would you like to see someone create? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page or in the comments below.
Here’s a sobering statistic: In a study of 2,300 American workers who get paid vacation, only 25 percent said they take advantage of every day they’re allowed. Sixty-one percent said they continued to work even while on vacation.
There are plenty of other blog posts — books, even — that could be written on American work culture and why we don’t take advantage of the benefits of our jobs. This blog post is a plea to consider traveling more.
Travel Keeps You HealthyWhy? A recent article in the Dubai Chronicle documented the results of a survey several existing studies on leisure travel’s health effects and found that it actually boosts cognitive and cardiovascular health, particularly in middle-aged people or older.
One study, for example, followed women from 45 to 64 years old for 20 years; women in the study who took vacation twice a year were at much lower risk of having a heart attack or dying of a heart-related disease than those who traveled every six years.
If you’ve encountered significant delays and other frustrations during your travels, you may feel the exact opposite. But I think that to reap the anti-aging effects of travel, you have to flip the old adage around: It’s the destination, not the journey.
My Own Experience
I can personally attest to this, actually. My wife and I are fortunate enough to be able to travel to the Caribbean a fair amount, and it’s absolutely essential for helping us relax.
A big part of the relaxation for me is shaking up my routine and immersing myself in a totally different environment and culture, away from my everyday lifestyle. Vacation is an opportunity to shake yourself out of your deepest ruts.
I am, unfortunately, often part of that 61 percent of workers who continue to work while on vacation, but it’s for self-preservation. I go through my emails once a day and flag the important ones for my attention when I return. It only takes a few minutes and makes coming back to work the following week a lot less stressful.
I’d love to hear whether you connect with the findings of this survey. Do your vacations alleviate your stress levels? How do you cope with the stress of returning to a full inbox? Share your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.
If you fly often, you might feel yourself starting to get run down after a busy week of travel. It’s a lot harder to take care of yourself when you’re on the road…you don’t have all the familiar trappings of home: your bed, your kitchen, your gym.
But there are ways to stay active and healthy when you’re traveling. I should know — I’ve struggled with a lot of the same health concerns other frequent business travelers do: exercise and diet. Here are a few tips to help you live healthier on the go as a business traveler:
I’m not talking about doing jumping jacks in the aisles or crunches in the lavatory. But there are plenty of ways to keep active during a busy day of travel beyond running from one delayed flight to another.
The security line is a great place to start: Do little stretches or neck rolls while you’re waiting to get through TSA. And before your flight, instead of sitting at the gate checking your BlackBerry, take a quick walk around the terminal if you have time.
Deep-vein thrombosis, also called “economy class syndrome,” can cause deadly blood clots in travelers on long flights. Keeping moving as much as possible — even in those cramped quarters of the airplane — will help you avoid things like this. When the captain turns off the “Fasten Seat Belts” light, use that freedom to move about the cabin. Even getting up to grab something from the overhead compartment or walking back to the lavatory makes an important difference.
If you’re in a morning rush at the airport, even if the bulk of your meal is a Danish or huge cup of coffee, sneak in an apple, orange or banana at breakfast when you can — these are fairly easy to find in most airports. Same goes for salads at lunch. Adding in healthier options like fruits, vegetables and whole grains is more important than completely overhauling the way you eat when you travel. Nobody’s perfect!
If you find yourself hitting the airport convenience store on a regular basis for chips or candy bars, consider saving a little extra money and cutting unnecessary calories by keeping a little stock of granola bars, energy bars, fruit bars, or other healthy on-the-go snacks when a craving hits.
One final note: Planes are notoriously dry — with a humidity level of 10 to 20 percent, much lower than typical indoor humidity of 30 to 65 percent — and staying hydrated is so important. You may not be able to bring full bottles of water through security anymore, but there are ways around this. Bring an empty refillable bottle in your carry-on. Buy a bottle at the convenience store or terminal Starbucks. Ask for water instead of coffee or soda during your flight’s beverage service.
The last thing you want to do while traveling is get sick. Unfortunately, it’s easy to overexert yourself on the road, depleting your body’s natural defenses.
Plus, when you’re focused on the sights and sounds of a new destination, you often forego healthy practices such as getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, staying hydrated and maintaining a balanced diet.
Fear not, brave traveler. Here are some tips for staying healthy away from home:
Keep Your Hands Clean: Wash your hands often. And not only before eating, but after you’ve touched common items (like laptops, phones, iPods, etc.) which are breeding grounds for germs and viruses. Also use hand sanitizer and wet wipes regularly, especially if you’re unsure of the quality of the water.
Stay Hydrated: You not only expend more energy (which is dehydrating) when traveling, the airline’s pressurized cabins dry you out. Therefore, it’s critical that you drink enough water (bottled preferably) to replace the fluids your body is losing. Also, go easy on both alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which are diuretics and make you put out more than you take in.
Get Enough Rest: Despite the adrenaline rush, don’t ignore you body’s need to replenish itself with sleep. This can be difficult early in your trip due to jet lag (when you travel across multiple time zones, your body’s internal clock is not in sync with the destination time zone, making it difficult to sleep). Adapt to the local schedule immediately by eating meals and going to bed at the appropriate times.
Eat Properly: With the number of calories you burn while traveling, it’s important to get enough nutrients. But, be selective about what you consume, especially when traveling overseas. Though the food you eat abroad isn’t necessarily unsafe, your body isn’t accustomed to it. This gastric unfamiliarity combined with the use of natural fertilizers abroad can lead to digestive difficulties.
Research your destination’s most popular restaurants through Trip Advisor, making sure to study the reader reviews closely. If praise for a given eatery is universal, chances are that international travelers aren’t getting sick from the entrees.
To minimize your risk of contracting any food-borne illnesses, be sure to:
- Drink only bottled water, and avoid ice, unpasteurized milk, cheese and yogurt
- Don’t eat raw or unpeeled foods. The foreign traveler’s rule of thumb is “Cook it, wash it, peel it, or forget it.”
- Only eat condiments that come in sealed packages.
- Order entrees “well done”, and send them back if they’re not served hot.
- Use caution when ordering seafood, and steer clear of clams, mussels and oysters.
Don’t leave common sense at home when you travel. Your health depends on it.