Travel that Keeps the Heart and Brain Healthy
Travel tops many people’s retirement goals, and it’s a given that staying healthy prolongs our ability to take active vacations. Yet research suggests that the reverse holds true as well: Travel can actually keep our brains and bodies healthier as we get older.
That’s a message that many of us are eager to hear at this time of year, when we may already be looking back wistfully at our end-of-year vacations. So it’s timely that the Global Coalition on Aging, a group of companies across various industries focused on issues related to aging, in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association, has been circulating an analysis it conducted of the existing medical literature on travel and health.
Some members of these organizations, of course, would see their businesses benefit if more people traveled more often and stayed healthier longer as a result. But a few of the studies that they highlight do show a compelling connection between vacation and physical well-being. Travel has been found to lower the risk of heart attack and death from coronary disease in certain groups, while the new and complex situations encountered while traveling can also help keep the brain sharp.
It’s not too far-fetched to imagine doctors prescribing travel for their patients as these benefits become more widely appreciated, said Michael Hodin, executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging and managing partner at the High Lantern Group, a consulting firm. “It becomes less of a nice-to-have and more of a need-to-have relationship,” he added. Several decades ago, the public didn’t fully grasp the benefits of diet and exercise, Hodin said, and the same might hold true for travel today.
Indeed, we tend to think of travel’s benefits as short-lived. We unwind when we’re out of town, and if we’re lucky, those feelings of relaxation might linger for a day or two once we’ve resumed our regular lives. In fact, the health benefits continue well beyond that.