1. Immunity boost
Taking respite from everyday stress can strengthen your body’s natural defence mechanisms and help prevent chronic inflammation, a condition where the body is at war with itself which can result in lifestyle-related chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
b+s holistic GP Dr Cris Beer says many health experts believe that all diseases are linked to inflammation, and it’s one of the first signs of a weakened immune system.
However, studies show that those who take regular holidays lower their stress levels and risk of inflammation. This strengthens their immunity and helps it ward off potential illness.
2. More sleep, less belly fat
Struggling to shed the kilos could be a sign of metabolic syndrome, a condition that’s characterised by symptoms such as insulin resistance, high blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure, and abdominal weight gain, which increases the risk of other diseases, including stroke.
Studies show that stress increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, as does a lack of sleep.
A report published in the journal PLOS Medicine found that a deficiency of sleep increases belly fat by affecting secretion of the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which are responsible for controlling hunger and regulating fat stores.
A holiday could be your ticket to stress-free weight loss, according to a study by travel company Expedia, which found that 85 per cent of world travellers were more rested after a trip and slept an extra hour a night, on average.
3. Stress relief
A holiday can elevate your mood by reducing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which are responsible for the fight-or-flight response. Studies show that at high levels, stress hormones can result in adrenal burnout, which can leave you feeling tired, anxious or depressed, and Beer says this can put you at risk of mild or major clinical depression. A US study found that women who take regular holidays are significantly less likely to suffer from depression.
“Just go somewhere that removes you from the reminder of your daily responsibilities and stressors,” Beer says. She advises a two-week break every six months and a weekend away every three months.
4. Better sex
A holiday can rekindle a relationship and improve your sex life, b+s sexologist Dr Gabrielle Morrissey says.
So it’s no surprise that a US study found that up to 77 per cent of couples who travel together enjoy more romance, relationship satisfaction and a better sex life.
“When we’re relaxed during romantic getaways, our brains release chemicals such as oxytocin, which makes us feel close and loving,” Morrissey says. “And the more we have enjoyable sex, the more ourlibido spikes and we want even more of it.”
5. Heart health
Regular trips away can boost your heart health and even increase yourlife expectancy.
According to the longitudinal US Framingham Heart Study, women who take two holidays per year are up to eight times less likely to suffer a heart attack compared to those who go away every six years or less. Meanwhile, another ongoing US study shows that men who take an annual break can reduce their risk by 32 per cent.
6. Optimism boost
A holiday can instil hope in those with chronic diseases, a study in the International Journal of Tourism Research shows.
It found the perception of hope to be higher in cancer sufferers who traveled more frequently, while another study reported that cancer patients who had more hope had significantly less disease progression over time.
“We don’t know if this is due to the release of endorphins, the happy hormones and natural painkillers,” Beer says. “What we do know is that someone who’s maintained a more positive outlook has a more favorable natural progression of the disease than somebody who’s depressed – and someone who’s taking holidays is indicating they have a sense of hope to begin with.”