Travel Can Make You Happier and Healthier: Here’s How

Travel may be one of the best things you can do for your body, mind and soul.

Wanderlust is a prescription for healthy aging, says Dr. Sara Warber, professor emerita of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Travel boosts health on so many levels, notes Warber. “People generally walk more on vacation than they do in ‘real life’,” Warber says. This strengthens us mentally as well as physically. And, studies show, active seniors have lower rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and cancer, along with a reduced risk of falling. Even relatively passive activities – like touring museums – can aid brain health and cut the risk of Alzheimer’s, according to the Global Coalition on Aging.

Plus, travel is a social boost and healer. Getting out with other people can reduce the social isolation that sometimes comes with aging, Warber says. It can pull us out of ourselves and improve our mood, even help us heal from grief and illness. And, according to the Coalition, it can lift our spirits by helping us reconnect with friends and family.

Warber’s research shows that older adults who are physically active in nature reduce their levels of stress and depression and improve their overall mental well-being.

Get out

When today’s seniors were kids, parents encouraged (some might say threatened) them to get out of the house and play outside, Warber says. It’s a habit that benefits them today as they age. People who exercise in nature enjoy it so much, they’re more likely to do it again. “It’s a lot more fun than being on a treadmill,” she notes.

You don’t have to travel far to reap the benefits of travel. Some of the best environments are parks and gardens. In fact, Warber and a group of other researchers studied British people over 55 who took group walks and found that just about any natural environment beyond busy urban streets improved mental and physical well-being.

When seniors are asked how they feel when returning from a trip in a natural environment, they use words like “tranquil” and “calm,” she says.

Time outdoors makes you pay attention to your environment, which keeps your mind active. “In nature, there’s great novelty and complexity,” she says. Plus, travel is educational, which keeps those brain cells hopping.

Even a 20-minute “staycation” helps. A simple walk in the park may be just the medicine your body and mind need. “You don’t have to meditate or do yoga or other complicated things,” Warber says. “Just walk outdoors.”

Staying local

  • Detroit Princess. Step back in time and take a riverboat cruise. Lasting about two to three hours, the cruises offer lunch or dinner plus live music and beautiful views. Go to detroitprincess.com for a cruise schedule.

  • Michigan State Capitol. Take a tour of the Capitol Building in Lansing. It's a National Historic Landmark. You can also explore its art, architecture and politics. Go to capitol.michigan.gov for more information.

  • MoGo. Get on a bike and ride around town. Detroit’s first bike share program, MoGo, has 43 stations across 10 Detroit neighborhoods. Visit MoGo for more information.

0891 Member Exclusive TypePeace of mind when traveling farther from home

If your "staycation" turns into a vacation, don't forget HAP members can call on Assist America when they’re traveling 100 miles or more from home, for up to 90 consecutive days per trip. Assistance includes a wide range of travel emergencies at no extra cost.  Learn more.

Categories: Get Healthy

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