Travel may not reverse the course of aging but it can certainly put aging on a different course.
The positive mental health effects of travel are well documented. Recent studies include a body of work out of Wisconsin that noted 1 in 6 US employees is so overworked that he or she is unable to use their two weeks annual vacation time. And according to a national survey cited in the study men and women, workers who do not take vacation are more likely to stay up nights worrying about work, eat and work at the same time, and fail to maintain a healthy diet at work compared to those who do take vacation.
The results of the comprehensive Wisconsin survey, which focused on women in that state, concluded that vacation has an impact on psychological health and overall quality of family life of employees. The results confirmed a hypothesis that women who take vacations frequently are less likely to become tense, depressed, or tired, and are more satisfied with their marriage compared to those who do not take vacations regularly.
In a study outlined by the Global Council on Aging, researchers recruited 5,209 residents of Framingham, Massachusetts beginning in 1948, to identify risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In a 20-year follow up study, researchers examining the responses found that even after taking into account traditional risk factors such as blood pressure, women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year. Another study shows that women who do not take vacations are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression as women who choose to take a vacation.
The study also notes a recent survey revealing that after being on vacation for only a day or two, 89 percent of people are able to leave the stressors of work behind and relax.
Unfortunately, the latest figures out of the U.S. Travel Association indicate that each year, Americans fail to use 429 million vacation days.
To address this problem, the Cruise Lines International Association put together a manifesto noting a dozen reasons why cruising is good for your health.
“People today are more stressed and overbooked than ever before. Vacations are important to allow the mind and body to re-energize and relax,” said Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “A cruise vacation in particular, provides a variety of places to see as well as the chance to take part in on-board activities in a safe and healthy environment.”
Sunshine: There’s no better place to enjoy the morning sunshine than a cruise ship deck. Studies have found that getting an hour of natural sunlight in the morning can help fine tune your internal clock, allowing you to get more (and better!) sleep. Sunshine also has long-term benefits since it helps the body produce the important Vitamin D which has been found to help fight off heart disease and cancer. Moderate amounts of sunshine will also boost serotonin levels that fight off depression. So apply sunscreen and enjoy the rays!
Relaxation: Finding time to relax plays a vital role in overall health. Chronic stress can lead to a myriad of problems, including impaired memory, inflammation, high blood pressure and heart disease. Skip the stress by lounging at the pool, enjoying spa treatments and relaxing in comfortable accommodations. Best of all, cruising allows for a stress-free vacation experience where vacationers can just “go with the flow” of the itinerary.
Cleanliness: Cruise line cleanliness is highly regulated. Each room and common area is kept clean, presentable and disinfected. From door handles to poker chips, cruise ships are regularly sanitized for the well-being of everyone on board. Clean hands also guide a steady ship, as those on-board are urged to wash hands frequently.
Ocean Air: The benefits of fresh, ocean air are seemingly limitless and cruisers can take full advantage day and night. Between daytime excursions and nights spent relaxing on the ship deck, there is plenty of time to breathe deeply! Fresh air is known to help keep lungs clean; aid in digestion; improve heart rate; strengthen the immune system; and provide an energy boost.
Salt Water: Isak Dinesen knew what she was talking about when she said, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” Cruisers can take full advantage of the amazing benefits of the ocean. Aside from the stress relief a day at the beach provides, swimming in salt water can also help improve circulation by restoring vital minerals to your body. Ocean water and on-ship salt water swimming pools are also a natural beauty treatment, as the magnesium has been found to help hydrate skin and improve inflamed or red complexions.
Camaraderie: Humans are wired to connect with one another and in our hyper-digital age, this isn’t always a daily reality. Cruising allows for high amounts of quality bonding time with your vacation partners while also allowing you to socialize with new people. Whether over a gourmet dinner in the dining room or during a comedy routine in the ship theater, cruise ships offer time to connect with others free of work emails, smart phones and hand-held gaming systems.
Exploration: There’s something to be said about the benefits of exploration and having an adventure (not to mention the stories to tell!). Pre-planned cruise shore excursions allow cruisers to scuba dive, parasail, check out local sites in exotic locations and more, without the stress of making planning every detail or reading millions of reviews to find the right activities. Cruisers can see the world without spending months planning.
Healthy Dining Options: Though many people think it is impossible to eat well while on vacation, cruise ships around the world offer healthy dining fare and lighter meal options to accommodate every diet. Gluten-free? Vegan? Low-carb diet? Cruise ship chefs are happy to accommodate. Additionally, cruise ships offer buffets filled with fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins to help you build a better plate.
Staying Active: Cruise vacations offer vacationers a chance to stay active. There are plenty of onboard activities, like rock climbing, basketball or table tennis. In addition, many cruise ships offer full service gyms and fun fitness classes like yoga in the morning or nighttime tai chi. It’s easy to stay active with options abound on each ship.
Meditation: Whether packing a dance card with endless excursions or take a leisurely stroll around the port, “think time” on a cruise can help clear the mind. Meditation has been found to help reduce stress, negative emotions, recharge the mind and increase self-awareness. Nothing takes the mind to a peaceful place like gazing into open waters or meditating in a beach chair.
Stress-Free Vacation Planning: Vacations are important in terms of “getting away” and bonding with loved ones but the stress of planning every detail can be daunting. Cruising allows for stress-free vacation planning with pre-planned excursions, inclusive meals and endless on-ship entertainment. More importantly, a cruise vacation allows you to unpack and get settled in your cabin without the hassle of having to move your belongings, while you visit multiple destinations.
Better Budget Value: Nothing can bring down a vacation high quite like returning to a pile of credit card bills. Cruise vacations are a great all-inclusive way to enjoy a variety of vacation experiences without a variety of hidden costs. Cruise travel agents are also available to help budget and pre-plan trips for the most budget-friendly experiences.
“The great thing about a cruise is that you can do as much or as little as you want, and you’ll still have a nice break from your daily routines at home,” Whitbourne continued. “If you do decide to explore the sights and many opportunities a cruise can provide, you’ll come back from your trip with a set of new memories, experiences and even friends.”