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posted: 6/12/2014 1:01 AM

Top 4 Reasons Travel is Good for Your Health

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Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital

Summer travel plans? When you think of travel, do you think of it as a healthy activity? According to USA Student Travel, there are four reasons why travel is healthy:

1.) Exercise -- Even if your trip does not include heart-pumping activities like kayaking or skiing, the distance you walk on a day-to-day basis while you are traveling is sure to be greater than normal. Whether you are exploring the halls of a museum or climbing the stairs of a national monument, you are sure to get an extra dose of exercise.

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2.) Variety -- We all know how it feels to be stuck in a rut and feel stressed and overwhelmed in everyday life. Travel offers an escape from the routine and a breakup of the monotony. You'll do things you don't normally do while you travel, whether it's experience new places, new foods and even new people. Anyone who has traveled knows the benefits of coming back from an inspiring trip, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated with a ton of memorable experiences.

3.) Getting Outdoors -- On any trip you are more likely to be outside longer than usual. Whether you're exploring a national park, beautiful beach or just walking between destinations, there are plenty of benefits from being outside and breathing fresh air. Not to mention all the D vitamins you'll soak up from the sun, as long you protect yourself accordingly.

4.) Reducing Stress -- We all know that chronic stress is terrible for your health. It can cause a number of different diseases and have a negative impact on your immune system. Fortunately, it is difficult to be stressed while you are watching a Broadway show or going on a sunset cruise.

Dr. Ann O'Connor-Trauscht, family medicine doctor on staff at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, in Barrington, sees many patients before they are going on vacation or making an international trip.

Dr. Trauscht provides a pre-travel medical evaluation, including ensuring travelers are up-to-date on vaccinations.

"I have noticed that for many people, travel is good medicine," explains Trauscht. "When you travel, you put your brain into a place that is novel and complex. Your brain reacts by being engaged, and you begin to process on a deep level. Traveling can also be a great stress reliever and help people live longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives."

Another recent study confirmed that traveling is beneficial to your health. According to The Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, travel offers the same sort of physical and cognitive benefits as crossword puzzles or museum visits.

Findings from the study concluded that:

• Women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared with women who vacationed at least twice a year.

• Men who did not take an annual vacation were shown to have a 20 percent higher risk of death and about a 30 percent greater risk of death from heart disease.

• Benefits of travel are almost immediate. After only a day or two, 89 percent of respondents saw significant decreases in stress.

The study also noted that 59 percent of Americans dream of traveling during their retirement, and that the most impactful trips are those spent with family and friends.

So, go ahead and book that dream vacation.

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