When diagnosed with a serious medical condition, the feeling of sadness and worry can be all-encompassing. Such permanent stress can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being and it can also hinder the body’s ability to fight infection, making it important for patients to rest, relax and unwind.
A holiday is the perfect way to de-stress after a diagnosis. In fact, there is research that suggests avoiding a trip away could inflict further problems on your health.
Going on holiday
A study on 13,000 middle-aged men at risk of heart disease discovered those who skipped holidays for five consecutive years were 30 per cent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off each year. Apparently, even missing one year’s holiday was associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
For women, those who took a holiday once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.
So, we’ve discovered that skipping holiday could be detrimental to mental and physical health but what about the positive effects gained from heading on a trip?
Benefits of holidays revealed
The positive impact of holidays on health has been recorded by the ‘Holiday Health Experiment’, a study conducted by tour operator Kuoni and Nuffield Health. According to the study – dubbed ‘the first of its kind’ – those who took part benefited from lower blood pressure, improved sleep quality and improved stress management, with the effects continuing for at least two weeks after returning home. Clearly, a holiday domestically or abroad could be the perfect tonic for someone with a pre-existing medical condition.
Participants were split into a travel and non-travel group, with one group sent to Thailand, Peru or the Maldives for two weeks while the other group stayed at home.
Interestingly enough, the travel group experienced a ream of health benefits. For instance, the average blood pressure of the holidaymakers dropped by six per cent, while the average of the non-travellers went up by two per cent over the same period. In addition, holidaymakers saw a 17 per cent improvement in their ‘sleep quality’ while non-holidaymakers saw a decrease in sleep quality of 14 per cent.
Dr Lucy Goundry, a medical director from Nuffield Health, commented on the results: “These results clearly demonstrate that on holiday our resilience to stress improves.
“Becoming more resilient to stress is hugely important as most of us will return back to stress when our holiday ends but being more resilient to it helps lay the foundations for improved productivity at work, better energy levels and ultimately happiness,” she added.
Sun, sun, sun
Every wondered why you feel better when heading on a sun holiday or when the sun finally appears after the cold months of winter? Research shows our bodies, when exposed to sunlight, convert vitamin A from the sun into vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for strengthening the immune system and is needed to bind calcium to bones. It also helps generate teeth development.
In fact, the risk of cancer could be cut in half with sunlight. That’s according to a study cited by mercola.com which looked at almost 1,200 women, aged 55 and older, over the course of four years. One group of women was given a placebo while the other half took supplemental calcium and vitamin D tablets; the latter group experience a 60 per cent lower risk for all cancers according to the study.
Vitamin D from the sun also reduces the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones – a big step from turning dormant tumours into cancerous ones – while vitamin D reduces the spread and reproduction of cancer cells.
When diagnosed with an illness, it can feel like your whole is falling apart. However, the health benefits of heading on a holiday are well documented and you could benefit from relaxing and unwinding for two weeks in the summer sun. Always check with your GP before flying and double check you have adequate travel insurance but, most importantly, ensure you are enjoying your holiday from start to finish!
Image Credit: Jan Willen Geertsma