Why taking vacation helps you live longer

The things you do to live a longer, healthier life aren’t usually fun…

Waking up at the crack of dawn to exercise. Refusing that gooey, decadent piece of chocolate cake. Stopping after one glass of wine even though you really want two… or three. Turning off your favorite TV show right after a major cliffhanger to go for a walk.

But healthy living isn’t always a bummer. In fact, there are ways to improve your health and lengthen your lifespan by having more fun. Do you want to know my favorite fun-filled way to add some quality years to your life?

It’s more effective at relieving stress than healthy eating and exercising combined. Plus, it slashes disease risk and lengthens lifespan as much as those less fun healthy habits I mentioned earlier…

I’m talking about setting your email message to “out-of-office” and heading out on vacation.

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More vacation time means more time on earth

Do you know something sad? More than half of Americans don’t use their vacation time. I hope you’re not one of them. But if you are, here’s some info that’ll inspire you to schedule time off in the near future…

A new study from researchers at the University of Helinski shows that taking at least three weeks of vacation per year will help you live longer.

Related: How vacation lowers disease risk at the cellular level

The study followed 1,222 middle-aged male executives for 40 years. Half of these men were asked to exercise, eat healthy, maintain a healthy weight and stop smoking.

But men who followed all these healthy habits were still 37 percent more likely to die young if they didn’t take at least three weeks off per year.

In other words, healthy living won’t do you any good if you’re not taking time for fun and relaxation too. So, head out on a getaway… doctor’s orders!

Ready, set… vacation!

Summer vacation season may be over. But vacations during other seasons can be just as fun. How about a fall road trip through New England? Or a tropical beach vacay once the frigid temps hit?

If funds are tight, a staycation could do the trick. After all, the study only measured how long people took off, not where they went during their time off. A little R&R is healthy even if takes place in your own backyard.

But what if your work only gives you two weeks off per year? Or you don’t get any paid time off and you can’t afford to take time off unpaid?

RelatedHow to send cancer on a permanent vacation

That’s when things get tricky. Since time off is so important to your health, explore ways to improve your vacay situation, like finding a new job or negotiating for more time off at your current job. The best employers are the ones who understand the value of giving their employees time to recharge.

If a job change isn’t in the cards for you, make the most of weekends, holidays and other times you get off. Do things that are restorative and fun, like a day trip to a nearby hiking spot or fishing hole, a day-long yoga retreat or a trip to your favorite used book store. Those little moments of enjoyment and rest add up. If you get enough of them, they may even add up to a longer life.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.