Tips to stretch your vacation for all it’s worth—to your health

Many folks use a vacation in the summer to re-charge their health. But you may not be optimizing the benefits of your time off. It turns out there are a few tips you can follow before, during and after that can boost your vacation-related health benefits.

According to researchers at the University of Tampere in Finland, the benefits of a vacation actually start a few days before your physical getaway. So for the greatest reward from time off, say the researchers, make sure you relish the thought about how great your vacation is going to be right before it actually starts — and then bask in the memories of what a wonderful time you had even after you’re back at work.

When the Finn scientists examined the results of vacations, they found that the ideal length of a vacation is about eight days. During that time, they found, the warm feelings of being away from it all gradually rose until they peaked in a little over a week. After eight days, the wellness benefits dropped off.

“It could be that eight days is the ideal to fully gain the benefits of a holiday,” researcher Jessica de Bloom, told the Wall Street Journal in a report on her research.

Other tips researchers recommend to get more health benefits from a vacation include:

  • Lose the alarm clock. Researcher de Bloom says that having more control over when you want to wake up in the morning and making your own decisions about daily activities makes you feel more autonomous.
  • If you have a choice between several short vacations or one very long one, take the short vacations. Each block of time off creates extra amounts of beneficial relaxation.
  • Save the most enjoyable, vacation experiences for the last part of your vacation. That way they will color your entire experience and make it more satisfying and memorable.

Spending your vacation in the presence of a beautiful natural scene, powerful art or great architecture elicits positive emotions that have been shown to actually effect your health at the cellular level. So keep that in mind when planning your trip.

The researchers also caution that you shouldn’t plunge back into long hours and intense work after your vacation ends. Re-enter normal life slowly to temper your stress and let yourself re-acclimate to your normal routine.

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.