What Is Wellness Tourism? A Guide to Wellness Retreats and More

Most of the health perks of wellness tourism are anecdotal and can’t be backed up by research. Moreover, existing research primarily focuses on general travel, not wellness tourism. That said, we may be able to pinpoint a few potential benefits of wellness travel.

1. It May Boost Happiness

New experiences and changes in scenery can give some people a mood boost. In a study published in July 2020 in Nature, people with more variability in their day-to-day location tended to be happier. Meanwhile, a past study found that women who vacationed twice a year were less likely to suffer from depression and chronic stress than women who vacationed less frequently.

2. It Provides Lasting Stress Relief

A wellness-inspired getaway enables you to escape the stress of everyday life and focus on activities and experiences that promote well-being. And the stress-relieving benefits of this kind of travel are almost immediate. According to a nonacademic online survey by Expedia referenced in 2018 by the Global Coalition on Aging, 88 percent of U.S. respondents reported feeling more relaxed and less anxious after being on vacation for just a day or two, and the same percentage felt optimistic and positive after a trip.

Time spent disconnected from daily stressful situations can also lower your overall stress once you return home.

Even a short trip (including to local venues) can potentially offer lasting stress relief. In one small study published in 2018 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers had 20 midlevel executives spend four nights in a hotel outside their usual environment, while a control group of 20 spent their vacation at home. While both groups noticed immediate improvements in stress and well-being, the hotel cohort saw greater benefits. What’s more, the positive effects could still be felt 45 days post-vacation.

3. It May Improve Heart Health

The stress-lowering effects of travel may have benefits for your heart.

In a past study, middle-aged men at high risk for heart disease who reported that they had taken a vacation in the past year were 17 percent less likely to have passed away than men who hadn’t traveled, in research conducted over a nine-year period.

That said, the authors of the aforementioned study note that, while vacations may improve heart health by lowering stress, it may be that healthier people are more likely to travel. More research is needed to determine if and how travel benefits the heart and mortality risk. If you have a heart condition, be sure to consult your physician before you take a trip.

4. It May Enhance Brain Health

Exposure to new behaviors and environments through travel may stimulate the brain in new ways, potentially helping you stay sharp, according to the report from the Global Coalition on Aging.

In fact, when the authors of a past study followed more than 2,000 older adults for three years, they found that those who regularly participated in social or leisure activities, such as traveling, had a lower risk of dementia. According to the CDC, dementia is a general term for when the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions interferes with everyday life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, and it mostly affects older adults, per the CDC.

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