Knitting needles or a stroll through the Alps?

The secrets to a long and healthy life are often thought to be diet and exercise (and Disney parties!). But you might also want to add travel to that list. While many people travel simply for enjoyment, or the desire to get away and do something different, along the way, they also broaden their horizons, relieve day-to-day stress, and improve their general outlook on life.

Travel is excellent for our health and contributes to a longer life expectancy and a more satisfying retirement. Take a look at four ways that travel can improve the life of retirees:

1. Travel encourages you to be more active.

You hustle through the airport, schlep your bags to the hotel, then walk around the streets, stroll through the museums, swim in the ocean, or hike along mountain paths. Many of the activities you do on vacation involve physical exercise which lowers your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Need more proof? Many scientific studies have found that men and women who vacation at least twice a year enjoyed a significantly lower risk of heart disease than men and women who hardly ever took a break. (I'm not retired, and my trip to Alaska has motivated me to be more physical in my life--Florida is so gosh darn hot!)

2. Travel offers social benefits.

Travel can help you strengthen relationships with family and friends, and offers opportunities to meet new people, as well. Group travel with friends from home or people brought together by a common interest helps build social ties which promote good mental health. In addition, travelers can hardly avoid being introduced to new people – often with different backgrounds and perspectives – and research shows that active social participation, especially later in life, brings positive benefits for our emotional well-being.

3. There are cognitive rewards.

You can go on an educational vacation or attend a week long class somewhere…but no matter where you travel, you will be meeting new people, navigating unfamiliar places, and trying out different things…all activities that stimulate and challenge the brain. Travelers who search out different environments are exposed to unfamiliar cultures, which stretch their imaginations and forces them to consider new ways of thinking. The novelty of travel – especially the kind that involves navigating in unfamiliar territory – is a key to boosting your brain power and can lower the risk of dementia later in life.

4. It improves your mood and lowers your stress levels.

Studies have shown that the majority of travelers (actually 86%) said that travel “improves their mood and outlook about life in general”. And most respondents also agree that travel relieves stress and contributes to both physical and mental well-being. While many people are aware of the benefits of taking a vacation, they don’t always appreciate that the effects of stress relief linger long after they get home. Retiree travelers are notably more likely than non-retirees to feel satisfied with their ability to “get things done” and maintain a positive outlook.

Factor travel into your retirement budget. If your budget is tight, challenge yourself to find ways to cut financial corners without shortchanging your experience. For example, you don’t have to fly to far away vacation spots like Africa or Europe to reap the benefits (although I highly recommend them both!). Most people report that their most rewarding trips are not necessarily to far-off destinations, but to places where they share the experience with family and friends… You can go on vacation during the off-season, take advantage of senior discounts, travel with a social club or alumni group, or volunteer to help plan a trip with a group from church or your neighborhood.

Don’t think of travel as just another discretionary expense…consider it an investment in your health, happiness and future.

Happy Travels!


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