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Holidays 'good for your health': Experiment

Getting away from it all may improve stress levels and lower blood pressure
By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
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29th January 2013 - Does going on holiday really confer any health benefits and if so, how significant are they? A small study suggests it does and that these can be measured.

Researchers found that, compared with people who carry on with their normal working lives, holidaymakers sleep better, have lower blood pressure and are less stressed. It also suggests that some of these health benefits stay with us after we return to the daily grind.

The Holiday Health Experiment was carried out by tour operator Kuoni and the healthcare charity Nuffield Health.

Exotic destinations

Participants were recruited from 10,000 people who responded to publicity about the experiment in the media. They were narrowed down to 12 individuals who were then divided into two groups. Six were sent to some exotic holiday destinations - Thailand, Peru or the Maldives - while the other group stayed at home.

Those taking part were asked to wear a small heart monitor for some of the time and were also assessed for Body Mass Index (BMI), the ratio of their waist to hip measurement, cholesterol, blood glucose, the profile of their blood and their blood pressure. Their levels of hydration, how much alcohol they drank, caffeine intake, how much sleep they got, their nutrition and aerobic fitness were also examined.

This was carried out alongside psychotherapeutic tests conducted by psychotherapist Christine Webber.

Lower stress levels

The study found that:

  • Blood pressure among holidaymakers fell on average by 6%, compared with a 2% increase among those who stayed at home
  • The quality of sleep improved by 17% among those who went away, compared with a 14% drop in those who continued as normal
  • The resilience to stress among the holiday group rose by 29%, compared with a deterioration of 71% among the stay-at-homes.

The experiment also found that those who went on holiday had decreased blood glucose levels, lost weight around the middle and had improved energy levels and mood.

Dr Lucy Goundry Nuffield Health, medical director, Wellbeing says in a statement: "For the first time, our clinical results show how holidays helped these couples reduce their blood pressure, improve their sleep and manage their stress levels better".

Staycations

All very well, we might ask, but where does this leave those who cannot afford an expensive holiday this year?

The three trips featured in the experiment are not everybody's experience of time out. One was an adventure holiday in Thailand with plenty of sightseeing, the second was taking part in an ecological project in Peru and the third a more typical chill-out vacation in a seaside resort in the Maldives.

However, what if your annual holiday is a week in the rain back home trying to entertain under canvas?

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