Booking that vacation could be better for you than you thought. Source: Shutterstock
SO IT LOOKS like traveling isn’t only great for your mental health but for your physical wellbeing too.
“Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays,” The Helsinki Businessmen Study author Professor Timo Strandberg told AFP Relaxnews.
“Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress.”
The research that went into this finding, revealed at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich, is extensive and spans nearly 100 years of observations.
The new study from the University of Helsinki, Finland looked at 1,222 middle-aged male executives born between 1919 to 1934 that were recruited into The Helsinki Businessmen Study between 1974 and 1975.
The participants in the study all had at least one risk factor of developing heart issues, ranging from smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, glucose intolerance, and being overweight.
Sounds like Finnish businessmen weren’t the healthiest back in the 70s.
Market Square (Kauppatori) at the Old Town pier in Helsinki, Finland. Source: Shutterstock
Researchers from the initial study split the group of men at random. Half the men were given oral and written advice three times a year from healthcare professionals which aimed to make them healthier.
The advice included physical activity, a healthy diet, and to quit smoking. If these methods proved unsuccessful, those in the intervention group were given medication as well.
The other men in the control group were left to their own devices and not seen by researchers at all throughout the study.
But what do overweight Finnish businessmen have to do with you living longer?
Well, after five years of the study, researchers found that those in the intervention group had reduced their risk of heart disease.
However, upon a follow up 15 years later, more men from the intervention group had passed away than from the control group. This threw the researchers off their hypothesis, so they decided to extend the follow up for another 29 years.
In the study, researchers began analyzing national death registers and previously unreported data about the participants’ work, sleep, and vacation time.
The majority of the men from the intervention group took far less vacation time than those in the control group.
Source: Kyle Loftus/Unsplash
The study found that the men from the intervention group who took three weeks or less annual vacation had a 37 percent higher risk of death between 1974 to 2004 than those who took more than three weeks of vacation per year.
“In our study, men with shorter vacations worked more and slept less than those who took longer vacations,” Strandberg explained.
“This stressful lifestyle may have overruled any benefit of the intervention. We think the intervention itself may also have had an adverse psychological effect on these men by adding stress to their lives.”
While Strandberg and his colleagues emphasized that health education is in no way harmful, they also suggested that health education should have more of a holistic focus on lifestyle, rather than just focusing on getting your five-a-day and not smoking.
The full report will soon be published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging, but until then, you can read a full abstract here.