How Much Vacation Time Do You Need To Stay Healthy?

The feeling of trading your work shoes for flip flops or hiking boots is undeniably exhilarating. A sigh of relief sweeps over you as you step into a time of rest, leisure, and maybe even a little adventure.

Of course, we all intuitively know that vacations help to relieve stress and rejuvenate our minds, but what if they could do more? What if vacations held the secret to boosting our physical health? More importantly, just how much vacation time do you need to harness these health benefits?

Vacations: Your Unexpected Health Ally

In our quest for better health, we often focus on the usual suspects—eating well, getting regular exercise, and getting high-quality sleep. However, the role of stress relief and mental well-being can sometimes be overlooked. Vacations, as it turns out, not only rejuvenate our minds but also hold tangible benefits for our physical health.

A study published in Psychology & Health puts a compelling case forward for the role of vacations in our health. The study found a surprising connection between vacationing behavior and metabolic outcomes.

Metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels) was shown to decrease with an increase in vacation frequency.

The Magic Number: A Vacation Frequency Prescription

The data from the study shows that over the past 12 months, participants took approximately five vacations, using about 2 weeks of their paid vacation days.

As vacation episodes increased, both the incidence of metabolic syndrome and the number of metabolic symptoms decreased. The risk for metabolic syndrome fell by nearly a quarter for each additional vacation taken.

This finding suggests that vacations might be a surprisingly potent weapon against metabolic syndrome and its symptoms.

Activity Shifts During and After Vacation

So, we know vacations help. But what exactly happens during these precious off days that bestows such health benefits? For that, we turn to a new study from March 2023 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. This research examined how daily movement behaviors change from before, to during and after vacations.

The study found that daily sleep, light physical activity, and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity all increased during vacation. At the same time, sedentary behavior decreased. This shift toward more active and restful behaviors during vacations seems to be a key part of their health benefits.

Incorporating Vacation Time Into Your Health Regime

Vacations are not just luxuries. They are essential components of a well-rounded health routine.

The research suggests that taking around five vacations, or about two weeks of vacation time, in a year can have substantial benefits for metabolic health.

Remember, the goal here isn’t necessarily to jet-set to exotic destinations. Instead, it’s about allocating time to step away from the daily grind, destress, move more, and rest better.

This could mean exploring nature nearby, spending time with family and friends, or taking a staycation to recharge. What matters is giving your body and mind a break, and that, as the research shows, can lead to some truly significant health benefits.

So, as you plan your health goals for the year, remember to schedule in those vacation days. They could be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding health decisions you make.