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NEWS: Science Says You Should Take More Vacation Days

 

New research confirms that taking a vacation could help you live longer. According to the European Society of Cardiology 40-year study, participants who took more than three weeks of vacation had a 37 percent lower chance of dying in the follow-up period of the study than those who took less than three weeks annual vacation — and it all comes down to stress.

For 40 years, the study followed a group of 1,222 middle-aged men who were at risk for cardiovascular disease. Half of the group was given a lifestyle recommendation program, the other half was not given any instruction for lifestyle changes.

In the healthy lifestyle recommendation group of the ESC study, researchers found that shorter vacations were associated with higher mortality. Participants who took shorter vacations also worked more and slept less than those who took longer vacations, which only increased stress in their lives. It was also noted that the healthy lifestyle recommendation group may have experienced additional stress from the recommendations themselves, due to the strict sense of having to follow a set of guidelines.

“Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays.”

The researchers found that even making fitness and dietary changes couldn’t account for the stress of everyday life. “Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays,” said Professor Timo Strandberg, of the University of Helsinki. “Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress.”

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The longest-lived, healthiest people in the world may not work traditional nine-to-five jobs, but they are not immune to the stress of daily life. Each culture has its own method of stress reduction: Sardinians drink wine with their friends and neighbors at happy hour, Nicoyans find time to partake in daily gossip, Ikarians take naps, Okinawans meet with their moai, and Seventh-Day Adventists participate in the Sabbath, where they often find peace in nature. Additional research shows that stress management is essential for those looking to reduce risk of many age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s or cardiovascular disease.

Over 52 percent of employees in the U.S. ended last year with unused time off, sacrificing over 600 million vacation days. It is important to note that vacation days don’t have to mean traveling — it could just mean actually TAKING time off work.  This could be a staycation or even just a personal day. If you still cannot manage to take a vacation, there are a variety of ways to reduce stress in your everyday life:

Walk

This is the single activity that ALL centenarians did — and do — daily. It’s free, easy, always accessible, and invites company. After a long day at work, a walk can relieve stress and take you away from stressful situations.

Plant a Garden

Working in a garden requires frequent, full-range-of-motion activity, and keeps your hands busy. You dig to plant, bend to weed, and carry to harvest. Gardening daily can reduce stress, and provide you with a colorful variety of healthy fruits and vegetables.

Join a Spiritual Community

Almost all of the centenarians we met subscribed to a specific faith. For people in the longest-lived places in the world, they found comfort in relinquishing worries to a higher power.

Slow Down

Rafaella Monne, a 107-year-old from Sardinia said it best: “Life is short. Don’t run so fast you miss it.” Slowing life’s pace may help keep inflammation in check, and apart from its health benefits, it adds richness to life, tying together many of the blue zones lessons—eating right, appreciating friends, finding time to downshift, putting family first, finding your purpose.

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