Researchers and consumers alike wholly agree that travel has an overall nurturing effect on the body, mind and spirit. “Wellness vacations” promise peace of mind, true relaxation and a sense of rejuvenation ― both physical and mental. And given the increasing demands and daily stresses we all try our best to manage, it is no surprise that “wellness travel packages” grow ever more popular and available.
“Vacations are no longer a luxury, they are a necessity,” says Camille Hoheb, CEO of Wellness Tourism Worldwide. “There is a growing body of evidence that taking time off improves health, productivity and happiness.”
Studies show that after a few days of vacation, heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones decrease significantly, and can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 50 percent.
In 1948, the Framingham Heart Study monitored 750 women between the ages of 45-64, all of whom were initially free of heart disease, and had been for the prior 20 years. This study examined each subject’s frequency and duration of vacation time, ultimately concluding that those women who only vacationed once [or less] every six years were about eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or suffer a heart attack than those who vacationed at least twice a year. Other factors were surely at play, but the findings are startling nonetheless.
Wellness travel awareness is also intended to help the public understand the concept and practice of modifiable risk behaviors. As human beings, we all have habits or routines that are not conducive to a healthy lifestyle. These include tobacco use, misuse of alcohol, inactivity and poor diet choices. The World Health Organization cites these “risk behaviors” as leading culprits in the development of life-altering conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and respiratory illness. Correcting these behaviors directly decreases the prevalence of these largely avoidable conditions.
Wellness travel generally is thought of as a means of increasing one’s sense of well-being but may have more immediate, practical, worthy consequences. Now what? How might one plan a vacation that is aimed towards wellness and health? Start with making a plan as to where you want to go and how you go about it. Planning and creating an itinerary will help to eliminate stress. That’s not to say that spontaneity isn’t encouraged, but scheduling much of your vacation agenda in advance means less stress and more time for you to relax and enjoy.
Wellness vacationing can be a weekend getaway, or a weeklong trip. It’s all about reviving you from the draining, life sapping trials and tribulations of every day life. Hoheb suggests reconnecting with yourself, others and nature is what wellness travel is all about.
“Wellness tourism puts a spotlight on local assets such as natural landscapes (hot springs) local traditions (yoga) and local rituals (Indian sweat lodge),” Hoheb adds. “Wellness tourism is also ecologically sensitive and world friendly and includes eco-tourism, volun-tourism and exchanges. It includes spiritual travel such as pilgrimages, retreats and connecting with nature and also speaks to evidence based therapies such as mindfulness, massage and yoga.”
With so much hype surrounding wellness vacationing, many travel agencies, resorts and spas offer specific packages or specials created to help you achieve well-being. It has become very simple to take advantage of this emerging trend.
When organizing your retreat, whether to a local log-cabin mountain hideaway, or a spiritual overhaul with Buddhists in India, remember that the reward is fundamentally intrinsic: regardless of destination, at the end of the day what matters most is your own perception of wellness.