As recently as 2018, according to statistics from the U.S. Travel Association, workers in the United States let 768 million vacation days expire without using them! In fact, research shows that people in the U.S. work more than any other industrialized country in the world, taking fewer vacations, working longer days, and retiring at a later age. As productive as we are as a nation, however, it comes with a price. Studies have shown that people who regularly get away from their jobs and take vacations enjoy a wide range of physical and psychological health benefits. In general, they have a lower risk of heart disease and reduced stress, as well as being more motivated to accomplish goals and having a more optimistic outlook on life. The health benefits of taking regular vacations include: A healthier heartResearch has found that men in particular who take yearly vacations are 32-percent less likely to pass away from heart disease than those who don't. So, when you are on vacation, be sure to actually BE ON vacation. In other words, don't take work calls or read emails during your vacation. A 2012 study showed that simply taking a five-day break from emails provided more natural, normal heart rates. This goes hand in hand with heart health because excessive stress is known to contribute to heart disease and hypertension (or high blood pressure). Taking a vacation every two years lessens the risk of heart problems for both men and women, compared to taking one every six years.Improved mental healthProlonged exposure to cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, alters the brain structure, according to neuroscientists. This often leads to anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, vacations away from work can lead to a sense of calm and reduce stress levels, allowing the mind, as well as the body, to heal.A boost in brainpowerPeople are usually more focused when they return to work after a vacation, showing a better ability to focus and be productive. On the other hand, chronic stress can get in the way of the part of the brain that controls goal-directed activities, as well as causing memory problems.A better sense of well-beingGallup did a study that found that people who take trips regularly had a 68.4 score on Gallup-Heathway's Well-Being Index, which “measures Americans' lives and their daily experiences.” By comparison, people who traveled less had a 51.4 score. Another study determined that, three days after a vacation, people's sleep quality, physical wellness, and overall mood were still at a higher level than before the vacation, gains that were still present five weeks later.Reduced risk of dementiaIn a 1995 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers found that participating in leisure activities such as traveling on vacation significantly lowers the risk of developing dementia.Stronger marriagesFor women especially, people who vacation more often are generally more satisfied with their marriage, according to a study published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal.Losing weightDepending on the type of vacation, a 2010 study in the journal Sleep and Breathing showed that people who included hiking or other physical activities along with their time relaxing by the pool were better able to drop a few pounds. Once you make the decision to go on vacation, the benefits start to happen immediately. Studies have shown that the biggest increase in happiness comes from simply planning the vacation. In fact, that boost in mood can start as early as two months before the actual vacation. For people who are not used to taking regular vacations, the first step to realizing all of these health benefits involves the mental task of changing long-held views and habits. Do some internal self-examination and reflection on why you're so hesitant to use your paid vacation time. And it's an important issue because that paid time off, or PTO, is part of your compensation for working, so it's like giving part of your paycheck back to your employer. For some people, it's based on fear. They're afraid that, by taking a vacation, their boss will think they're not committed to their job and they might lose it. Or they worry that if someone steps up to pick up the slack, that person will do a better job and make them look less important. Then weigh those concerns against the health benefits discussed in this post. Are they truly worth depriving yourself of the vacation your mind and body need?Plan Your Vacation At Exploria Resorts, we can help you plan your next vacation, whether you're taking one just for fun or you're new to vacationing and want to enjoy all these substantial health benefits. Enjoy our resorts' many relaxing amenities - from pools and beaches, to golf courses, hiking, ziplining, and exploring world class attractions, and so much more. Isn't it time you had an escape? Explore our latest vacation deals here!