How holidays help our health

Doing the same old, same old, day in, day out can lead to boredom and a stuck-in-a-rut feeling that can really get us down and make it hard to stay motivated. It’s at times like this we feel we could benefit from a holiday, which is just as well, because experts have suggested that they can benefit both our physical and mental health.

“A holiday can be just the jolt needed to help us break free of our daily routine, indulge in different activities, eat different, healthier foods and, best of all, spend more time in the sunshine, which is one of the best spirit lifters of all,” says psychotherapist Christine Webber.

If you still need convincing to take the plunge and book some time away, read on…

How holidays can support our health

Holidays can improve our diet

Holidays needn’t equal overindulgence. “Foreign cuisines provide an excellent opportunity to try out new foods that are often healthier than what we usually eat in the UK,” says nutritionist Suzie Sawyer.

Mediterranean countries, for example, offer some of the healthiest foods in the world, like sweet, vibrant tomatoes and omega-3-rich grilled sardines. In hot destinations, fruit and veg will feature highly on the menu, so Suzie recommends trying to swap these for breakfast and pudding in place of cereals and sugary desserts.

While it can be tempting to cool down with a cocktail, too much alcohol increases stress hormones while interfering with digestion, immune function and sleep quality. To avoid a hangover in the heat, try to stick to no more than 14 units spread evenly over a week.

Easy Exercise

Warm weather, free time and long sandy beaches can provide the perfect incentive to get moving. “Explore local areas on foot, either walking or jogging, or venture further afield on two wheels by hiring a bicycle,” says celebrity personal trainer Matt Roberts.

If you’re holidaying on the coast, swimming is a great full-body workout that’s easy on the bones and joints. Alternatively, you could try outdoor sports like golf or tennis or watersports like windsurfing. You’ll be having so much fun, you won’t even realise you’re exercising – just make sure to drink plenty of water and head out in the cooler hours, not the midday sun.

Better sleep

Long working hours can rob us of sleep, which can wear us down and lead to poor mental performance. Holidays are the perfect time to catch up on rest without the pressure of a morning alarm. Lisa Artis of the Sleep Council has some advice for jet lag sufferers. “Diet has a large part to play in setting the body clock,” says Lisa.

“The day before you fly, eat three balanced meals, including at least five servings of fruit or green vegetables, plus one serving of protein-rich food like white fish or tofu. Once there, use your diet to help control your wakefulness: high-protein meals increase alertness, while carbohydrates make you feel sleepier”

Bone strength

Spending time in the sun stimulates the body to produce vital vitamin D. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t manufacture vitamin D if they are smothered in sunscreen – although protection is still vitally important. Try to spend ten to 15 minutes a day in the sun without sun protection or make up (some cosmetics have built-in SPFs that can block vitamin D production).

After a quarter of an hour in the sunshine, be sure to apply a high SPF mineral sunscreen to prevent UV damage and ensure you don’t go out unprotected between 12 noon and 3pm when the sun is at its most potent.

Get a glow

Seaside holidays are great for bringing back life to lacklustre skin. Sand is a natural exfoliator and going barefoot along the beach can work wonders, sloughing dead skin from the soles of feet.

A daily swim in saltwater is thought to re-mineralise the skin, helping to get rid of cellular by-products and toxins. Sunshine has long been known to help to alleviate skin problems such as adult acne and psoriasis. But spending too long soaking up the rays can increase the risk of skin cancer, so don’t overdo it.

Time to reflect

Seeing different things, meeting new people and perhaps having a go at speaking another language all help to stimulate the brain, which can really help us to reset if we’ve been stuck in a rut. Taking in the culture of a different country also gives us something to talk about, as well as providing us with a yardstick against which to measure life back home.

Perhaps it’s time to book those flights to get away or pack up the car for a ‘staycation’…

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