Health News Digest
Holiday calendar

February 17, 2014

Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think

By Michael D. Shaw

Looking out the window at too much snow surely conjures up visions in many of us to be whisked away to some tropical paradise. Likewise, when caught up in the grind—which seems to happen frequently these days—many of us long for a vacation. The derivation of the word “vacation” is more than a bit ironic.

We must go back to the ancient Roman (not Roman Catholic) religious calendar. An astonishing 100 days each year were feast days for Roman gods and goddesses. On all these days sacred festivals were celebrated, and presumably people attended the rites, or at least refrained from work. The rest of the calendar days were termed dies vacantes or vacant days, and it was on those days that people worked.

Several hundred years later, “vacation” would take on precisely the opposite meaning. For the people, a real day of rest or recreation—an empty or vacant day, if you will—was far better spent not working!

Fair enough, but are vacations good for your health? That very question was addressed in an article appearing in the September 1, 2000 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine. Entitled “Are Vacations Good for Your Health? The 9-Year Mortality Experience After the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial,” the study looked at 12,866 men (aged 35-57) in the upper 10% to 15% of the risk score distribution for coronary heart disease (CHD), as per Framingham Heart Study data.

This study concluded that “The frequency of annual vacations by middle-aged men at high risk for CHD is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality and, more specifically, mortality attributed to CHD (nearly 30% reduction). Vacationing may be good for your health.”

Of course, studies such as this are far from perfect. The authors themselves point out that the sickest subjects would be both less likely to take a vacation, and more likely to die. Moreover, the data was obtained via questionnaire, and there was no attempt to discern the quality of the vacation experience. Finally, as in all lifestyle studies, the parameter studied could in reality be a marker for something else, possibly more important. What if frequent vacationers also engaged in more health-promoting leisure time activities?

Still, it’s difficult to escape the notion that a well-planned vacation will reduce stress, and simply make you feel better.

Two rapidly growing areas in the vacation arena are eco-tourism and organized luxury destinations, often involving rentals of an elegant private residence.

According to The International Union for Conservation of Nature, ecotourism is:

“Environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features—both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations.”

Recently, Independent listed the Top Five Destinations for Ecotourism…

  • Palau
  • Norwegian Fjords
  • Kerala, India
  • Kenya
  • Costa Rica

Which brings us to Bellazo Luxury Destination Club, created by a group with considerable experience in developing eco-friendly luxury vacation communities, located on Costa Rica’s Gold Coast. According to founder Ron Zak, Bellazo offers unlimited access to 130 luxurious, fully staffed vacation estates in 47 of the world’s most sought-after destinations—at 30% to as much as 63% below current market rates.

As Zak told me:

“Bellazo enables members to experience the tranquility of a high-end, environmentally friendly residence in the world’s most exotic locales like Costa Rica, including our villas in Guanacaste, and other properties throughout the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. With a portfolio of premier, one-of-a-kind destinations, replete with the amenities of a five-star resort, Bellazo offers members the supreme accommodations of a private residence, villa, oceanfront property or regal estate.”

Let’s give the final word to The Standard Life Assurance Company of Canada, and its five reasons to go on vacation:

1.     Relieve stress

2.     Improve your mental skills. A well-rested mind that is free of worry is often more effective.

3.     Improve your physical health

4.     Strengthen family ties

5.     Enjoy life

Hard to argue with any of those.