Health benefits of weekend getaways

The Falls Music Festival

Going on holiday may be fun and exciting, but as it turns out, it also holds a number of more tangible benefits. In fact, even just a short weekend getaway can do wonders for your health and well-being.

It can be tough to find enough time off of work to go on full-fledged holidays throughout the year, but even a three-day weekend can help you rest and recharge in a way that will positively benefit your outlook, relationships, health and productivity.


How does time away benefit your health?

There are a number of ways taking a quick weekend away can benefit your health. Research conducted by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh's Mind-Body Center showed that taking leisure time led to experiencing more positive emotions, less depression and more satisfaction.

The research involved nearly 1,400 participants whose health statistics were tracked alongside their self-reported hours of leisure time, including holidays away. The study revealed that benefits such as lower blood pressure, healthy weight and lower stress hormones all resulted from the leisure benefits of a holiday.

Karen Matthews, one of the study's lead researchers, told National Public Radio that people who enjoyed more leisure time "reported more life satisfaction, finding more meaning in life. They tended to be more religious [and] spiritual in orientation."


What about productivity?

Being productive in both your work life and your home life is also important for having a stress-free attitude, and some health and well-being experts maintain that taking a quick holiday helps improve this facet of your life.

Researchers at the University of Illinois found that taking quick mental breaks can improve your focus and productivity in the long run. The scientists divided participants into four groups, and studied their productivity levels in relation to breaks and leisure time. They concluded that contrary to some beliefs about the nature of focus, being purposefully distracted could lead to positive benefits.

The study revealed that benefits such as lower blood pressure, healthy weight and lower stress hormones all resulted from the leisure benefits of a holiday.

We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused," said Alejandro Lleras, lead author of the study. " ... it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!"


Ideas for health-boosting weekends away

Taking the initiative to plan a weekend getaway may be difficult, but it's important to work it into your schedule. Here are a few ideas for a holiday that needn't last more than three days if you're in a time bind.

Attend an event in Sydney, such as a concert, art exhibition, movie opening or theatre performance. Build your weekend plans around this interest. For example, if you're going to a movie screening, get the star treatment beforehand with a day at the hair salon, and spend the night prior to the opening wining and dining around Sydney.

Head to the coast for a seaside retreat. Bonus points if you're already a surfer, yoga enthusiast or some other kind of athlete. Make the vacation into an active weekend away to recharge your batteries. (Or if you're not an athlete, simply plan to lounge around the beach every day.)

Follow your favourite sports team to an away game. Spend your weekend watching the game and taking in the sights and sounds in the new city. You could make this into a friends' weekend away if your mates share your passion for sports.

If you're on a budget or severely pressed for time, consider a weekend-long staycation. See your home city from a new angle. Get a room in a holiday accommodation in a different neighbourhood of your city and spend the weekend attending shows, trying new restaurants and seeing the town from a tourist's perspective.

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