Simply a fun getaway might be what people have in mind when they vacation, but a new AARP survey shows many travelers experience unexpected health benefits from their adventures too.
The survey finds that 81% say they notice some improvement in their health or well-being while away, and traveling often puts people in a better mood after they return, with 73% of Boomers reporting at least one positive impact on their health post-trip.
Most Americans, in fact, report boosts to their physical or mental health not just during and after a trip, but even before one. Planning a trip is a positive experience for about 86% of Boomers, who say it makes them feel happy, excited or relaxed.
The findings are part of a recent national online survey of about 1,500 adults conducted by AARP. The results show that although people don’t necessarily book a trip with wellness at the top of their itineraries, they often enjoy health perks from travel.
Array of health benefits
The most commonly reported contributors to the health benefits of traveling are relaxing and having fun—perks cited by 72% of AARP respondents. Other top-ranked factors leading to health benefits reported include spending quality time with friends and family (67%), and getting out of the day-to-day routine (63%). Most health improvements appear to last between three and four weeks post-trip, with improved relationships with loved ones on average lasting six weeks.
While the push to hit the road may be motivated by a desire to merely kick back, the survey shows several other benefits that travelers may not have considered in planning their getaway. Topping the list of unexpected travel bonuses are better sleep (51%), more energy (50%), increased productivity (46%), improved overall health (46%), and mental clarity (45%).
But what about the notion of a vacation hangover? To be sure, for some, post-travel adjustments are in order. About 20% report feeling tired following a pleasure trip, but it’s usually short lived— about one week, on average. Half of Boomers indicate they do not experience any health issues post-trip.
Wellness as a byproduct, not a focus
Interestingly, wellness is not always an intentional part of travel. When Boomers map out a trip and head off, less than one-third (31%) incorporate some wellness activity, while 53% of Millennials (age 21-37) and 40% of Gen-Xers (age 38-53) do. Those Boomers who incorporated these wellness activities into their trip say it was a side benefit, with most such activities somewhat planned (46%) or unplanned (45%). Just 9% of their trips were exclusively centered on wellness, the survey discovers.
As for specific kinds of wellness, physical wellness emerged as a top benefit when compared to other forms of wellness, such as mental, emotional, and spiritual. Among Boomers, about 66% cited physical wellness as being a part of their wellness vacation experience, and 40% noted physical wellness as the aspect from which they benefited most. Most Boomers got their exercise from walking (63%). Other top activities: sightseeing (31%), hiking (26%), swimming (24%), and spa services (20%).
Boomers who were active on vacation look back on the value of their wellness activities favorably and over 90% would likely choose such activities again in the future. Meanwhile, 38% of these repeat wellness travelers are more apt not to plan, and just let an activity happen.
The younger the traveler, the more likely a wellness activity was part of their leisure travel.
Intertwined with travel and health benefits is the level of health that travelers bring to their trips. Slightly less than half of Boomers see themselves as being in very good or excellent health, with more than one-fourth (26%) admitting they do not live a healthy lifestyle. About two-thirds of Boomers report having some kind of health issue, most commonly diabetes or with mobility. Among those who suffer from a health issue, mobility appears to be the one to limit travel the most.
AARP conducted the 15-minute online survey from a national sample of leisure travelers age 18 and over. Respondents traveled within the past two years for two nights or more, at least 50 miles from home, for non-business-related travel. The 1,500 surveys were completed in August 2018. Final data has been weighted to U.S. Census, by generation, for analysis. For more information contact Vicki Gelfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org. For media inquiries contact email@example.com.
Gelfeld, Vicki. The Health Outcomes of Travel: Perceptions of Boomers. Washington, DC: AARP Research, October 2018. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00257.001