If the mention of adventure travel makes you flash to episodes of Survivor, take another look at the booming vacation trend, which runs the gamut from mild to wild. And with one-third of people reporting they always gain weight on vacation, according to TripAdvisor, building in some action at your destination could save you from becoming another statistic. Pick a paradise where you can hike, take a surf lesson, or see what rock climbing is all about. The benefits abound.
1. Your Body Moves Better
“You’re at ease on vacation, so your muscles are more relaxed—especially those in the shoulders and lower back—and you breathe easier,” says Paul J. Arciero, Ph.D., a professor of health and exercise sciences at Skidmore College. That adds up to moving more fluidly, Arciero says, putting you in prime condition for taking on a big day of action.
With an unfamiliar physical activity, you have to work harder to keep up with the challenges, burning more calories and firming more muscle fibers, Arciero says. “If you’re a runner, you engage in a linear movement pattern, but when you’re climbing, waterskiing, or surfing, you’re moving outside that pathway—and that’s really valuable to take home, because life happens in more than one plane of motion.”
Hit one of the “blue zones”—the five areas in the world (including the adventure-friendly Caribbean and Mediterranean regions) where people live the longest, happiest lives—and you’ll get to experience the active lifestyle responsible for their bliss. “When you see exercise as an enjoyable part of life rather than something you need to check off, you do more of it and get more feel-good, life-extending benefits because of it,” says Kelli Ricco, the wellness and fitness coordinator for the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica, which has incorporated activities such as climbing, stand-up paddling, mountain biking, and zip-lining into its wellness program.
4. You’ll Return Refreshed
“An adventure trip requires intense focus on the adventure itself,” explains Art Markman, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Texas and the author of Smart Thinking. “That immersive experience provides psychological distance from the daily stresses of life, so you’re able to really, deeply relax.”