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Travel Strengthens Your Brain

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Monday, 10 Oct 2016 04:16 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Traveling to new places is a fun way to boost both brain and body health. Navigating new locales can sharpen your mental acuity, while the increased physical activity from sightseeing can improve heart and brain health.

In addition to physical activity, travel also affords opportunities for socializing with others.

This is great news for vacationers and retirees looking to spend their free time exploring the world.

The mind benefits from the rest, relaxation, and stress reduction of vacations help as well.

Chronic stress has been shown to shrink the brain’s hippocampal memory center, while relaxation methods can positively alter neural circuits, improve mood, and boost memory.

In the Framingham Heart Study, a longitudinal investigation that spanned several decades, researchers asked middle-age women how often they took vacations.

Volunteers who reported vacationing every six years or less were significantly more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who vacationed at least twice a year.

Other research has indicated that regular travel is associated with a lower risk of dementia.

The brain-health and longevity-promoting benefits of travel could stem from the mental challenges of new experiences.

Adventures stimulate nerve cells to sprout branches called dendrites, which facilitate communication between cells. Reading maps and finding your way around a new city also increases the size of brain regions that control those functions.

One famous study of London taxi drivers showed that cabbies with more years of driving experience had larger hippocampal memory centers in their brains on the right side, which controls the visual and spatial skills needed to navigate city streets.

Many of the challenges that come with travel to unfamiliar places will activate and fortify the same brain centers.

But even if your ideal vacation is to return to your favorite beach resort, the stress reduction and relaxation you’ll enjoy also can strengthen your brain.

Hormones such as cortisol that are released in our bodies during stress can lead to more memory lapses. Learning to relax can reverse those lapses.

 

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Navigating new locales can sharpen your mental acuity, while the increased physical activity from sightseeing can improve heart and brain health.
travel, brain health, dendrites, communication
330
2016-16-10
Monday, 10 Oct 2016 04:16 PM
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