We often hear that a balanced diet and regular exercise are the keys to living a long and healthy life. While that's definitely true, it's not the whole story. There are many other factors that can have a profound impact on your quality of life and overall happiness.

Believe it or not, travel is an important one.

In fact, there is ample research that shows travel is highly beneficial for your physical, mental AND emotional health.

Here are just a few of the key benefits travel provides:

Improved Brain Health

When you travel, you meet new people and adapt to new situations. These new experiences increase cognitive flexibility, which helps to keep your mind sharp.

The novelty of travel—especially the kind that involves navigating in unfamiliar territory—is key to boosting your brainpower and can lower the risk of dementia later in life.

You may also become more creative as a result of traveling. A study by the American Psychological Association has shown a connection between travel and an increase in creativity. So if you've been thinking about pursuing a new hobby, like photography or writing or painting, taking a trip to an intriguing destination might just give you the inspiration you need.

Decreased Risk of Heart Disease

A joint study from the Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, found that women who vacation at least twice a year show a significantly lower risk of suffering a heart attack than those who only travel every six years or so.

Men who take a vacation every year significantly reduce their risk of death and heart disease.

 

Stress Relief

In a travel survey, the majority of respondents claimed that travel improved their mood and general outlook on life. Most respondents also agreed that travel relieves stress and contributes to both physical and mental well-being.

Studies have shown that after just three days on vacation, stress decreases. What's more, it doesn't come back right away ... the positive effects of resting and relaxing can linger for weeks after your trip has ended.

A Positive Perspective

Oftentimes, after experiencing different cultures, people become more compassionate, understanding and generally grateful. After you've been out of your normal routine for a while, you inevitably see life through a different lens ... Things that were commonplace before can become new again.

Plus, traveling to unfamiliar territory challenges you to adjust to different circumstances, which can increase your flexibility when encountering new things when you get back home.

So not only can travel help you live a longer, healthier life, it can help you have more fun doing it -- even when you're not traveling.

Now that you know the real benefits of travel, you can stop thinking of it as just another discretionary expense … Consider it an investment in your health, happiness and future!

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