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Travel as a therapy to combat brain aging and cognitive decline

August 02, 2022
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Travel as a therapy to combat brain aging and cognitive decline

Traveling, exploring new places, dealing with different realities are certainly very pleasant activities but which until now have been considered a mere pastime with economic purposes. Instead, we need to change our point of view, as indicated by a recent interdisciplinary research published in the journal Tourism Management thanks to a collaboration between Australian and Chinese scientists (Wen et al, Tourism Management, May 2022). Indeed, travelling can become a real brain-saving therapy, useful in combating cognitive decline and dementia in the years to come.

Therapies against dementia

To counteract brain aging and dementia, experts recommend listening to music, especially well-known music, perhaps capable of awakening memories and sensations. Not only that, in the fight against cognitive impairment it is important to ensure moderate physical activity, move in an environment that offers sensory and cognitive stimuli and practice recalling past events. Well, all of this happens during a trip, a real brain-saving therapy!

Travel therapy, capable of saving the brain

Travelling involves various activities that have been shown to be of great benefit to our cognitive function. In fact, it is easy to listen to music while travelling or on vacation, perhaps even live music and, often, this music is also well known, capable of awakening memories and emotions that can be shared with others. Not only that, the environment changes, it is no longer the same as in our daily life. Here come new stimuli, it is necessary to understand how to move in unknown places, to explore. Not only that, traveling often leads to being more in contact with nature and this increases sensory stimuli, such as walking on a beach and feeling the sand under your feet, swimming and feeling the water sliding along the body, or, simply, sunbathing and feel the wind on your skin or through the leaves of the trees. Travelling also leads to more movement, it is easier to walk or swim and leave a sedentary lifestyle at home. Travelling also leads to meeting people with whom to compare and the typical free time of the holidays favors meals in company, with family or friends, with whom to talk and discuss. Not only that, travelling, perhaps more than any other activity, makes spontaneous the ability to awaken memories, perhaps linked to trips made years before or to similar experiences already lived that are thus recalled to mind. Finally, it should not be forgotten that during the holiday we are more outdoors and we are more exposed to the sun's rays, which increase the levels of vitamin D and serotonin. Serotonin regulates mood and the sleep-wake cycle and counteracts anxiety. Not only that, low serotonin levels have been seen in people diagnosed with Alzheimer's. According to recent scientific research, it seems that the decrease in serotonin is not an effect of neurodegenerative disease but rather one of the causes (Smith et al, Neurobiology of Disease, 2017). Vitamin D is also reduced in the case of Alzheimer's and an increase in this vitamin has been shown to improve cognitive function, even in the presence of neurodegeneration (Lu'o'ng et al, Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen, 2011).

Conclusions

So, in addition to music therapy and art therapy, from today we also know that there is travel therapy, to keep our brain young and healthy and improve mood. But travelling does not only mean moving hundreds of kilometers away, besides all this is not always possible. Travelling, in the sense of making new experiences and guaranteeing all the benefits just seen, can also be a day trip to a new place, or even a few hours away from home to experience a new walk. The important thing is to amaze your brain!

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