Physical exercise combined with eating healthy aren’t the only factors that are key to living a longer life. A new study has found that taking time for vacation is just as important to longevity.


The 40-year-old University of Helsinki, Finland study, recruited more than 1,200 middle-aged businessmen between the ages of 40 and 55 in 1974 and 1975. Participants had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease including, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, glucose intolerance, and obesity.


The participants were randomly put into two separate groups: a control group, or an intervention group, for a total of five years.


Those in the intervention group received oral and written advice every four months to do aerobic physical activity, eat a healthy diet, achieve a healthy weight, and to stop smoking. When health advice was not enough, men in this group received prescription drugs to help lower blood pressure.


Men in the control group received usual health care and were not seen by study investigators.


Initial results from the study revealed that the risk of cardiovascular disease was reduced by 46% in the intervention group compared to the control group by the end of the trial. Despite the lower risk, the 15-year follow-up in 1989 found that there was more death in the intervention group than the control group.


According to the study, shorter vacations were associated with excess deaths in the intervention group. In the intervention group, men who took three weeks or less annual vacation had a 37% greater chance of dying from 1974 to 2004 than those who took more than three weeks. Vacation time had no impact on the risk of death in the control group.


“Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays,” said Professor Timo Strandberg, of the University of Helsinki, Finland. “Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress.”


He concluded that “Our results do not indicate that health education is harmful. Rather, they suggest that stress reduction is an essential part of programs aimed at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle advice should be wisely combined with modern drug treatment to prevent cardiovascular events in high-risk individuals.”


The study was accepted by the Journal of Nutrition, Health, & Aging, and is expected to be published at a later time.