How Vacationing Affects Your Athletic Brain

Person relaxing by the pool with a cocktail in hand.

Sitting at 30°C with the sun shining and a refreshing pool view as I draft this post has made me curious: What impact does vacation have on our athletic minds? Science delivers some surprising findings.

Read more: How Vacationing Affects Your Athletic Brain

Yearning for a Break:

After a long sports season, most crave a vacation—a two-week breather. Everyone has their preference: some engage in active adventures, while others laze by the sea or pool. But did you know these choices affect our brains?

The Journey and Its Consequences:

For ideal sunny beach destinations, you often need to travel at least 1200km. This could mean flights or drives that sometimes lead to delays or traffic jams. Such inconveniences trigger (often unnoticed) stress, resulting in the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels can harm the hippocampus brain cells responsible for short-term memory and concentration.

The Effects of Relaxation:

Once we finally reach our desired destination, our inclination is to hit the beach or pool. As we lie under the warm sun, our minds tend to drift, leading to reduced brain activity. This inactivity can cause the frontal parts of the brain to shrink. Additionally, with decreased oxygen flow and potential dehydration or alcohol consumption, brain cell volume can decrease by up to 15%.

Cold Drinks and Their Impact:

Sipping my refreshing cocktail while writing, I learned that cold beverages can decrease brain power by 10 points. Our body diverts blood to warm the stomach, drawing from everywhere, including the brain. And while I’m mostly engrossed in writing, if a stunning figure in a bikini happens to walk by, it’s hard not to glance. A 2008 study suggests that gazing at bikinis makes men less judgmental and critical.

In Conclusion:

My athletic brain might not have benefited from recent activities (travel, drinks, sunbathing, pool lounging, and distractions). Professor Lehr claims that two weeks of complete rest can decrease IQ by 20 points – roughly the difference between a smart and average student. But, there’s hope! Engaging the brain for 10 minutes daily with activities like chess or scrabble can limit the damage. Regular exercise and hydration also boost the brain. Thankfully, our brains are adaptive, and you’ll regain your intelligence in about four days.

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