Here's why so many people get ill when they go on holiday

10 August 2018, 15:04 | Updated: 10 August 2018, 15:05

Friends on Holiday

You're not imagining it - some people do get sick every time they go on holiday, and here's why.

Have you ever been on holiday and suffered a bout of sickness? There's a very good reason. 

Researchers at Liverpool University found that two weeks of inactivity can increase the body's chances of developing disease, or 'leisure sickness' as experts call it. 

Modern-day living means that most of us will be working all the way up until we go on holiday, trying to tie up loose ends to we can set up that Out Of Office and get into relaxation mode. 

Staying active on holiday can keep illness at bay

However, such an intense burst of activity is actually setting us up for a crash. 

Dr Dan Cuthbertson, who is a lead author and honorary consultant at the Liverpool University’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, studied the effect of two weeks of inactivity on 28 healthy men and women who were used to walking up to 10,000 steps a day.

The group of volunteers were asked to reduce their steps to 1,500 per day and remain sedentary for up to three hours longer than they  usually would.

Dr Cuthbertson noted significant changes in the volunteers' body composition. Loss of skeletal muscle mass and an increase in body fat being two of the main changes he saw.

Levels of blood sugar and “bad” cholesterol increased while insulin sensitivity decreased, symptoms that are key contributors to type 2 diabetes.

Excessive drinking on holiday can put your immune system under increased pressure

It was also found that the increases in body fat accumulated mostly around the abdomen, which poses a major risk factor in the development of chronic diseases; heart disease, cancer, diabetes and sleep apnea are among the problems that can stem from belly fat.

Dr Cuthbertson also found that the cardio-respiratory fitness of volunteers deteriorated and participants had difficulty running for as long as they could before the period of inactivity.

It seems as though some of the main ways we unwind on holiday can actually be the main reasons why we get ill.

Sadly, drinking to excess and overeating, which holidaymakers do when unwinding, can also be detrimental to your health and lead to 'leisure sickness'. 

Dr Sarah Jarvis, who's a GP and clinical director of, told the Sun Online that eating and drinking more on holiday can result in gut problems.

Air circulated on flights can spread viruses around

"It’s not just what you do that can change completely when you’re on holiday – your diet and drinking habits often change completely too," she told the website.

"Many people who wouldn’t dream of drinking alcohol at breakfast (or even lunch) for the rest of the year can be found in airport bars as they wait for their early morning flight.

"Even if you haven’t drunk enough to give a fully-blown hangover, drinking throughout the day can leave you headachey, irritable and lacking in concentration – just as if you have a nasty virus infection."

There's also the perilous 'all-inclusive' resorts that lay on rich, unhealthy food at their buffets, compounding digestive stress. 

Plus there's the added risk of catching an infection through the air circulated on flights. 

It's not all doom and gloom though, you can take steps to dodge the dreaded 'leisure sickness'.

The best thing to do is make sure you don't overwork pre-holiday, eat well, incorporate moderate exercise into your daily routine and take vitamins and probiotics to strengthen your immune and digestive systems. 

Keeping active on holiday is also a good way to keep the illness at bay. 

Whether you go for a long walk in the outdoors, a swim in the sea or have a game of bat and ball on the beach, doing some form of exercise can help protect you from falling ill while on holiday.