If you're reading this article, then you're probably a fan of Walt Disney World. Heck, millions of us are. But the simple fact is that visiting the resort can be very expensive, and it can be hard to justify such a hefty outlay. When you're trying to convince your family members to take a Walt Disney Vacation, you need all the ammunition you can get. There are many, many great reasons to visit both Walt Disney World and Florida's other amazing theme parks. "The kids will love it." "There's a new ride opening." Or, simply, "It'll be fun."
Sometimes, though, to finally convince your partner, mom or dad to book that vacation, you need to show that you've done your homework. How about impressing them with the surprising health benefits that you (and they) will derive from the experience? Here are four to get you started... (Just don't mention all the calories in those burgers and turkey legs you'll be devouring...)
4. You'll do a lot of walking - and burn a ton of calories in the process
Not everybody considers walking (or any other form of exercise) to be a fun activity. When you're racing across the Magic Kingdom to reach Big Thunder Mountain Railroad before your FastPass+ window expires, though, it can indeed be very enjoyable. The theme parks at Walt Disney World are huge. And despite their cleverly-designed, hub-and-spoke layouts, you'll do a lot of walking during your vacation. A typical visit often involves a lot of backtracking and zig-zagging to get from one ride or show to another. Even if you tackle the parks in a linear fashion, you're still faced with burning a lot of shoe rubber. At Epcot, for example, you'll cover some 1.25 miles if you trot around the World Showcase Lagoon from Mexico to Canada. A typical visit also often involves a lot of backtracking and zig-zagging to get from one ride or show to another. Exactly how far do you walk during a typical Walt Disney World theme park visit? There are no concrete stats to go on, because each park (and visitor) is different. But let's consider some examples:
- Our friends over at Chip and Co found that they averaged 8.74 miles per day during a visit to Walt Disney World. They maxed out at 10.76 miles at the sprawling Disney's Animal Kingdom.
- The excellent Cheapskate Princess blog reports walking an extraordinary 21 miles in ONE DAY at a Disney park. Even on a less energetic day, the pedometer still registered some 4.5 miles.
So, you can probably expect to walk an average of 5 to 10 miles during every day at Walt Disney World. This will help you burn around 500 to 1000 calories, although this is of course very dependent on your weight and metabolism. Visiting for a week? That could add up to a huge 3,500 - 7,000 calories. You can't afford not to make that trip!
3. You'll burn more calories on the rides
As we pointed out in our recent article about the health benefits of visiting theme parks in general, you don't just burn calories when you're making your way around a park. You actually burn them while you're on the rides. A few adults may differ, but there aren't many more enjoyable ways to burn off fat. A team of scientists, artists, engineers and designers known as the Thrill Laboratory has looked into this in the past. They discovered that the attractions in Thorpe Park in the UK helped riders to burn between around 40 and 70 calories apiece.
The rides at Thorpe Park are generally a little more intense than Disney attractions. You're not likely to burn many calories on It's a Small World, for example. But there are still parallels - the likes of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Space Mountain are thrilling enough to cause your heart rate to increase and your hands to grip onto the safety rail. If you experience 4 or 5 rides of this type each day, you could burn through another 250 calories or so - the equivalent of a couple of cans of cola.
2. The rides will help reduce your stress levels
It's not just your physical health that benefits from visiting Walt Disney World. Your mental health - and even your relationships - could also receive a boost. According to clinical psychologist Judy Kurianski, high-tempo rides such as Expedition Everest expose us to "good fear". Essentially, despite the drops, twists and turns these rides contain, our brains perceive them to be "safe" and "predictable" - so riding them becomes therapeutic. That "good fear" has other benefits, too. Firstly, it causes our bodies to release adrenalin and endorphns, which gives us the same kind of natural high that we get from strenuous physical exercise. It can also help our relationships, because it causes couples to seek each other out for protection and comfort.
1. You'll tone up your muscles
It feels like you're aren't doing much when you're on a theme park ride. After all, you're generally strapped into a seat and largely unable to move. But, in fact, your body is working pretty hard. Consider Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at the Magic Kingdom. As you're thrown around its corners, you are tensing up your muscles as you grab onto the handrail in a natural response. Or throwing your arms up into the air to enhance the sensation. In short, you're doing many of the things that you'd do during a workout at the gym. Your body also releases adrenalin and other chemicals in response to the thrill of riding the attraction. These can help to tone your muscles. The Thrill Laboratory's Dr Paul Tennent claims that "if anyone goes to a theme park for a day, it will do the same amount of good as going to a gym and working out intensively for an hour and a half."