Arthur C. Brooks, writing in the Washington Post »
But the pilgrims still come, in larger and larger numbers. If not explicitly the divine, what are they seeking? There are definite worldly benefits to pilgrimage. Almost everyone loses weight, for example (although not like I did — starting my Camino on the heels of a bout of stomach flu and thus in a radically fasted state, I lost 10 pounds in a week). Some treat it like a physical-endurance challenge, such as the shredded and tanned couple we met in Santiago de Compostela who had completed the entire 500-mile walk, starting in France, in just 24 days.
Some seek relief from emotional torment, and there is evidence they can find it: A study published in the journal Psychological Medicine reported that those who went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, (another major Catholic pilgrimage destination) experienced a significant decrease in anxiety and depression, sustained for at least 10 months after the pilgrims had returned.