Around this time of year, many people’s thoughts turn to traveling. Of course, the idea of the perfect trip will be different from person to person.
For some, the ideal vacation may be a trip home to visit loved ones; for others, it’s not really traveling unless you cross international lines or head overseas to an exotic locale.
Whatever your ideal destination, it’s important that you stay healthy for the entire journey!
Here are five tips to help keep you healthy while traveling:
1.) Get Plenty of Sleep
Add a hectic travel schedule, a possible change in time zones, and the thrill of being in a new place together, and what do you get? The perfect recipe for a lack of sleep.
But health experts remind us that keeping up with a regular sleep schedule is an essential part of staying healthy. This is doubly true when traveling, since getting a good night’s sleep is vital for maintaining your energy levels, balancing your hormone levels, and keeping your immune system in good, fighting shape.
As a HuffPost guide puts it, “traveling is harsh on your body,” and “the most important thing you can do while traveling is sleep.”
Dr. Karen Joubert, a prominent physical therapist, put this need for fulfilling, rejuvenating sleep into better context. As she told ABC News in an interview:
“The healthy body allows for five stages of sleep . . . Stages 1–4 and REM [rapid eye movement]. Stages 1–3 are for rest. Stage 4 is crucial because this is when our body makes new hormones, repairs itself, and heals. Travels and time changes can block stage 4 due to the release of cortisol from travel stresses. Remember that the quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity of sleep.”
2.) Eat Nutritiously
Travel guru Rick Steves encourages vacationers to “eat nutritiously” whenever they travel, whether they’re going abroad or staying in the United States.
Maintaining your healthy eating habits is a vital step to feeling your best when you travel, particularly when you’re gone for an extended period of time. As Steves puts it, “The longer your trip, the more you’ll be affected by an inadequate diet.”
So, what does this seasoned world traveler recommend? He explains that while it may be tempting for travelers to “eat more carbohydrates and less protein to stretch their travel dollars,” Steves advises travelers to focus on getting plenty of protein, which “helps you resist infection and rebuilds muscles” when you’re on-the-go.
Nutrition experts recommend eating a hearty breakfast and making time for frequent, healthy snacks. As Dr. Joubert also explained in her interview, eating a balanced, protein-rich breakfast “will fuel you for the morning and help you to avoid the fast food [or] empty calorie snacks.” She recommends packing your own snacks, focusing on “items that are higher in protein that will keep for long periods of time,” such as nuts or packets of instant oatmeal.
3.) Stay Hydrated
As Dr. Joubert explained to ABC News:
“One thing you can do, and should do daily, is to be consistent with your hydration, especially during your travels. Keep yourself loaded with water.”
A rule of thumb to remember is that an active individual’s daily consumption of water should be roughly one ounce of water per half pound of body weight. When flying, Joubert advises that you bump up your rate of water consumption even further, to “8 ounces of water per hour.”
She also reminds travelers that when they feel the physical sensation of thirst, their bodies are already running low on “needed fluids.” Pay attention to the warning signs of dehydration, always keep a source of safe drinking water handy, and, as Dr. Joubert suggests, be conscious when you indulge in heavy meals and alcohol: “As far as those vacation cocktails, enjoy yourselves, but keep them to a minimum, always following up with water. The alcohol will not only increase your amount of dehydration but [also] can throw off the necessary sleep patterns that change during the course of traveling.”
4.) Remember to Exercise
Taking a trip is all about seeking out a change, whether you’re looking for novel experiences, new scenery, or friendly faces you haven’t seen in a while.
But while you’re switching it up, it’s important to not let you healthy habits fall by the wayside— including your exercise regimen!
While it may be tempting to forego physical activity while you’re traveling, keeping up with your exercise routine can only help your overall health in the long-term. Fortunately, today, it’s easier than ever to keep up with your physical fitness while on the road!
Many hotels and resorts offer complimentary gym access. If possible, try taking advantage of any physical fitness center offered by your hotel, or swim laps in the pool, if there is one available. You could also even get in some stretches or light cardio in your room, perhaps with the aid of an exercise app or YouTube video.
If you’re staying with friends and family, consider starting up a game of soccer or touch football, or gathering in the morning for some yoga. The possibilities are endless!
And remember, getting in some exercise doesn’t have to mean sacrificing a chance to soak in some local color! Rick Steves suggests that travelers consider biking, running, or walking once they get to their destination rather than relying only on cabs or public transportation. Getting around by foot or bike is a great way to really get to know a new place, while burning calories at the same time! Dr. Joubert recommends that travelers “[check] out a local fitness class,” which may offer a particularly interesting program or a chance to work with a new teacher.
5.) Practice Safe Luggage Handling
Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, chances are good that you’ll be bringing a few pieces of luggage with you when you go.
While most of us go from point A to point B without sparing the weight of our luggage a second thought, the reality is that overfilling or mishandling luggage can actually pose serious risk to our necks, backs, and shoulders.
In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 84,000 people were treated in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and clinics for injuries related to luggage in 2015 alone.
Don’t want to end up in the ER because of a heavy backpack? Then you’ll want to follow the advice of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), which “urges” travelers to “use proper judgment when packing, lifting, and carrying luggage.”
The AAOS offers a variety of tips for lifting and carrying luggage on their OrthoInfo website; among other tips, the AAOS recommends that travelers:
- Limit how much you bend at the waist to lift luggage. Instead, bend at the knees and “lift the luggage with your leg muscles.”
- Avoid twisting your body when lifting or carrying luggage.
- Do not rush when lifting or carrying a suitcase. If your bag is too cumbersome, get help.
- Choose luggage with wheels and a handle, whenever possible.
- Do not carry bulky luggage for long periods of time.
- When wearing a backpack, make sure that the weight is equally distributed between both shoulder straps. Always use both straps. Similarly, if you’re using a one-strap bag such as a duffel or satchel, don’t carry it on one shoulder for an extended period of time, and instead switch sides regularly.
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