Travel Well: How to Stay Healthy On The Road
As a coach, we weep a little inside when a client mentions a business trip.
“So I’ll be back in about ten days, nothing special. A board meeting on the east coast then on to Paris for a few days, meeting a new client in London before heading back to Toronto then home.”
Of course work must take priority. But one trip like this, including multiple flights and hours of seated meetings, can take an immense toll on one’s health and wellbeing! So let’s take a quick look at the main villains of travel and the ways that you can be prepared for their future assaults on your body.
How Travel Can Affect Your Health
Economy Class Syndrome
This syndrome directly relates long air travel to the formation of blood clots in the veins deep within the legs (deep vein thrombosis). The long periods of immobility associated with travel can cause blood to pool in the legs, increasing the chance of clot formation and ultimately the occurrence of a pulmonary embolism (very bad news).
One of the easiest to anticipate yet most common issues with flying is dehydration. Air inside a cabin is usually at a humidity percentage of around 10-20 (not a typically comfortable 30-65%), making dehydration a big issue, particularly on longer flights. Other problems with this low humidity include triggering respiratory problems such as asthma and the increased vulnerability to respiratory viruses such as the common cold.
We all know that desk jockeys suffer terribly with poor flexibility in the hip and glute region, which in turn has knock-on effects on the rest of the body. Throw multiple long haul flights into the mix, along with jetlag, dehydration, poor diet and extended periods of inactivity and you have the script to a Hollywood mobility horror classic!
How to Reduce the Impact of Air Travel on Your Body
Bring the biggest bottle of water you are able to carry on board. Don’t be in a position where you have to wait for the cart to come to you—take matters into your own hands! Just remember to fill it up after passing through security.
While it’s tempting on a flight to cave in and take the free alcohol or caffeine being offered to you, these are diuretics and will massively contribute to your levels of dehydration. Just say no; you will thank yourself down the road!
Try to get up and walk around, move, and stretch on board every 30 minutes or so. Doing so will help fight against potential economy class syndrome, keep the blood flowing and stop the muscles tightening up so much. Even while seated, simple movements such as ankle rotations, flexions and extensions, seated pigeon stretch and wiggling your toes will all help!
You can also invest in a pair of compression socks. These work by essentially being an extra layer of muscle to squeeze your legs and move blood back up your body. Typically, your doctor will prescribe these to you if they are necessary following surgery or if you have varicose and spider veins but you can also buy them over the counter.
Develop a hotel room routine
Try these simple stretches and exercises while on your trip to keep limber and mobile.
- Leg swings — 20 reps per side
- Side to side across the body then front to back, hold on to a wall for balance
- Hip flexor couch stretch — 3 sets of 20 reps
- Facing away from a couch, place one foot on the couch and take that knee to the ground as close as possible to the couch. Place the other foot out in front, gently push your knee over your toes and hold. Keep your chest up tall and hips forward throughout
- Body weight squats — 3 sets of 20 reps
- Simple body weight squats as deep as possible without sitting on the joints. For further progression, hold the squat at the bottom for 5 seconds per rep.
- Glute bridges — 3 sets of 20 reps
- Lie on your back on the floor, feet flat and knees bent. Raise your hips and squeeze your glutes. Progress to single leg bridges for further activation of the glutes
- Fire hydrants — 3 sets of 15 reps per side
- On your hands and knees, maintain a neutral spine, knees at a 45 degree angle throughout, raise one knee out to the side, hold, then return to the floor.
Proper hydration and nutrition, being smart and active on the flight, and following a simple but disciplined hotel room routine can save weeks of pain on a foam roller.
Did I mention there are travel sized foam rollers available that fit in your carry-on?