Important Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling
And many people worry how they can stay healthy during their trip.
And if you’ve traveled before, I’m sure you know it can be difficult to eat healthy food, get enough exercise, and sleep peacefully.
Recently I flew to Germany. During the trip, I also visited the Czech Republic and Austria. It was a wonderful experience, but the 9.5 hour flight (each way) I could have done without…
However, I learned some key ways to stay healthy while in the airports, cars, and trains.
At the end of this article are some pictures from my trip.
The trip was to visit family, but whether you’re traveling for business or leisure here are some important tips to help you stay healthy during your journey!
(Some tips are repeated between travel types in case only one section applies to you.)
1) Get up and walk around when you can. Obviously this isn’t possible during taxi, takeoff, or landing. But once given the okay to take your seat belt off, it’s important to get out of your seat and walk around every now and then. Sitting for extended periods of time, especially when you don’t have much room, can lead to blood clots. This applies to any type of travel: car, train, bus, and plane.
Generally if you stay sitting with hardly any movement for more than 4-5 hours, you’re at risk for a blood clot. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says, “Many times the blood clot will dissolve on its own. However, a serious health problem can occur when a part of the blood clot breaks off and travels to the lungs causing a blockage. This is called a pulmonary embolism, and it may be fatal.” (Please look at #1 in the Traveling by Car section below for ways to prevent blood clots.)
2) Drink plenty of water. In fact during flight, the humidity level in the cabin is only between 20-30% (which, by the way, is about the same as the Sahara Desert). Being in an environment with this low of humidity is perfect for developing dry skin, eyes, nose, and a dry mouth. So your body may need slightly more water than usual. Just listening to what your body is telling you is your best bet.
3) Buy healthy snacks before the flight. Buying healthy items before flying will help you feel fuller during the flight and save you a couple bucks (Anything at the airport is expensive but prices are usually higher on the plane). You also have more options for healthy snacks at the airport than on the airplane. Good options are: fruit, nuts, water (instead of soda), trail mix, yogurt, etc.
4) Before the trip, and during, take vitamin C to boost your immune system and probiotics for a healthy gut. This should also be done no matter how you’re traveling. Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration and frequency of colds. Probiotics are “live microorganisms used as a dietary supplement to help with digestion and normal bowel function. It also helps keep the gastrointestinal (GI) tract healthy. A bacterium found in yogurt called Lactobacillus acidophilus, is the most common probiotic.”
5) Wash your hands. There are so many people going through airports every day. And there’s no way the cleaning staff can keep up with the amount of germs and bacteria that is produced each minute. So it’s important to wash your hands frequently. This will help keep you from spending your business trip or vacation sick.
Be sure to wash your hands after touching objects that may have a high amount of germs and bacteria such as: after using the toilet (obviously. But you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it properly…or at all! Read this article to learn about the germs on the toilet, sink, and door handle), ATM, door knobs/handles, and the bins while going through security (have you ever seen those things being sanitized after each person or even a few people?).
If you’re not near a convenient place to wash your hands, you can use hand sanitizer. If you don’t have hand sanitizer, at least don’t touch your nose or mouth until you’re able to get to some soap and water.
Traveling by car:
1) Get out and exercise. As stated above, blood clots are a risk factor when sitting in a confined space for a prolonged period of time. So how can you lower that risk?
Exercise frequently! Getting out of the car and walking around helps blood flow. If you’re in a confined space such as a plane or can’t get out of your car to exercise for any reason, stretch your legs out in front of you and flex and point your feet; do this for about 20 seconds, rest and repeat.
If this isn’t possible, bring one leg up to your chest, bending at your knee. Hold your lower leg with your hands and pull your leg in. Hold for about 20 seconds and then switch legs. Repeat this process between 5-10 times to increase circulation.
Generally, the risk of someone developing a blood clot is small, but if you’re at higher risk for developing blood clots talk with your doctor before traveling to see what they recommend.
Your chance of developing a blood clot is increased if one or more of these apply to you:
- Increased travel time
- Pregnant or had a baby in the last 6 weeks
- Over the age of 40
- Contraceptives that contain estrogen or recent hormone replacement therapy (which is medical treatment that reduces the side effects of menopause)
- Recent surgery or injury
It’s important to recognize the symptoms of a blood clot. Only about half of people have symptoms early on. They experience: swelling of the leg or arm, skin warmth, redness, or pain.
2) Pack healthy snacks. Making your own snacks saves you money and helps you eat healthy during your trip. And by making them, you can also control how much sugar and salt goes into each snack. If you can’t (or don’t want to) make them yourself, buy some healthy options at the grocery store and bring them with you. Here are some ideas:
- Fruit bars (store bought or homemade)
- Nut bars (store bought or homemade)
- Muffins (i.e. zucchini, banana nut, blueberry – the recipes for these muffins can be found here)
- Fruit (i.e. grapes, bananas, apples)
- Sargento Balanced Breaks (a container with cheese, nuts, and fruit)
- Cheese (I buy colby-jack cheese sticks, and light string cheese-both from Sargento.
For more homemade snack ideas and recipes read this article.
3) Less fast food. Not all fast food is bad (Panara Bread, Jason’s Deli, Atlanta Bread, and some items at Noodles & Company) but most fast food options are very high in calories with little nutritional value. Usually, food you get it highly processed and has high amounts of sodium, carbohydrates, sugar, and unhealthy fats. If possible, eat somewhere with healthier options as listed above.
4) Drink more water and less soda. A soda occasionally isn’t something to really worry about but it’s important to know how it affects your body, especially if you drink it often. Soda affects your kidneys by increasing your risk of developing kidney stones. It also dissolves your teeth enamel, has high levels of high fructose corn syrup, contributes to obesity, breaks down your bones, and soda cans are coated with a resin containing BPA. BPA is a cancer causing chemical. Your best solution is to drink water. (But no one is perfect; I drink soda once in a while too, however, not from a can.)
5) Wash your hands. (See #5 in Traveling by Airplane)
1) Walk up and down the aisle when you can. Getting occasional exercise can be somewhat easier on a train. You are able to walk up and down the aisle without running into 20 different legs of people who have the aisle seat on a plane. And you aren’t as confined as you would be in a car.
As discussed in the previous two sections, increasing your circulation is important during travel to lower your risk of blood clots. (Read #1 in the section Traveling by Airplane and #1 in Traveling by Car.) Also, if you’re staying at a hotel during your trip, many have a fitness room. This provides an easy way to get some needed exercise after sitting so much during the trip.
2) Before your trip, and during, take vitamin C to boost your immune system and probiotics for a healthy gut. As also stated in #4 of Traveling by Airplane: this should also be done no matter how you’re traveling. Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration and frequency of colds. Probiotics are “live microorganisms used as a dietary supplement to help with digestion and normal bowel function. It also helps keep the gastrointestinal (GI) tract healthy. A bacterium found in yogurt called Lactobacillus acidophilus, is the most common probiotic.”
3) Drink water. It’s a well-known fact that you need sufficient amounts of water each day to stay healthy. But drinking clean water while traveling can be tricky, depending on where you’re headed. Because the pathogens in water are foreign to your immune system, it can make you sick. Research the safety of the water before you drink it. And generally, bottled water is safe as long as it’s sealed.
4) Make healthy snacks and bring them with you. I also talk about this in Traveling by Car (#2). By making your own snacks, you control how much salt and sugar goes in them. You also control how many healthy ingredients you add (BONUS – you save $$ by making your own snacks). For some quick, easy, and healthy ideas read 7 Healthy & Homemade Snack Ideas with Recipes.
Getting restful sleep:
No matter how you’re traveling, it’s important to get enough restful sleep. For adults this is around 7 or 8 hours. Children need about 9 to 10 hours of sleep, more if they are infants/toddlers.
Some good ways to ensure a good night’s sleep is to not fall asleep with a television or other light on. Your body will usually wake up during the night from the noise/light.
White noise can help some people fall asleep. It also has been shown to help babies sleep. A white noise is something like a fan or heater. Ocean waves, rain fall, crickets, and running water are other sounds that help some people relax making it easier to fall asleep.
If you need extra help getting to sleep, take 3-5 mg of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland and helps regulate sleep and wake schedules. How much your body produces depends on light. Naturally, your body produced melatonin in the evening then drops in the morning.
From WebMD, “In most cases, melatonin supplements are safe in low doses for short-term and long-term use. But be sure to talk with your doctor about taking them. Children and pregnant or nursing women should not take melatonin without talking to a doctor first.”
Personally, I take 5 mg at night to help me fall asleep. But talking with a nutritionist, pharmacist, or doctor can help you determine what dose would help you.
Staying healthy while you travel is so important and helps you enjoy your time away from home. Mostly you need to, eat the right foods, try not to eat a lot of fast food, drink plenty of water, and support what your body needs.
And here are some pictures from my trip to Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria.