How to stay healthy when you travel

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FEATURE — While it’s common knowledge that exercise, rest, diet and hydration are key factors in maintaining wellness, adherence to these things can be challenging when traveling. Whether traveling for work or holiday, you don’t have to give it all up just because you are outside your natural environment. Here are some tips to help you hold strong to your healthy habits:


“You’re on vacation! You should eat MORE.” This is what Jane Mankey heard while on her 28-day vacation this summer to Wisconsin and Illinois. Though it’s true that you should not deny yourself the joy of good dining when on vacation, you still need to make calculated choices.

Mankey used the free smart phone application “Lose It” to track her diet. When her daily calorie count was approaching her limit to maintain her weight, she “skipped the vacation ice cream cone.”

People also allow their diets to slip by treating a business trip with the same mentality as a vacation. Access to an expense account or being presented with a free breakfast buffet does not mean you should push your intake. It’s pretty easy to track down a salad, a wrap or fruit cup at major airports requiring layovers.

Remember, you are on business, not vacation.

Hydration and fighting germs

While we can control our diet and exercise, other people’s hygiene and manners we cannot. Case in point: As I was typing this article, a fellow passenger seated next to me on a flight sneezed right on my shoulder without covering his mouth.

Airports, airplanes, hotel rooms and people are dirty. Since hazardous material suits are terribly uncomfortable and cause concerned looks, there are some simple measures you can take to avoiding bringing home bacterial souvenirs.

“One thing that is really important while flying, which is general physiology, is hydration,” said Deborah Keil, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Montana State University. “Dry mucus membranes and dry lungs make us more susceptible to infection, and drinking water and hydrating lungs provides a natural barrier to infection.”

Drinking tonic water is helpful to prevent and relieve muscle cramping, but hold the gin. Alcohol not only dehydrates, it compromises the immune system, as well.

Instead of using a drinking fountain, use the no-touch bottle fillers or spend the $3 to get bottled water. If you have traveled enough, you have seen coughs, licks, face washing and even feet washing in drinking fountains.

Do not use the back seat pocket of the airplane! Passengers use this for used Kleenex, dirty diapers and used air sick bags.

“Heavy contact points, the places everyone is touching, the arm rests, seat belt, overhead buttons, these high profile grabs have the most availability for bacterial exposure. Most important when traveling and most effective, is to wash the hands!” Keil said.


Most business travel hotels have some sort of exercise room or gym, but if not, there are still several options. Walk around! Get out and see the town, walk the parking lot of the office park, put on a good audio book, make a phone call and talk while walking.

If you are stuck at an airport for a layover, add steps to your pedometer. It is likely you will be sitting on a plane for at least an hour; take a walk before settling into that cramped regional jet seat.

You could also seek out a local gym, CrossFit or yoga studio. This is a great way to mix up your normal routine.

For those who want to stay in the hotel, try YouTube. YouTube has a vast offering for cardio, toning, dancing, yoga, it goes on. You can move the furniture around in your hotel room and be personally trained by Jillian Michaels or dance with other stars.

Battling the bulge and staying healthy while traveling requires planning and discipline. Fortunately, there are options and long airport terminals to keep you fit while on the road!

This story was originally published in St. George Health and Wellness magazine.

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