Today, travelling frequently for work is common. While the benefits of travel can be quite desirable, frequent travel can be exhausting and also have detrimental effects on your overall health. It’s very easy to let things slip outside your normal routine when you don’t have access to your local supermarket or regular gym class.
If you are a frequent traveler, there are a number of strategies you should consider to stay healthy and productive!
Pre-travel medical check up
Take the time to visit your GP to have a health check. Do this regularly but at least 6-8 week before an extensive trip. If you have a pre-existing illness ensure that you are fit to travel, and have enough medication to see you through. Your GP can assess and discuss any medical concerns you may have, appropriate vaccinations, and exactly what you may need, depending on your destination.
Eating well in airports and on flights
When going on long haul flights, carry some healthy snacks in your carry-on luggage. Good ideas include fresh fruit (bananas, apples), dried fruit mix, carrot and cucumber sticks, muesli bars, rice crackers. This will help to keep you away from tempting large muffins with your coffee or snacking on chips or chocolate bars at the airport.
Water should be your drink of choice. Avoid alcohol and sweet drinks such as juice or soft drink as these just mount on the kilojoules. Alcohol and coffee can also contribute to the symptoms of jetlag.
Don’t eat large amounts on the plane. Evidence suggests that eating a high protein meal followed by a period of fasting, again followed by a high protein meal at your destination, may reduce symptoms of jetlag.
Keep active and walk around airports at stop-overs and avoid the travellators. Stretch and move around the cabin regularly to prevent deep vein thrombosis.
At your destination
Eating and drinking alcohol in excess is the common trap for frequent travelers. If possible, stay in accommodation that has a kitchenette. This will allow you to cook your own meals, and not be reliant on take-outs or restaurants. It will certainly give you more control over your diet.
If eating out at restaurants, choose healthier options and be assertive. Choose entre sized meals and ask for simple modifications to your meals. For example, ask for your meat to be grilled instead of fried, for the salad dressing to be served on the side, or for a serve of vegetables instead of fries.
Always make time to do regular workouts. A simple option is to always pack your joggers and exercise gear. Walking and running are great ways to explore any city and keep fit at the same time. Alternatively, book accommodation at a hotel with a decent gym facility. Routine combined with discipline is the key to staying healthy.
Make sure your vaccinations are up to date for the destinations you most frequently travel. Influenza is the most common vaccine-preventable health risk for travelers. In the northern hemisphere, influenza season is from October – May, and in the Southern hemisphere it is from April to September. In the tropics, influenza occurs throughout the year. Be vaccinated at least 2 weeks before you travel, as it can take 2 weeks for your body to develop an immune response. Keep up to date with current influenza activity in your region of travel. Your GP can also update additional vaccinations as required.
3. Reynolds NC et al; Using the Argonne diet in jet lag prevention: deployment of troops across nine time zones. Mil Med. 2002; 167: 451-453