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Business travel can be bad for your health. In fact, studies show that health risks increase as travel increases. Extensive travelers are 92 percent more likely to be obese and 260 percent more likely to rate their health as poor. They also have higher cholesterol, higher body-mass indexes and high blood pressure. Even people who travel as infrequently as one night per month experience negative effects because of poor sleep patterns, unhealthy diets, long periods of inactivity and tight travel schedules.
So what should you do if you must travel often for work, or if you are working away from home for an extended period of time? Stay healthy with these 10 tips.
1. Splurge a little, then watch what you eat. While it can be enjoyable to splurge the first day on room service and desserts, limit your splurge to that one day and then get back on track. At every meal, choose from only two of these four categories: appetizer, entrée, dessert or drink. Focus on healthy options like grilled chicken or fish without heavy sauces, steamed vegetables, salads with dressing on the side, and whole grains. You can use your mobile device to help you. GoMeals, which is free, is three apps in one: a nutritional database powered by CalorieKing combined with a restaurant locator and food tracking tool. Or try Calorie Counter by MyFitnessPal, a free app that lists over 1 million foods and lets you track your food and exercise.
2. Exercise daily. Nearly every hotel has a gym or pool. Schedule your workout into your calendar with a reminder that will help you stick to your plan. Try running or walking on the treadmill. Swim laps or simply tread water in the deep end. If you can’t find time to go to the gym, get creative and take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your rental car in the back of the lot, or do crunches in the morning before you shower.
3. Keep healthy snacks with you. When hunger strikes, you may not have any healthy options available, so keep snacks with you. Healthy options include fruit, nuts and bottled water. If you must eat the airline snack, pick the one with the highest amount of protein —probably the peanuts—because it will sustain you longer so you won’t need to eat another airline snack.
4. Take your vitamins. You can ensure that you get sufficient nutrients by taking your multivitamin every day. This can help ward off colds and other illnesses to which you are more susceptible due to the immune-suppressing stress associated with business travel.
6. Drink alcohol in moderation. Many business events revolve around alcohol. If you are counting calories, this can be a real problem. Avoid sugary drinks like daiquiris, which have more than 200 calories per drink. Better choices include wine, light beer and alcohol with seltzer. Or avoid alcohol completely and choose seltzer with lemon or lime.
7. R&R. Rest and relaxation may not be on your agenda, but you need both. Sleep is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Invest in an eye mask and earplugs so you can sleep even if your surroundings are noisy. Also take time to explore your destination. It may even result in bonus points with your clients if you can talk about the wonderful things their city has to offer!
8. Have a time zone strategy. Time zone changes present additional challenges. If your trip is short, don’t adjust to the new time zone; instead schedule meetings for times that work with your body clock. If you must adjust, arrive at least a day early to help sync yourself with the new time zone.
9. Wash your hands, a lot. When you travel, you are touching a lot of surfaces that everyone else touched too, and at least one of those people was probably sick. Keep the germs away by washing your hands frequently, especially before you eat because most germs enter the body through the mouth and nose.
10. Stay connected to your loved ones. It can be lonely on the road where your only friends are flight attendants and baristas. Coordinate with your loved ones and schedule time to connect with them every day. The phone is always easy. You can also use Skype or FaceTime, which are especially great for connecting with toddlers who can’t carry on a phone conversation. For adults—and especially for tweens and teenagers—texting can be a great way to stay connected to moments that you would otherwise miss.
Jamie J. Spannhake is a lawyer, certified health coach and blogger. After working for a large Manhattan law firm for six years as a commercial litigator, she founded her own practice serving clients in New York and Connecticut. She focuses on wills, residential real estate and business transactions, and provides legal research and writing services for other lawyers. As a health coach, she works with individual clients—mostly lawyers—to help them achieve a healthy balance in their lives. She writes and speaks on issues of interest to lawyers, including time and stress management, work/life balance and effective legal writing. She blogs about good nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices at The Daily Balance.
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