Many people find themselves traveling at some point between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, if not making multiple trips. Whether you're hopping on a plane or loading up the car to visit family and friends or traveling across the country to enjoy warmer weather, holiday plans often involve hunkering down indoors with a fat-laden feast.
"With shorter days and jam-packed schedules, making time to eat a healthy diet and squeeze in time for exercise can be a challenge," says Aimee Richardson, a health coach at Henry Ford Health System. Add holiday travel to the mix and it's no wonder people have trouble sticking with their stay-fit regimens.
Prioritizing Health While on the Road
Each year, thousands of people get sick between November and January. Skipping exercise, eating a heavy diet and not getting sufficient sleep takes a toll on the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to catching something. But you won't be able to make merry if you're in bed nursing a sore throat or stuffy nose during or after traveling.
Here are Richardson's tips for staying in top shape, even when you're on the road.
- Plan for success: Once you've veered off course, it's hard to get back on track. If you make a plan for success at the outset, you're less likely to go off course in the first place. "Look at your diet as a budget and plan accordingly," Richardson suggests. "If you know you're going to have a heavy meal at dinner, opt for a healthy breakfast and lunch."
- Scope out the options: Dining out while you're traveling? Try to view the restaurant menu online so you can identify the healthiest choices. Looking for a solid workout? Find out if there's a local gym you can visit or plot out a running or walking route.
- Pack for the climate: If you're planning to exercise, make sure to pack proper footwear and comfortable gym clothes. Depending on the weather at your destination, you may need several layers and moisture-wicking materials.
- Try to maintain a sense of normalcy: Try to stick to your usual sleeping and eating routines as closely as possible — and make sure you get enough rest leading up to your vacation.
What to Pack for Healthy Travel
If you want to set the stage for healthy travel, you'll need to bring along several essentials. Here's a sampling of Richardson's must-have items:
- Healthy snacks: Unfortunately, food at airports and at roadside pit stops typically aren't very healthy. Bring along whole fruits, nuts, seeds and other satisfying foods that will keep your metabolism humming.
- Water: Staying hydrated is key when you're traveling. Not only will it help you weather the dry air in airplanes and cars, but it will help keep your gastrointestinal tract moving.
- A favorite pillow or blanket: If you have trouble sleeping without your usual pillow or cozy blanket, consider bringing them with you when you travel. The power of restful slumber for health and well-being can't be overestimated.
- A trusty eye mask: Hotel rooms can be bright, and staying with family can be too, depending on the space available. An eye mask can help ensure you don't wake up from sunlight.
- Hand sanitizer: The single most important thing you can do to stave off cold and flu is practice good hand hygiene. Unfortunately, you don't always have easy access to a sink when you're traveling. That's where small bottles of hand sanitizers can act as a bridge — until you can wash your hands properly again. Sanitizing wipes are great for wiping off surfaces you come in contact with, too.
Bringing Healthy Habits Home
Travel doesn't have to derail your healthy lifestyle. In fact, you might even look at the break in your schedule as an opportunity to adopt a new habit.
"You'll be out of your normal environment, and you might have more free time during the day, so it could be a good time to kick-start a fitness regimen," Richardson says. It could also offer you an opportunity to try new activities. Never been ice skating? Make it a family outing and give it a whirl. Intrigued by cross-country skiing? Find yourself a track.
If you're a smoker, traveling could help you kick the habit. Maybe you're staying with a friend who doesn't smoke, or maybe you'll be on a plane for several hours. The distractions of travel and the festivities at your destination could provide an ideal transition to quitting.
Interested in learning more wellness tricks to keep you in top shape? Henry Ford’s health and wellness coaching could be just what you need. The 12-week program walks you through every step toward better health, from visualizing your ideal life to accomplishing your dreams.To find a doctor or life coach at Henry Ford, visit m.hanxuan888.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
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Aimee Richardson, MCHES, CHWC, NCTTP, leads the health coaching program at Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She is an experienced health educator and certified tobacco treatment specialist.