Five Key Tips for Healthy Business Travel
Non-stop coffee, obligatory evening drinks, skipped meals and extended dinner feasts, jet lag and long, intense days in conference rooms. Where are we? On a business trip, of course.
If you've done any business travel, I'm sure you can relate. I'm always surprised when outsiders think this travelling lifestyle is glamorous. Of course, many of us have some good memories from business travel, but after a few trips it begins to wear you down physically and mentally. The stress of travel, time away from your family and a disrupted routine can leave you exhausted, feeling bloated and sometimes even sick!
Any frequent traveller knows this intuitively, but a 2011 study by Columbia University's Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine provided evidence that extensive business travel leads to poor health.
The study found that increased business travel results in an increase in body mass index, higher blood pressure and lower self-rated health.
The researchers attribute this to "several negative health behaviours" among frequent travellers like excess alcohol and food consumption, job-related stress and limited physical activity.
Fortunately, with a bit of intention and planning, you can stay healthy during business travel. Everyone knows they should get regular exercise while travelling, but here are five additional tips that will keep you in top form:
Drink enough water. Drinking enough water is important everyday, but especially so during travel. Several factors conspire to dehydrate you during business travel: too much coffee and alcohol, extremely dry airplane and hotel air, irregular schedule and worries about water quality in other countries. Make an effort to drink water throughout the day – it will help your energy and stress levels, keep your skin looking fresh, moderate your appetite and keep your nose and throat moisturised (which can boost your resistance to catching colds). If you're worried about water quality, drink bottled water and think of the cost as an investment in your health!
Eat a proper breakfast. I'm often not in control of my schedule while travelling, so it's hard to know when, or what, I'll eat next. But one thing I can control is my breakfast. Make sure to eat some protein, and avoid sugar. Too much sugar at breakfast can make you feel energized at first, but you'll become tired and hungry when the sugar rush wears off. Instead, protein will give you steady energy and help you feel full for longer. Good breakfast choices could include eggs on whole grain toast or plain yoghurt with fruit. And although it sounds healthy, avoid orange juice which is a big dose of sugar in the morning!
Take a comfort from home. This one is unique for every traveller, but it works. Bring a small comfort from home with you on your travels to make your new environment familiar. Personally, I always carry some sachets of herbal tea and my mini yoga mat. You might bring your iPod loaded with music and videos, your favourite sleep socks, a photo or a hot water bottle. It's up to you. What makes you feel at home?
Lavender essential oil. A small bottle of lavender essential oil is in every one of my travel bags, including my zippered bag of liquids for the airplane! While most essential oils need to be diluted, lavender essential oil can be used neat – simply apply one drop directly to the skin. Lavender is calming and stress-reducing, but is also antiseptic. Use one drop of the oil on your temples to help you sleep, to relax during the day or to reduce anxiety on plane flights. For an evening treat, soak a washcloth in warm water, add 2 drops essential oil, and place on your clean face to open the pores and relax you. You can also add it to a bath or on the floor of the shower. An added bonus is that one drop of lavender oil on a spot or blemish will help it clear up overnight!
Get some fresh air every day. Sitting in meeting rooms all day is a recipe for fatigue. Get outside every day, and if you can take a walk or run, even better! If you're travelling across time zones, try to get some morning sunshine to help reset your internal clock. When travelling in Europe, you can often combine a 'coffee meeting' with outdoor time at a café. However you do it, time outside helps to clear your mind and refresh you for the day ahead.
Based in London, Amanda Cook has over 10 years of experience in growing technology companies, so understands all too well the challenges of maintaining a healthy lifestyle whilst driving a business. Having survived 3 overseas relocations as well as extensive international business travel, Amanda now shares her expertise in health and wellness with other entrepreneurs, professional women and business travellers.
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