8 Tips for Healthy Travel
Troy Vander Molen, PT, DPT
We’re in the thick of vacation season, and many of you will be embarking on one last road trip to make memories with your families before summer ends. For some, travel can be an uncomfortable experience which means that you may be creating memories tied to how you were feeling more than what you were doing.
Keeping your bones, muscles, and joints healthy while you’re on the road can be a challenging task. Here are 8 tips to keep you in tip-top shape during your summer vacation:
- Rest – I’ve heard some people say that they need a day or two to recover after their vacation. Vacations are great fun, but they can also be exhausting. Start out the trip on the right foot by getting plenty of rest before you leave, and make sure you get appropriate sleep while you’re gone. A lack of sleep can lead to memory problems, a weakened immune system, increased stress levels, slower reflexes, and poor judgement. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of sleep deprivation, and a lack of sleep typically increases pain responses as well.
- Eat Breakfast & Stay Hydrated – Poor nutrition and hydration has the same impact on the body as lack of sleep. If you are traveling by air, dehydration also exaggerates jet lag and makes you more likely to experience a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) of pulmonary embolism (PE). Good nutrition habits both before and during your travel experience will help you maintain energy and improve your brain power so you can better enjoy and recover from your trip.
- Watch Your Posture – Make sure you are sitting comfortably with your hips all the way back to the corner of the seat. Position the seat around a 100-degree angle, use full back support and the headrest to keep you ears above your shoulders, and consider using the lumbar support. If you are driving, stay close enough to the steering wheel that you don’t have to reach substantially to steer the wheel, which will eventually cause your back to slouch and your head to fall forward, a posture that will contribute to neck pain, back pain, and headaches. Use cruise control on straight roads so that you can pump your ankles and reduce lower extremity swelling
- Wear Compression Stockings – If you have ever noticed swelling in your feet while traveling, consider compression stockings to further reduce lower extremity swelling. At a minimum, wear socks that will provide some compression to the feet and lower legs.
- Get Out and Move – To increase blood flow and refresh yourself, get out and walk around for a minute or two at least once every hour if you are traveling by car. If you are in an airplane, walk the aisle. You may need to take a break every 20 to 30 minutes if you have a history of back pain or other issues. This is good for your muscles and joints, and it also reduces the chances of developing a DVT or PE. It is also wise to maintain your normal exercise routine as much as possible during your trip.
- Stretch – Before you leave and while you travel, you can perform some simple stretches or active movements. During your trip, performing pelvic tilts is a good way to keep your back feeling well. Briefly press your low back into the seat behind you followed by arching the lower back away from the seat. Repeat several times. Any active movement that creates blood flow is a good thing. Performing these movements in your seat at least once between each episode of getting up and moving around is a great habit. If you want some practical examples of stretches you can do before you leave and during your rest breaks, click on this link.
- Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing – Loose clothing made from breathable fabrics will keep you cool and limit the restrictions in blood flow that make it more likely that you will experience swelling in your extremities.
- Breathe – Deep breathing techniques increase oxygen content in your bloodstream, which positively contributes to your tissue health. Take a deep breath in through your nose to fill your lungs over the course of about three seconds. After a brief pause, exhale through pursed lips to completely empty your lungs. Repeat that pattern for three repetitions every half hour to revitalize yourself on the road.
It is still possible that you may experience some aches and pains even when you choose to use healthy habits while traveling. If that is the case for you, don’t hesitate to contact us at 866-588-0230 to schedule a free injury screen so that you can get answers immediately from one of our movement experts that will eliminate your problem once and for all.
P.S. If you’re wanting to do a last minute summer vacation but not sure where to go, check out our Top 10 Tested & Approved Vacation Destinations!