Dr. Erin Nitschke by Dr. Erin Nitschke
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Keeping well on the road isn’t just about fitness or physical activity; it’s about striking a balance between physical and emotional health. Traveling is fun, but it comes with trials and obstacles. Pair that with being away from the comforts of home and it’s easy to understand why travelers become road (or airport) weary. As you plan your next road trip or cross-country excursion, prioritize these five keys to wellness on the road.

1. Plan. A successful trip starts with an intentional and thoughtful plan. Planning makes the entire trip less frenzied. Make a categorized list of tasks to do, items to bring and sights to see on the way.

  • For the “To Do” List: Write down all the necessary tasks that must be accomplished prior to your leave date. These tasks might include picking up traveler’s checks, buying healthy snack items, obtaining travel toiletries and hand sanitizer, packing passports and IDs, checking the weather forecast, and planning a flexible itinerary/schedule for each day. Remember to include physical activity as part of your travel schedule.   
  • For the “To Bring” List: In addition to the usual packing items, add easily packed fitness essentials such as comfortable athletic shoes, athletic clothes and resistance bands. If you plan to bring a tablet, consider downloading some workout videos for on-the-go exercise sessions.
  • For the “To See” List: Research the various attractions and sights along the path to your destination. This provides frequent opportunities to get out and move. Ideally, build enough flexibility into your plan so you can stop every two hours and move for at least 15 minutes. If you are traveling by plane, walk the airport terminals and when the captain turns off the “fasten seatbelt sign” be sure to get up, stretch and walk as much as possible. If you schedule bouts of physical activity during your trip, you won’t feel pressured for time and you most likely won’t neglect to be active.

2. Explore. The entire idea of travel centers on sightseeing and exploring the areas you visit. Select locations and attractions that require a fair amount of movement and walking to help counterbalance activities that are more sedentary (watching a performance, for example). If you know ahead of time that certain days will be less active than others, consider making reservations at hotels that have a fitness center and/or pool on site. Most will have modest accommodations for their guests. If you pack some resistance bands or loops, it’s easy to plan a mini workout in your room before the day’s outing. Alternatively, unwind with a yoga session before bed.

3. Fuel. On-the-go eating can be challenging, but doing a little research can help. Choose eating establishments ahead of time and review the menus. This will give you a good idea of food choice availability and help you maintain some control over what is consumed. Additionally, be sure to pack water and snacks for each outing and for on-the-road or in-the-airport time. Food items such as homemade trail mix, fresh fruit and veggies, and mixed nuts offer variety, densely packed nutrients and flavor.

4. Renew. There’s no question that traveling can be exhausting. Devote time to sleep and rejuvenation in addition to activity. Set goals for reasonable bed times and rising times and remember to stay hydrated. When the body is well-rested, the mind does not crave comfort foods that are often high in fat, sugar and/or sodium. Healthy choices can be compromised by a foggy brain.

4. Journal. Journaling offers an opportunity to connect with your travels emotionally and spiritually. This is a time to quiet the surroundings and thoughtfully reflect on what makes the trip, the sights and the time with family and friends memorable. Taking pictures is a wonderful way to capture the beauty but commemorating a trip by putting pen to paper (or keeping a digital journal) deepens the memory of the events.

Traveling, while it might be hectic, doesn’t have to result in the development of unhealthy habits. Allow yourself time to enjoy and unwind while prioritizing healthful intentions.

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