How to stay healthy while traveling for work

The road warrior lifestyle is a reality for many of us. The annual volume of business trips for U.S. executives is estimated at 488 million trips, according to a report by the Global Business Travel Association. The real question is: How can we stay healthy when our job requires us to travel regularly?

The flip side to the glamour of business travel is the stress and strain of being constantly on the move which can have a significant impact on your physical, mental and emotional health. Despite all the days on the road, here are some tips to keeping your health at the top of your priority list.

Diet and Nutrition
We've all heard it; you are what you eat. If you subsist on road food or airline menu items several days a week, you may be overloading on carbohydrates, salt, and sugar which may lead to bloating, weight gain and other chronic conditions. Long days are typically part of the work schedule of traveling professionals, and you may find yourself snacking mindlessly and overindulging in calorie-laden drinks at the end of the day just to cope with fatigue. 

While food intake is not the only contributing factor to overall health, it's a great starting point for initiating simple changes that will have a long-term and significant impact on your health.

Nutrition experts recommend:

  • Prepare ahead for each trip by packing your own snack bags, containing healthier and tastier food options, such as nuts, fruit, and veggie slices.
  • It’s tempting to eat whenever food is made available. However, be conscious of your regular meal times, and eat when the timing coincides with your regular dining schedule.
  • Monitor and control your calorie intake without being too obsessive about it. If you ate a huge lunch, opt for a light dinner. If you anticipate a five-course dinner at an evening event, eat light during the day.
  • Stay hydrated. Water is always the best option for your beverage of choice, but low-calorie, non-alcoholic beverages will do as well. Drinking fluids will help keep you feeling full while supporting your circulatory and digestive systems.

Physical Activity
There is a big temptation to forego your exercise routine when you are on a business trip. Your schedule is already intense with a host of things to be accomplished during your trip, and you may be prompted to pass off the day's activities as your exercise for the day. This is justifiable if you spent the day trekking across miles of exhibition halls and sites of must-attend conferences but not if most of the day's work involved sitting in a boardroom with an endless stock of pastries and flavored coffee.

Pack appropriate footwear! Most hotels include an on-site workout room equipped with the latest exercise equipment. Take advantage of these services to avoid getting in a rut with your workout routine. If machine-aided workouts are not your thing, put on your walking shoes and explore what you can of the city. Walk as much as you can to replace the cardio routine you are missing because you're not at home long enough.

Sleep and Relaxation
Traveling from coast to coast or globally can do a number on your circadian rhythm especially on your sleep patterns. If you travel frequently, power-napping is a priority skill that should be acquired and mastered. Choose a quiet spot where you can close your eyes and lay your head down, play soothing music with headphones on and relax for 15 to 30 minutes.

Learn some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and decompression through self-massage or self-talk. These techniques put you in touch with your body and help you to stay focused on the present and on the stuff you can control.

Other Aspects of Healthy Living
It's difficult to stick to a routine if your schedule changes every week. It takes great resolve to cultivate healthy habits if your work-life puts you on the road frequently. However, there are some basic steps you can take to help you live healthier even if you travel quite a bit.

Assess your present lifestyle, and determine the deleterious patterns or practices that you can change. Smoking, snacking to cope with stress, and worrying about the stuff you can't control such as bad weather and canceled flights isn't a solid plan! Be prepared with a Plan B and keep your sense of humor. Some of the stuff that seems devastating today will have workable solutions tomorrow after you get a good night's sleep; resolve to turn off your electronic devices and get enough sleep every night.

Triage your options. Socialization after hours is part of business trips, but you are typically not obliged to attend each one. Choose the events that will deliver the most mileage professionally and personally, and make time for your health.