Here’s how to stay healthy and active when you’re on the road, whether it’s a vacation or traveling for work or business. When you’re away from home and your regular routine, it just takes a bit of effort to build in healthy options and activities.
Travel Regret-Free, Not Regretfully.
Travel can be tough on healthy habits. Vacations are often seen as a time to eat whatever you want (which may be a lot) and do whatever you want (which is often nothing at all), while business travel may take you away from your regular gym and home-cooked meal routine.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick recovery from a week of lounging by the pool or having drinks out with clients. Research proves that weight gained on vacation hangs around for weeks after the party’s over.1
Why not maintain your healthy mindset on your vacation instead of undoing the hard work you put in all year long? Let’s look at some ways to take care of your body (and mind) while on the road for business or pleasure.
Going out of town doesn’t have to mean getting out of shape. Here’s how to stay active while traveling:
- Start the trip off right at the airport -- get in extra steps by avoiding the conveyor belt people-movers. It might seem small, but not letting healthy habits slip away from the get-go is key.
- Almost all hotels, and especially fancy resorts, have gym facilities. Getting in a workout might mean waking up early to slip away before family activities and business seminars, but it will get the blood flowing (and reduce stress)2 for the rest of the day, too.
- There’s no better way to explore than on your own two feet. Go for a long walk, or get in a morning jog, and soak in the sights while burning the calories. It can help you overcome jet lag, too.3
- Use the local culture and customs as an excuse to try out new activities. Attend a dance class and learn salsa or give surfing a try if the ocean is usually miles away from home. Get in the exercise while having a good time.
Snacking on the road and enjoying local cuisine can add up to a whole lot of extra sodium and calories. Here are some tips to make sure your adventurous taste buds don’t tip the scales:
- Step one is to simply pay attention. It’s easy to overdo it, especially when grabbing fast food on the road or at the airport, where we tend to underestimate just how much we consume.4 Unfamiliar foods can be tricky to gauge, too, so be mindful of what you’re putting into your body.5
- Pack healthy snacks to stay on track. It’s easier to skip the fast food on a road trip when you’ve got nuts, apple slices and celery sticks on the passenger seat. Then, once at your destination, pop by the local supermarket and load up on your favorite healthy nibbles. Added bonus? Every meal doesn’t have to be a meal out.
- Maybe it’s a family event, or a dinner meeting with an important client — but you’re probably going to find yourself at restaurants. Just go for healthier choices, like chicken or fish instead of the burger and fries, and don’t overdo the sugary drinks, like soda and alcohol.
- Let’s face it, you want to go a little wild in the culinary arena, right? After all, what’s a trip to Chicago without sampling a deep-dish pizza, or visiting France without trying all those fancy cheeses? Studies show that cheat meals are fine, just plan for it so it’s a cheat meal, not a cheat week.6
It’s not just the body, but also the mind that needs attention while traveling. Use the opportunity when you’re away from home to focus on mental health. Here’s how
- Airports are stressful places. Security lines and cancelled flights can ratchet up the blood pressure. Make use of airport yoga rooms when available, or find a quiet space where you can stretch for five minutes to relax before your flight.
- Take advantage of your hotel’s spa and get a massage. Whether it’s a keynote speech that’s stressing you out, or the amusement park full of over-excited kids (including your own), a massage is a great way to calm down and pamper yourself.7
- What better time to meditate than on vacation? You have the time and a quiet hotel room. The benefits of meditation are well-documented, so practice mindfulness while free from the distractions of everyday life.8
- Stay grateful. Watch the sunset over the ocean, or listen to the wind whistle through the trees in the mountain valley outside. Or enjoy the delight of simply being in a new place. Live in the moment — you might be somewhere that you’ll never visit again. Appreciate the opportunity to experience life away from home. It leads to a happier way of being.9
ACTION: Plan Ahead
Make a plan to ensure your next trip is a healthy one:
- Research ahead of time to find out about the hotel gym and some healthy restaurants nearby.
- Add workout clothes and shoes to your packing list.
- Write down the specific tips from above that you’ll use to stay on track.
Don’t let your departure from home be a departure from good habits. That way, you can be healthy for good wherever you are!
Last Reviewed 07/2018
1Cooper JA, Tokar T. A prospective study on vacation weight gain in adults. Physiol Behav. 2016;156:43-7. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.12.028.
2Working Out to Relieve Stress. American Heart Association website. https://healthyforgood.heart.org/be-well/articles/working-out-to-relieve-stress. Accessed June 19, 2018.
3Wolff G, Esser KA. Scheduled exercise phase shifts the circadian clock in skeletal muscle. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012;44(9):1663-70. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318255cf4c.
4Block JP, Condon SK, Kleinman K, et al. Consumers’ estimation of calorie content at fast food restaurants: cross sectional observational study. BMJ 2013;346 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f2907.
5Robinson E, Aveyard P, Daley A, et al. Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;97(4):728-742. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.045245.
6Coelho do Vale R, Pieters R, Zeelenberg M. The benefits of behaving badly on occasion: Successful regulation by planned hedonic deviations. Journal of Consumer Psychology. 2016;26(1):17-28. doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2015.05.001.
7Moyer C, Rounds J, Hannum JW. A meta-analysis of massage therapy research. Psychol Bull. 2004;130(1):3-18. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.130.1.3.
8Sharma M, Rush SE. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a Stress Management Intervention for Healthy Individuals: A Systematic Review
Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine. 2014;19(4):271-286. doi: 10.1177/2156587214543143.
9Witvliet C, Fallon R, Root Luna L, et al. Gratitude Predicts Hope and Happiness: A Two-Study Assessment of Traits and States. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 2018. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2018.1424924.
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