Few things are worse than having falling ill while on the road for work. Unfortunately, illness seems to one of the occupational hazards faced by business travellers.
According to a study that explores the health effects associated with business travel, people who spent 14 or more nights away from home every month were more likely to be overweight and report health issues such as anxiety, depression, alcohol dependence, sedentary lifestyles, insomnia, and poor self-rated health in general.
What’s more, the likelihood of being obese was 92 per cent higher among people who travelled more than 21 nights a month compared to those who only did so for less than six days.
Short of reducing their time spent travelling, it’s clear that business travellers need to make lifestyle changes to combat the stress, discomfort, and poor dietary choices that come with being on the road all the time.
So, how do you stay healthy when travelling for work?
Below, we look at five different ways to prevent the adverse health outcomes associated with frequent business travel.
Stay hydrated during flights 💧
The combination of dry cabin air, no-liquids rules at airports, and in-flight alcoholic beverages make it easy for aircraft passengers to become dehydrated, especially during long-haul flights. Dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth, and skin dryness among others.
The air in aircraft cabins has low humidity, usually less than 20 per cent—by comparison, humidity in your average home is often over 30 per cent. It’s for this reason that the Aerospace Medical Association recommends that passengers drink around 250 mL of water for every hour of air travel.
So, for your typical flight from Singapore to Sydney, shoot for around two litres of water to stay hydrated from takeoff to landing.
All that water intake will also give you a reason to get up and go to the restroom, forcing you to move and help blood circulate to your legs. This prevents issues like travellers thrombosis (swelling in the lower limbs due to prolonged sitting) and blood clots.
And while you’re at it, it also helps to lower your intake of coffee and alcohol, both of which are diuretics—substances that promote the production of urine.
Be extra conscious about hygiene 😷
Let’s face it, travelling for work can be stressful, and your higher-than-normal stress levels tend to weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to germs and viruses.
The problem is that travelling often requires being inside trains, planes, and other vehicles where people cough and sneeze. Unsurprisingly, public transport systems are not hygienic spaces.
To combat this and stay healthy, it helps to be more aware of your hygiene. Wash your hands more frequently and pack a small bottle of hand sanitiser you can use in between meetings and after using workstations. It also helps to avoid touching your face to prevent skin infections.
Skip the taxi or car rental for a more active alternative 🚶♀️
Instead of taking a cab or rental car to go to your meetings, find a more active alternative, like walking. It’s also a better way to familiarise yourself with an unknown city. Fortunately, central business districts in New York, Paris, or Singapore are built for pedestrians and very walkable.
If your meeting is happening somewhere far from your hotel, opt for public transport like the bus or subway. If you’re in Hong Kong, the trams offer a great way to get around Hong Kong island on the cheap.
If you’re scheduled for a casual meet-up in a city like Amsterdam or Tokyo, take advantage of the bike-sharing systems in these cities to work on your cardio as you explore the sights and sounds.
Be mindful of your diet 🥗
It’s normal for a successful meeting in a new and exciting city to lead to spontaneous celebrations over good food and drink. The stress of travel can also lead to the same impulsive eating habits.
The occasional cheat meal won’t hurt, but if all you’re eating is greasy, fatty, or sweet food, don’t be surprised if you feel sluggish and bloated when you return home.
But even if you stick to healthy food options, it can be easy to overeat during a business trip, especially when dining out daily is the norm. The temptation is to treat yourself, as you probably do whenever you’re at a restaurant at home. Instead, plan your diet around your meals.
For example, if you know you’re going to have a big power lunch, have a light breakfast. Stick to just one course, and skip the pasta; instead, order a green salad and bowl of fruit for dessert.
Take advantage of the hotel gym 🏋️♂️
Even if you have a busy schedule, there’s simply no excuse for not having the time to squeeze in 30 minutes at the hotel gym or a quick 5K in the nearest park. No gym? No problem. Just do the 7-minute workout or any similar HIIT (high-intensity interval training) routine in the comfort of your hotel room.
The unpredictability of travelling for work can create some scheduling problems, but if you think of exercise as a non-negotiable part of your daily routine, you will make time for it. Just the simple act of packing a pair of running shoes in your suitcase can give you the motivation to stay fit on the road.
Of course, compromises are unavoidable. According to one survey, 54 percent of business travelers admit their exercise is disrupted by travel. Still, don’t be too hard on yourself if your workouts aren’t as intense as the 1-hour routines you do at home. Any exercise is better than none, after all.
Planning is everything to stay healthy during your travels
Even if you’re constantly on the road for work, your health doesn’t have to suffer. With a bit of extra planning and mindfulness about what your diet, personal hygiene, and activity levels, you can avoid all of the common health issues associated with frequent travel. The tips above should help you form the solid foundation of a business traveller’s health and wellness regimen.