Treat your body well during holiday travel

If you’re planning to travel for the holidays, remember to take extra precautions to keep yourself and your family safe. Travel can throw your body out of whack. It’s difficult to maintain regular nutrition, physical activity and sleep routines for you and your family while traveling, but with purposeful planning you can still feel your best while away from home.

Remember to stay hydrated

A long trip can mean sitting stuck in a seat for hours on end, but that doesn’t mean you have to let boredom give in to temptation. Many of the unhealthy cravings we experience while we travel can be satisfied with a simple, refreshing drink of water. Besides making sure you stay hydrated, water helps you eat less by keeping you feeling full and energized.

The first step is to pack some essential items; one of the easiest things to do is bring your own water bottle to keep you hydrated throughout your trip. Purchasing bottled water throughout your vacation is not only unnecessary, but can lead to a decrease in water consumption (you’ll also avoid contributing wasteful, single-use plastics to the environmental crisis). Most airports have filtered water filling stations for your water bottle and can be filled up after passing through security; if you are traveling by car, fill up with water before you leave and freeze another bottle for later. If you are camping, backpacking or visiting an area where you need to filter your own water, purchase a filtered water bottle or water purifier pen.

Keep a normal, healthy eating routine

Make eating healthy during vacation a goal by sticking to your normal routine as much as possible. When you go for long periods of time without eating, you’re far more likely to pick up something unhealthy to snack on. Live by the golden rule of eating something every two or three hours. It doesn’t have to be much, just a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit to keep your hunger at bay.

Instead of reaching for junk and pre-packaged foods, pack a few snacks and easy meals. In the car or on a plane, have a few quick and easy snacks prepared like carrot or celery sticks, rice cakes, a handful of nuts or protein bars. If you have a cooler or refrigerator at the hotel, travel with whole fruit, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, pre-cut vegetables and hummus. Go to the local grocery store once you arrive to your destination for bags of chopped salads or healthy bread for sandwiches. Not only is it difficult to eat adequate fruits and vegetables while traveling but proper fiber intake often declines. Chia seeds are easy to pack, and provide a healthy amount of your recommended daily fiber intake; they are easily mixed into yogurt, smoothies or peanut butter for toast, apples, bananas or celery.  Always remember to wash your hands or use a sanitizing gel before you eat or drink to keep bacteria and virus at bay.

get up and move while you travel

The body is made to move! Too much time sitting in one place can leave you with a sore back and hips, so it’s important to be mindful of movement during long days of travel. This can be done with getting your regular exercise in before leaving on your trip, and going for a quick walk during breaks or layovers. If you are traveling by car, make sure you get out and move at least every two hours.

Stick to a daily exercise routine

It is recommended by the CDC Physical Activity Guidelines for adults to receive 150-300 minutes of moderate cardio and strength training two times a week for most major muscle groups. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, go for a long walk to explore the local area (don’t forget to wear sunscreen whenever you plan to be outside). To get a full workout in, there are many strength activities that can be completed at home, in an AirBnb or apartment using only your body weight. Squats, lunges, planks, push-ups, dips, jumping jacks or jump squats are all easily done within a small space. It’s also good to stretch in the mornings, either static or by incorporating a few yoga poses like the Sun Salutation, Modified Down Dog or Warrior Pose. Stretching helps improve mobility and get you up and moving to start your day

Make time for consistent, restorative rest

Travel is not always conducive to sleep, but it’s important to get adequate rest to feel your best. If you have trouble sleeping, eye masks and ear plugs help block out noise you may not be used to: a baby screaming, a loud person talking all night or unfamiliar sounds of the city. One convenient option is the sleep mask and headphone combo. Neck pillows may also be a good option to help to support your neck while napping on long flights or in the car. If you have tension in your neck or shoulders, learn how to address and treat trigger points in your muscles.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Traveling can be stressful, but ultimately it’s about safely seeing family and friends, exploring new places, and taking time to restore and reconnect–so don’t sweat the small stuff that you can’t control! Did you miss the train? Don’t worry, there will be another one! Life is much too short to be angry and annoyed all the time. Just take a deep breath and let it go!

Our exceptional physical therapists at the Des Moines University Clinic can help you and your loved ones stay healthy during the holiday season and beyond. For more information or to make an appointment, visit the DMU Clinic website or call 515-271-1717.

Disclaimer: This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Kari Smith, P.T., D.P.T., BCB-PMD

Dr. Kari Smith is an associate professor in the Des Moines University Department of Physical Therapy and manager of the DMU Physical Therapy Clinic. Her clinical emphasis is in orthopedics and the treatment of bladder and bowel incontinence, constipation, pelvic pain and sexual dysfunctions with the use of exercise and manual therapy, including visceral mobilization and biofeedback. She has a certificate of achievement in pelvic physical therapy from the Academy of Pelvic Health of the American Physical Therapy Association and is board-certified in biofeedback for pelvic muscle dysfunction through the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance. She enjoys being active in nature and participating in endurance sports during her leisure time.

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