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Staying Well While Travelling Well

5 Top Tips For Travellers' Health

5 Top Tips For Travellers' Health

By Neil McPherson

10 August 2019

These are simple wellness hints to look after yourself while travelling, so that you can get the most out of what we love - travel destinations, tours and activities !

None of the videos below are my own, but all are publicly available on YouTube and have been personally helpful for me (and friends) and are worthwhile sharing. Copyright belongs to the publisher(s). 

Sanctifly is a travel wellness company, whose ideas I really like.  They provide paid access to airport lounges, gyms and pools at airports around the world without the need to book a room.  As part of their commitment to helping travellers, they provide free access for everyone to videos specifically to help folk deal with the stresses of travel - their Take 10 series.

The tips below are based on my personal experience and I hope that you will benefit from them too. 

Another useful source of information that specialises in travel for businesswomen is roadwarriorette - also worth a peek by everyone for some of her helpful tips.

Why is travel wellness important?

While sitting seems fairly innocuous, there’s an ever-expanding body of scientific evidence that (whether behind a desk at work or during a long plane trip or train ride), being seated for prolonged periods can be harmful.

Sitting for long periods also slows blood circulation, which causes fluid to pool in the legs resulting increased risk of varicose veins and the blood clots known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

So use the tips below and you should arrive at your destination fresh(er) and ready to enjoy your stay.

Travel Wellness Tip 1 - Clothing

With lengthy train trips (longer than four hours ) and especially with long-haul flights (with its even more restricted movement) there can be a prime opportunity for DVT. To alleviate some of that risk , stretch regularly, stand up and walk the length of the carriage or cabin (when the fasten seat belts sign is off) and take some time for some stretches (for suggestions, see Tip 4 below) every two hours. You may also want to pack and later change into a pair of compression tights or compression socks to aid circulation in your legs. This will keep your feet from falling asleep and help to reduce the risk of DVT.

Over the top of these, it is a good idea to wear comfortable clothing that will allow for movement. "Active wear" or yoga-related outfits are good for this. So are golf trousers, with their ability to "give", while still looking good (as long as it fits with your personal style). Just remember to layer so you can make adjustments to be comfortable no matter what the cabin temperature becomes once in the air.

Travel Wellness Tip 2 - Preparing For Your Flight

Before Your Trip

Preparing for your flight is as important for yourself as for your luggage. Take these simple tips 24 hours beforehand, to "pack" the best version of you onto your flight.

Tips For Overcoming Pre-flight Stress or Anxiety

For many of us, getting to the airport, checking in and then finding your way to the gate (or a lounge on the way) is part of the anticipation of a trip away. But for one of my friends (and there must be others), flying is an unpleasant but necessary evil to get to the destinations they seek to enjoy. Tips For Overcoming Pre-flight Stress or Anxiety and Tips for Overcoming Stress During Landing are the videos I shared with them, but the suggestions are good for everyone seeking to overcome the anxieties and stresses of modern air travel.
This guided meditation for takeoff and after landing may also be useful.

Travel Wellness Tip 3 - Hydration & Snacks

The World Health Organization reports that humidity in airplane cabins is "low, usually less than 20%"   (humidity in the home is normally over 30%). Low humidity may cause skin dryness and discomfort to the eyes, mouth and nose but presents no risk to health."

They suggest "Use skin moisturizing lotion or a saline nasal spray to moisturize the nasal passages. Wearing eyeglasses rather than contact lenses can relieve or prevent discomfort to the eyes........since caffeine and alcohol have a diuretic effect (causing more urine to be produced), it is wise to limit consumption of such beverages during long flights."

Some newer planes, like Airbus A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners, maintain higher humidity levels, but on most flights, it's up to you to combat low humidity yourself.

So low airplane humidity remains a fact of air travel — one that's also an increasingly recognized as a contributor to jet lag and that general feeling of malaise that comes with long-haul flying.

To reduce these effects, ensure you drink water regularly on the flight. However, do NOT drink the water from the airplane (or other beverages made on the flight like tea or coffee, or even other drinks with added ice). Studies on the on-board water by the (US) EPA in 2004 and the NYC Food Policy Center in 2020 would make your stomach churn.

Either pay for bottled water on the flight, or instead bring a small (100 ml ones are readily available from Daiso), empty and preferably transparent water bottle with you in your cabin luggage and fill it up once past security. Also consider bringing your own anti-bacterial hand wipes for use, rather than washing your hands in the on-board bathrooms. Apparently, the most unhygenic place in an airplane is often the seat tray....

Here are some ideas for snacks you can bring or buy at the airport. Note that from the Harvard Medical School study mentioned above, a good general idea would be to reduce your intake of foods relatively high in fats or sugars. Unfortunately, this is the type of snack typically served on-flight.

The snacks listed below (source: NYC Food Policy Center 2018/19 Airline Food Study) can be easily taken in your cabin bag either in small air-tight plastic containers or using clear cling-wrap.

Travel Wellness Tip 4 - Movement

Remaining in a single position for an extended period of time is very unnatural for most people. To function well, our bodies need movement and sitting still in a relatively confined space, whether a rail carriage or an airplane cabin creates great discomfort and affects our wellness just as we are on our way to our next exciting destination. But it doesn't need to be so. In these videos are hints to help maintain posture and stretch without disturbing folk near you, so at least you will arrive without feeling stiff and sore.

On Your Flight - Moving & Stretching

Not sure I necessarily like the barefoot idea (some flight socks and slippers are a good idea), but on your flight, moving and these stretches feel reeeeeally good and can be done without disturbing any neighbours - although you may attract their curiousity.

On Your Flight - Between Moving & Stretching

While not moving and stretching, airline seats aren't doing your back any favours. Our bodies aren't very well designed for extended periods of sitting. Use these simple tips for between moving and stretching on your flight to overcome the worst of the impact on your body.

Other stretches recommended by the Mayo Clinic include:

Travel Wellness Tip 5 - Sleep

On longer flights, we will at some point need sleep as well as the above movement. No matter whether you have a flat-bed seat in one of the premium classes on the flight, or you are seated towards the rear, a good sleep on a long-haul flight can be hard to come by. Watching your intake of coffee and alcohol will help. These videos describe the issues and demonstrate how to best get that much-needed shut-eye to maintain your wellness while in the air.

Stretches To Help Get Some zzz's

In this video, some on-flight pre-sleep stretches are demonstrated, to help you settle in and prepare your body for some healthy zzz's.

Best & Worst Ways to Sleep On A Plane

In this video by Tech Insider, Dr. Alan Hedge, a Professor of Ergonomics at Cornell University, describes the best and worst ways you can sleep on a plane. Note how some content of the other videos seek to address his points.