Simple, Easy Ways to Stay Fit While You Travel

Small steps lead to healthier eating and exercise
Leather luggage tags labels.

By: Roxanne B. Sukol, MD, MS

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When you travel, it can be hard to keep a routine of exercise and eating healthy. Time changes, new surroundings, and a packed schedule can all interfere. But even small changes can make a difference in your health and give you energy while you are away from home. The key is to keep things simple.

There are three areas you should focus on when you’re on the road – especially if you’re a busy work traveler: exercise, rest/relaxation, and diet.

In each of these areas, set realistic goals. Concentrate on things you know you can achieve. If you do more than that, consider it gravy. But if you can’t do more than the basics while you’re traveling, you haven’t failed.  Every effort counts. Sometimes, with the desire to do everything right, we have kneejerk reactions and overshoot the mark. Instead, focus on incremental improvements.

It’s easiest to add a small twist to things you’re already doing. And each small thing adds up.  Here are some examples of simple steps you can take to keep you healthy now so you can avoid sickness later.

Exercise: Explore creative ways to move

Hitting the hotel treadmill for 90 minutes daily isn’t necessary. If you can find time in a hotel gym, that’s great. But consider how you can integrate some simple exercise moves into your regular routine right in your hotel room. For example, you can stand on one foot while brushing your teeth and switch feet when you need to regain your balance. This healthy habit isn’t one you have to save for travel. If you do it regularly, it can strengthen your core and legs.

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Want to try something different? Strike a yoga pose or hold a squat position while you brush.  You can also do some simple floor exercises for 15 minutes: jumping jacks, sit-ups and push-ups. You might also pack a jumping rope for some fun and variety. Even simply running in place has its benefits.

Rest/Relaxation: Use travel time to recharge

I strongly recommend that, unless you’re backed into a corner, you use travel time to rest. That time on the plane isn’t the time to plan to get a lot of work done. Allowing time to recharge your batteries will give you more energy overall. You might be on a business trip, but you don’t have to devote every second to work.

And, when you reach your hotel, find a 5-minute yoga, stretch, or mindfulness meditation video on your computer or tablet that helps you focus on your breathing and rest your mind. Not only will it decrease your stress, but current research also shows the brain area responsible for forming new memories actually grows when we do some type of mindfulness activity.

Diet: Find healthy food staples

Eating right while traveling can be the biggest challenge, but you don’t always have to rely on foods provided for you. Do your best to avoid foods with corn starch, corn syrup, white flour, white rice and sugar.

When you can, find real, nutritious foods that keep you full. You can pack healthy snacks, such as dried fruits, nuts, and small packets of nut butters. If you can make a trip to a grocery store, you can find a few healthy, easy-to-eat staples: fruit, whole grain bread, deli turkey, bagged salads, vegetables or canned tuna.  If you have a microwave, you can boil eggs, heat up beans, warm up prepared chicken and cook sweet potatoes or oatmeal.

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If you don’t have a microwave, you can still make this oatmeal recipe in the evening and the oats will be soft by morning. You can find the ingredients in most hotels and hotel restaurants, though it’s a good idea to bring some pre-measured half-cup servings of oats in your suitcase.

Easy no-cook oatmeal

  • ½ cup whole, rolled or steel-cut oats.
  • ¼-tsp vinegar (small packets from restaurants).
  • 1 cup water.
  • Sweetener, jam or honey (small packets from restaurants).

Combine the ingredients before going to bed, and the vinegar will cook the oatmeal like ceviche overnight.

When you travel, remember to simply do the best you can and accept that there are limitations when you are away from home. The way to navigate is to make small, healthful decisions with the knowledge that the trip is only temporary.

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