Traveling can take a toll on the body, both mentally and physically. New research from the Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and City University found that those that travel for business two or more weeks per month are more likely to smoke, have trouble sleeping and experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to an EuerkaAlert! press release. The data found that the negative health impact of business travel on employees increased in accordance with nights spent away from home. These problems were worse among those who traveled at least half of the month for work, compared to those who only left home 1 to 6 times per month for business.
Travel for business is necessary across almost all industries. Though the aforementioned data may feel like a cloud lingering over your upcoming work itineraries, the good news is that there are ways to combat the affects of travel. The next time you pack up your briefcase and head to the airport, keep these considerations in mind:
Though this may sound like a no brainer, eating healthy on the road can be a lot more challenging than it sounds. If you're rushing from the airport to an office building or are stuck in meetings all day, it may just be that the only convenient and accessible food options are fast food or grab-and-go. Smart food choices and nutrition, however, are even more important during these busy days of travel. As USA Today explained, making wise food decisions on the road starts with a little bit of planning and preparation.
For the journey itself, be sure to pack your own snacks. Chopped fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and trail mixes can help to keep you energized and curb that hunger when you're running back and forth between meetings. Moreover, having these items on you makes it easier to say no to the chips and sodas offered on the flight. Opt for fresh fruit and skip the donuts at conferences and, if there's a bakery nearby, settle on a whole grain bagel with nut butter for breakfast, suggested USA Today.
In the evening, do your best to avoid alcoholic beverages when out with clients or fellow coworkers. If you do drink, avoid cocktails or mixers high in sugar and opt for wine or drinks with club soda.
Incorporate physical activity
Though it may not always be possible, the key to good health on business trips is to exercise whenever and wherever you can. Though it can feel difficult to fit in that workout on the road, there a number of tips and tricks that frequent business travelers can adopt.
As the Mayo Clinic explained, it's important to do a little research before your trip. If your hotel will have a pool or gym, you can arrive prepared with a bathing suit and sneakers. If your accommodation does not have either of these facilities, consider packing small, light equipment that can easily fit in your carry-on. A jump rope, mat and resistance bands are all great tools that let you squeeze in a little bit of activity right in your hotel room. If you have the time, you may even consider looking into wellness classes in the area such as spin, yoga or boxing.
According to Fast Company, loneliness, feelings of guilt for leaving behind family, a lack of sleep and nutrition and work stressors can all cause those who travel for work to become quite stressed. This is on top of the regular stress of travel, which can include cancelations and delays. As such, it is important for those who frequently fly and drive for work to take the time to stop, breathe and focus their minds. Though it can be tough to find the quiet amidst all the chaos, doing so is essential for your health.
For some this may mean talking a walk around the block or practicing yoga, while others may find meditative release in reading or listening to music. Whatever your chosen mindfulness practice may be, ensure that you make it a regular part of your work schedule.
Boost your immune system
As Scott Cohen, deputy director of research of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey, told Fast Company, the immune systems of those who travel on a regular basis are going to be more compromised than those who travel infrequently. Circulated air on planes, jet lag and germs in terminals and train stations all work against the body and its ability to fight off sickness and disease.
"Frequent travelers are known to have a weaker immune system than non-travelers."
For business travelers always on the go, working to boost your immune system naturally is key. Building strong immunity is done through good nutrition, quality sleep, reduced stress and weight maintenance, according to Harvard Medical School. Some research has shown that micronutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamins A, B6, C, and E - to name a few - can be especially beneficial for the immune system. While some will say herbs and supplementation can also help, the source advised against relying on these products.
By incorporating the aforementioned healthy habits into a daily routine, business travelers can reduce their risk of experiencing the negative implications associated with frequent travel. As the researchers from the Columbia University noted however, it is key that employers help ensure their employees have the means to do so.
"At the individual-level, employees who travel extensively need to take responsibility for the decisions they make around diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and sleep," stated Dr. Andrew Rundle,PH, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. "However, to do this, employees will likely need support in the form of education, training, and a corporate culture that emphasizes healthy business travel. Employers should provide employees who travel for business with accommodations that have access to physical activity facilities and healthy food options."
Even small changes can make a big difference.