The Fit Traveler

Spring and summer are often the time for vacation travel, and whether your trip includes driving or an airline ticket, the long periods of sitting and the interruption of your normal fitness routine can leave you feeling less than energized. Vacations from home don’t have to include a vacation from healthy habits. You can avoid some of the less healthy effects of travel by incorporating a few simple exercises and diet tips during your trip.

The following exercises will help ward off tight, sore muscles during a long day of driving or flying. These exercises can be done while sitting in your car or an airline seat-just remember, if you’re driving be sure to stay focused on the road and leave the more complicated exercises for your next pit stop. If you’re driving long distances, schedule breaks every couple of hours so you can get out of your car and stretch. These little breaks can make a big difference in how your body will feel at the end of the day.

Shoulder shrugs and circles
Sit upright with your shoulders relaxed, and if you’re driving keep your hands on the steering wheel. Take a big breath and exhale as you lift your shoulders up towards your ears. Roll your shoulders in circles several times and then relax them back down. Repeat several times.

Neck stretch
Take a deep breath and as you slowly exhale roll your head to one side, then take a breath and exhale again as you roll to the other side. Repeat this exercises several times, trying to increase the stretch with every repetition.

Wrist circles
Straighten out one arm and do gentle wrist circles. Switch the direction of the circle after 5 repetitions.

Chest stretch
This is a great stretch to do when you get out of the car at a rest stop.

Place your hands behind your head with your elbows out to the side. Stretch your arms back and gently twist your arms side to side. Hold the stretch for a few seconds as you twist to each side for a better stretch.

Back stretch
When you get out of you car or up from your airline seat grasp your hands together over your head and bend backward. Tilt your head up and slightly back as you curve your body back with this stretch.

Tummy tightener
Take a deep breath and as you exhale slowly pull your tummy in towards your spine. Think of your muscle contraction as being like an elevator, with you slowly moving from floor to floor as you tighten your abdominal muscles. Hold the contraction (keep breathing as you hold) then slowly release your tummy back to starting position. Repeat this exercise 5-10 times.

Spending most of your day in a sitting position can put a lot of stress on your spine. Try these tips to help take the pressure off your back and help keep yourself comfortable during your trip:

  • Bring a small pillow or roll up a sweater and place it in the small of your back. This will help provide a lumbar support for your spine.
  • Freeze water in a water bottle before your trip and wrap it on a towel and place in the small of your back or where ever you may feel muscle soreness or pain. If you’re driving keep one cold in a cooler to use as needed.
  • Get up and move every hour or so if possible. This will help increase blood flow to your lower body and prevent the development of a blood clot in your legs during flight.
  • Sit with your bottom as far back into the chair as possible. If you’re on a plane, try to prop your feet up on something so your hips are in line with your knees.
  • If you’re driving, position your seat so you’re as comfortable as possible. Always use a lumbar support or if you do have back problems, invest in a seat wedge that takes pressure off your spine.

Healthy eating while on vacation can be as challenging as trying to find ways to exercise. You can avoid the usual travel weight gain by avoiding fast food pit stops and unhealthy snacking. Instead plan ahead and pack healthy snacks that travel well. If you’re driving fill a small cooler with baby carrots, grapes, apples, crunchy vegetables, low fat granola, yogurt and string cheese so you don’t succumb to fries and a shake. You can fill another small cooler with ice, bottled water and flavored sparkling water-those beverages will keep you hydrated without packing any sugar.

If you’ll be flying, pack small snacks that travel well such as dried fruit, nuts, apples, healthy dry cereals, cheese and water. If you have trouble with fluid retention when flying avoid high sodium snacks and make sure you drink plenty of water. Keep in mind that when flying carbonated drinks can make your feel bloated, so stick with regular bottled water or juice.

Once you arrive at your destination try to include some type of exercise each day, even if it only means a 20-minute walk or swim in the pool.

Here are some tips for seamlessly adding fitness to your trip:

  • Choose a hotel that offers the use of a fitness club or pool.
  • When you check in at your hotel ask the front desk about safe local walking, biking or running areas.
  • Widen your fitness scope and be creative about ways to include fitness. If you’re near water think about renting a canoe or paddle boat-it can be a fun family activity as well.
  • Don’t stress about doing the same level or type of exercise you normally do – just try to do something every day that’ll help keep your body fit and flexible.

Invest in one of the innovative “exercise kits” available for travel. Here are a few that can help you stay fit even when you don’t have a lot of space or time:

The best part of a vacation is how emotionally renewed you can feel from taking a break from your day-to-day life and work. Including fitness and healthy eating during your vacation will help you feel physically refreshed as well, and ease your re-entry back to the “real world.”

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