How To Maintain Mental and Physical Health When Traveling

Maintaining Health and Fitness While Traveling

By Jackie Cohen

Traveling, one of life's greatest joys. A passion, a career, and a favorite pastime for so many Americans.

But traveling can be hard on your body– mentally, physically, and emotionally. How do avid globetrotters maintain healthy lifestyles and overall wellness while they're journeying from place to place?

There's nothing like the excitement of visiting a new place for the first time. For many travelers, however, that excitement may come alongside fear and anxiety about the unknown, and stress regarding logistics.

This apprehension, stress, and fear is totally normal around travel, whether it's running late for a flight, or fear of flying itself, there are ways to set pre-travel anxieties aside.

Mental preparation

Get a jump ahead on lines at the airport. Photo from Pexels.
Get a jump ahead on lines at the airport. Photo from Pexels.

For American passport holders, there is one option for air travel that may reduce some pre-flight anxiety.

Opting-in to TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry allows passengers to skip long security lines and continue directly to your departure gate.

If this is not an option for you while traveling, leaving ample time to get to the airport, adding a few hours for unexpected delays due to traffic or long lines.

This extra time will provide peace of mind prior to take off and have a few minutes to yourself before boarding to fill your water bottle, have a snack, and settle into a magazine.

It's always better the be running early than barely making or missing a flight, now that's a nightmare!

In-flight health 

Make sure to get your rest as the sun goes down. Photo from Unsplash.
Make sure to get your rest as the sun goes down. Photo from Unsplash.

Long-distance air travel is one of the greatest accomplishments of modern science and engineering, and a true blessing for travelers around the world.

It's an amazing feeling going to sleep on one continent and wake up on another. That being said, flying can be taxing on our bodies and minds.

On flights longer than six hours, many experts recommend wearing compression socks to not only keep your feet warm and toasty but also to increase full-body circulation and decrease risks of blood clots and reduce swelling.

Hydration on planes is absolutely key to staying healthy throughout the remainder of your travels. Even when you think you are not thirsty, drink water.

Stay hydrated on your flight and throughout your travels. Photo from Pexels.
Stay hydrated on your flight and throughout your travels.

If you don't like water, drink tea, or add a citrus fruit or cucumber to jazz up your H2O.

Drink it even when you are not thirsty. And then, drink some more. Water is an essential aspect of staying healthy any day, but especially during travel, assisting concentration, maintain hunger, hydration, regulation, and digestion.

Bring your own reusable water bottle, fill it up before your flight, and continue drinking by asking your flight attendant for refills throughout the flight.

If you are sick of water, bring your own favorite herbal tea bags and the attendants can also provide you with boiling water. Make sure you choose an aisle seat for all those bathroom breaks you'll need to take!

For longer flights, make sure to take periodic breaks from sitting and walk around the plane's aisle for a few minutes.

Raise your arms and stretch out your legs to wake up your whole body and help with circulation. Don't forget to pack your eye pads and noise-canceling headphones to be sure you can catch some Z's during that long flight, an essential aspect of beating jet-lag.

Once you've touched down

When you finally arrive at your destination, wherever that may be, there are certain steps you can take to ensure your health during your travels.

Traveling by bike is a great way to pair exercise with sightseeing. Photo from Pexels.
Traveling by bike is a great way to pair exercise with sightseeing.

Exercise: It's vital to keep moving and maintain your exercise regimen while on the road. Walking is easy when traveling, you can get lost exploring cities or forests or hillside villages.

Check ahead of time to see if your accommodation has a fitness center or gymnasium, and be sure to utilize that too if it's in your interest.

Power walks through any destination are a great alternative to traditional workouts, as well as hikes, discovering a new yoga studio, or maybe the local's workout-of-choice.

Bonus points if you can find an outdoor gym on vacation. Photo from Pexels.
Bonus points if you can find an outdoor gym on vacation.

According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training can help you develop strong bones, manage weight, enhance the overall quality of life, and help sharpen mental ability.

Even lightly, lifting while traveling can help maintain health and fitness while on the road.

Putting together a simple training routine using just body weight is a great way to get the job done in a small hotel room or outdoors without any equipment. Flexibility and stretching exercises can provide more comfort on long-haul flights and improve body circulation and blood flow.

Traveler's Stomachs

Digestive Health and Nutrition: Some traveler's stomachs don't do great while they're on adventures. Especially if you are travelling far from home, or to destinations notorious for causing digestive distress to tourists, like India, South America, or Southeast Asia, pack extra anti-acids like TUMS, and maybe even some antibiotics just in case you get stuck with a case of traveller's diarrhea.

Finding time to sleep when traveling can be hard, but it's essential.
Finding time to sleep when traveling can be hard, but it's essential.

To avoid this, be mindful of what you're eating, especially when dabbling in local cuisine, street food, or tap water.  Pack your favorite snacks to keep in your daypack, so when you are in a pinch, you can grab a granola bar on the go.

Sleep- Adjusting to a new time zoned is tough, and jet lag makes it even more difficult. According to the National Institute of Health, sleep plays a vital role in good health and well being.

Quality sleep is essential to maintaining all aspects of an individual's health. Sleeping in a strange place in a strange bed may be difficult, but setting a bedtime and routine is a good trick to help get you to sleep.

Turn off all lights and electronic devices, and consider taking a natural sleep aid like melatonin or drinking herbal tea to help send you off before bedtime.

Keeping it realistic

Cassie de Pecol, world traveler, world-class athlete. Photo: Cassie de Pecol
Cassie de Pecol, world traveler, worldclass athlete. Photo: Cassie de Pecol

Cassie De Pecol, first American woman to visit all 196 sovereign nations, and Iron Man athlete, has made maintaining her health and fitness a priority throughout her travels.

"If you're sick or low on energy, making it to that important business meeting 10 hours away or exploring the local culture can make things all the more difficult and less enjoyable. Being ill or depleted can make a productive meeting or day into a draining one, and that's not what life is about!," De Pecol wrote on her website.

"When it comes to travel, I make my health a top priority above anything else. Some things that I'll do in order to prepare for a trip is slowly trying to get myself scheduled for the same time zone where I'll be traveling; that might mean going to bed a little later or waking up earlier, but I've found that if I'm able to shift my sleeping cycles with the time zones, I am much more adjusted."

With daily morning walks, a careful diet, and mindful approach to her travels, De Pecol has successfully circled the globe while staying healthy and fit.

Tying it all together

It takes planning, patience, and sometimes a whole lot of energy,  but staying healthy while traveling is a vital and attainable aspect of globe-trotting that everyone should make a priority.

From planning meals for the plane before departing for the airport, packing healthy snacks and tea bags, and getting lost on a hike, careful diet and exercise while on the go will help maintain and flourish any traveler's mental, physical, and emotional health while on the go.

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Jackie Cohen

Jackie Cohen

Jackie Cohen is an avid globetrotter, in constant search for new obscure destinations and adventures. With a special interest in sustainable tourism practices, she's traveled around the world to North and East Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, Southeast Asia, and across Europe-always looking for local cuisine, hidden surprises, and lessons in different cultures. She's from Beverly, MA.