How to Be a Fit Flyer
Don't be caught high and dry. The air in the cabin of planes can be very dry, and this should worry you for two reasons. One, the air dries out the skin. Flight regulations may prohibit carrying lotions, so protect your skin by applying moisturizer before you board. You may be able to bring some nasal saline moisturizer to use if your nose gets irritated. And two, the dry air causes dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids throughout your flight, opting for water or low-sugar juices over dehydrating caffeine and alcohol.
Don't rely on the snack cart. You're not even assured of a snack on many flights these days, let alone a healthy meal. Hunger can hit at any time, so pack your own healthy snacks. Squirrel away a pouch of handy treats, such as nuts, plain popcorn, pumpkin seeds, or dried fruit. When - or if - that heavy cart does finally lumber down the aisle, opt for more wholesome food and beverage choices. Peanuts are better than most "snack mixes," which are usually packed with sodium.
Feel free to move about the cabin. Being cooped- up in a seated position for too long can lead to aches, pains, and muscle cramping. One serious risk of prolonged immobility is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that forms deep inside the body, usually in the leg. The risk is very small unless you have a risk factor for DVT (such as if you have had a previous DVT or if you are pregnant). Before boarding, consider seeing your doctor to see if you have risk factors for DVT. During the flight, take advantage of opportunities to stand up, stretch, and walk the aisles a bit. Simple seat-bound stretches help, too. Avoid crossing your legs: an old wives' tale claims that a prim crisscross may constrict blood flow. And wear comfy shoes, as the altitude can make your feet swell.
Keep your head out of the clouds. Motion sickness originates in your head, thanks to a little sensory message conflict - your eyes can't see the plane moving, but your inner ear and muscles sense it. Keeping the eyes closed or sitting in an aisle seat on the wing section may alleviate some of the discomfort and dizziness of motion sickness. Over-the-counter medications are also available to prevent symptoms in the first place. Another "heady" sensation you may feel while flying is popping or fullness of the ears. This is caused by the change in pressure as the plane ascends and descends. For relief, chew on gum or candy, or try yawning or swallowing.
Sleep in the sky. Even with your seat tilted back to the max, it can still be tough to catch a nap on an airplane. If sleep is a priority and a full-fold seat is an option, go for it. If you're wedged in a coach-class seat, you may be able to make do with a few sleep accessories. An eye mask can grant you darkness, and earplugs should shut out most of the cabin noise. Or you can queue up a mellow playlist on your MP3 player to lull you into slumber. Some people choose to bring their own pillows for comfort and to avoid exposure to germs from previous users. Obviously, you should pass on caffeine or other stimulants. And if you're thinking of taking some medications to help you fall asleep, do so with caution and check with a health care professional beforehand.
What to pack in your travel wellness stash
Here's what you need to bring to stay well while you're on the go!
- Your prescription medications. Stow these in your carry-on luggage, in case of delays or lost luggage.
- Just-in-case medications. Pack for any likely travel ailments, such as motion sickness, indigestion, allergies, or aches and pains. Outdoor trip? Don't forget the insect repellent.
- The first aid essentials. Depending on the nature of your travels, this could mean a handful of bandages to a full-on emergency response kit.
- Sun protection. No matter what the season, the sun's there, making its presence felt through UV radiation. Bring sunscreen, protective clothing, and sunglasses to protect your eyes. In case of sunburn, you may want to bring along some aloe vera gel or after-sun cream.
- Your contacts and/or glasses. Be sure to carry extra contacts and store your glasses in a protective case to prevent breaking. Remember to pack eye drops or saline solution if necessary.
- Tooth care basics. A toothbrush and toothpaste are probably two of the most likely things for a traveller to forget. Keep your toothbrush covered and dry.
- Mental health helpers. Carry along some mellow mementos from home to keep you balanced as you travel. Think photographs, or a soothing song playlist on your MP3 player.
- Good sleep kit. Sleeping in new places - or on noisy airplanes - can be a challenge. Take along earplugs, eye mask, and your own blanket to help you get the shuteye you need for your adventures.
- A snack stash. Food on the road is not always the healthiest fare. Pack a few easy-to-tote healthy treats for hungry moments. Great snacks include almonds, granola, trail mix, or dried fruit.
- Portable fitness gear. In case you decide to go for a run, take a hike, or try out the local yoga studio at your destination, you'll need the right gear.
- Antibacterial wipes. These come in handy while on the road, on a hike, or in dingy hotel rooms.