How to stay fit whilst travelling for work is an eternal conundrum. Endless hours, preparing for travel, long flights, different time zones and lack of exercise equipment can all make it tough to keep in shape. Remaining healthy when travelling for business is, sometimes, a task of herculean proportions. Little wonder, Richard Defrank from the University of Houston refers to regular business travellers as road warriors.
Business travel can be frenetic. You’re tired. You’re hungry and any self regulation that you might ordinarily have is significantly diminished by jet leg. It isn’t just that you’re feeling cranky. There’s an entire science behind business travel and wellness. Executive travel stress is a well documented phenomenon. When you’re constantly travelling across times zones, the effects on your body are, unsurprisingly, negative. Research has demonstrated that jet lag is a huge factor in executive travel stress. So. how to stay fit whilst travelling for work?
It’s not all Glamour: The Hidden Cost of Business Travel
It might sound like a glamorous lifestyle to anyone who doesn’t travel for business, but constantly being on the road (or in the sky) comes with a hidden cost. HEC Paris, surveyed more than 7,000 corporate travellers. The research found that business travel generated significant emotional, physical and psychological stress. Perhaps, less predictably, they discovered that “hierarchy, gender, and geographical location are important determinants of travel stress.” More senior executives were less stressed, whilst female travellers experienced more stress than their male counterparts.
Rather than simply increasing our willpower, how to stay fit whilst travelling for work isn’t a question that is easily answered. The stress caused by business travel can have an accumulative impact on our wellbeing. Healthcare professionals are witnessing an increase in travel related health issues from insomnia and weight gain to viruses further compounding the issue.
The Effects of Travel Across Time Zones
The effects of travel across times zones is a huge contributor to executive travel stress. Crossing times zones has a negative impact upon our circadian rhythm. This disrupts our sleep patterns as well as our performance. Research published in Aviation, Space & Environmental Medicine found that even experienced military personal experienced fatigue, weakness, headache, sleepiness and irritability. It took a staggering 5 days for the effects of jet lag to subside. The data suggests that it’s not just the time that we spend travelling itself that adds to executive stress. The wake of that travel stress also diminishes our performance.
How to stay fit whilst travelling for work: Countering Executive Travel Stress
Both long and short haul travel will compromise your health and your performance. Whether you’re in business, politics or elite sports, countering executive travel stress can be achieved by adding some, simple, incremental steps to your existing routine. If being on the road is a challenge for you, these are some of the healthy habits that we focus on with our leadership coaching clients.
It may be the last thing you want to do when you arrive but physical activity can mitigate against the effects of jet lag. Exercise can reduce the executive travel stress by
- Reducing travel stress and anxiety
- Supporting the immune system
- Improving sleep
- Mitigating against periods of long travel & inactivity
- Helping to regulate your circadian rhythm
You don’t need a gym to workout. It’s more important that you get moving than you have a room full of equipment at your disposal. Be creative with your physical activity.
- Go for a walk and explore your new surroundings
- It sounds deceptively simple, but pack your trainers and exercise wear. You’re more likely to get out and move if you have a comfortable kit with you.
- If your hotel has no gym, do a 30 minute workout in your room.
- Make time for plane conditioning on flights. Flex your ankles, stretch your calves and thighs. Set an intention to regularly get out of your seat and walk around to prevent tech neck if you’re working.
- If you have a pool at your hotel, this can be an effective, relaxing workout.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator, airport walkway or escalator. It’s an easy win.
- Learn some simple yoga poses or qigong sequences like Shibashi. You’ll have a combination of meditation, stretching and physical activity that can go anywhere with you.
Eating Healthy On The Road
Research by Colombia Mailman School of Public health uncovered a link between business travel, obesity and poor health. Bad airport food, grabbing processed food on the go or eating out with clients means that nutrition can easily suffer. With some simple adjustments, it doesn’t have to be difficult.
- Stay hydrated. Regular hydration promotes satiation, making it less likely that you’ll feel the need to reach for fast food when you travel. It also improves mood, fights fatigue and improves cognitive performance.
- Don’t drink alcohol on flights. It will dehydrate you and leave you more susceptible to DVT. Limiting your alcohol intake per se is the way to go.
- Make healthier food choices when you’re on the go. Research beforehand where the nearby smarter food choices are.
- Prepare in advance. If you know you won’t have access to food that will fuel you, pack some healthy snacks like nuts, dried fruit or, our favourite, individual sachets of breakfast oats and flax seeds.
- Incorporate micro choices into your routine. If your only option really is a burger on the hoof, hold the fries. Choose water instead of high sugar carbonated drinks. Order a side salad instead of less healthy options.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage to keep to your plan.Throwing in the towel because you ate desert won’t serve you well in the long run. Enjoy it and move on to healthier choices next time.
- Our final how to stay fit whilst travelling for work tip? Stay connected to friends and family. Use tech to touch base with your loved ones. It will help with the emotional stress of working away.
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We’ve successfully worked with thousands of businesses and individuals around the world to help them achieve their goals. We’ve coached hundreds of leaders in business, elite sport and tech. We work internationally with Fortune 100 companies to optimise performance, building resilience and workforce wellness. We provide consultancy, leadership coaching and training. If you’d like to know more about how we can partner with your organisation, get in touch.