Tips to make travel less stressful on your body and mind

Tips to make travel less stressful on your body and mind

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Whoever said, “It’s not the journey, but the destination,” surely never endured a red-eye beside a snorer. After a recent long-haul economy flight, I clued into why militaries use sleep deprivation as a torture technique. In addition to jet lag, my lower back ached, and I’m pretty sure I pulled something after hoisting my (likely overweight) bag into the overhead bin.

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But there’s much we can do to mitigate the effects of travel, especially if we’re willing to prepare. We consulted with a variety of experts for advice on how to make travel less taxing on the body.

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The most obvious issue facing travellers is immobility. When sitting on a plane, in a car or at a desk, our shoulders and chest are hunched forward, and our hip flexors stay in one position for a long time.

“It all gets tight, so you can feel stiff and sore sitting like that for hours,” notes Taylor Ethans, owner of Calgary’s StretchLab.

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Flexologist Colin Merrimen goes through some stretches with wellness writer Jody Robbins at the StretchLab Aspen Woods location. Brent Calver/Postmedia Photo by Brent Calver/Postmedia /Brent Calver/Postmedia

The solution is taking frequent posture breaks and stretching to alleviate muscle tension. StretchLab, a new-to-Calgary facility, offers one-on-one assisted stretching sessions with a flexologist.

Regular stretching reduces muscle and joint pain and increases range of motion and flexibility. Learning which stretches to do can determine how you feel after exiting cramped quarters.

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Rory Hornstein, registered dietician. Courtesy, Marnie Burkhart. cal

Another casualty of travel is digestive issues. Registered dietitian Rory Hornstein advises building a diverse community of gut microbiomes through diet one month before your trip.

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“I tell people to focus on consuming 30 different kinds of plants a week – vegetables, fruits, seeds, herbs, spices, nuts and pulses. That can optimize gut health and lower the risk of gut infections,” she says. Additionally, Hornstein notes some evidence that taking a specific probiotic strain (saccharomyces boulardii) a week before travel can help reduce the risk of travellers’ diarrhea.

Another way to prepare your body is to adjust your sleep schedule before your trip. If you’re headed eastward, try moving your bedtime and wake-up time earlier. If you’re going west, push your bedtime back to better acclimate to the new time zone.

En route

Whether you’re stuck on a long-haul flight or a lengthy road trip, there are two important things to do: move around as much as you can and drink plenty of water.

Jim Chung, chief medical officer of Air Canada, stresses the importance of regular movement: “It’s crucial to periodically get up, stretch and move around.”

“You need to get the blood flowing and maintain hydration so you’re not dehydrated.”

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Dr Jim Chung, chief medical officer for Air Canada. Courtesy, Brian Losito, Air Canada cal

Regarding deep vein thrombosis, Dr. Chung says the risk is low in healthy individuals. If you have a chronic medical condition, are obese or pregnant, check with your health care professional before travel.

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StretchLab members can access their app with hundreds of pre-recorded stretching videos you can do anywhere.

Body and mind

We know that mental health is just as important as physical, so recognize the stress involved on travel days and be ready for unfamiliar environments.

Airports are chaotic, so arrive with plenty of time to comfortably check your baggage and navigate security wait times. At Calgary International Airport, security screenings can be pre-booked through YYC Express. Walking (sometimes great distances) through an airport can be taxing for those with mobility issues. Passengers in need can take advantage of wheelchair services that airlines offer.

Once on board, anyone who suffers from anxiety, claustrophobia or turbulence can find help on the screen in front of them.

“Air Canada has incorporated new products into our in-flight entertainment, such as a partnership with Apple Fitness. There are modules on meditation and stretching, plus meditation-type podcasts from Audible, as well as calming sounds and radio one could listen to,” suggests Dr. Chung.

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Arrive and adjust

Upon arrival, try to adjust to the local time as soon as possible and avoid rich and heavy meals your first few days.

“Following social queues like eating dinner at 6 p.m., even if it feels like it’s two in the morning, is a way to trick yourself into adjusting faster into that time zone. Getting natural sunlight in the eyes will also help speed up your adaptation,” notes Dr. Chung.

One of the best things about travel is the food. But it’s tough on the road to get all of the fibre we need, which can result in constipation.

“If you can’t get all those plant foods in, maybe take psyllium husks, chia seeds or ground flax with you to stay as consistent as possible with your fibre intake,” recommends Hornstein.

To prevent or reduce the risk of travellers’ diarrhea, there are oral vaccines, such as Dukkoral which travellers can take prior. But you’ll need to talk to your health care practitioner in advance because the vaccine requires two doses, the last of which has to be taken a week before travel to be effective.

Despite the risks of tummy troubles or tiredness, the benefits of travel often outweigh any short-term inconveniences and maladies.

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“Most people have dramatic improvements when they’re on holiday. A lot of it has to do with the connection between the gut and the brain because a happy and relaxed brain means a happy and relaxed gut. If used in preparation before a holiday, these strategies will allow them to make the most of their time away,” assures Hornstein.

Affordable travel hacks

Sleep: Prevent light from seeping into your hotel room by using a pant hanger with clips to pin curtains tight.

Sound: Block out noise with upgraded earplugs such as EARPEACE which are comfortable, reusable and better at muting noise.

Sox: Compression stockings help increase circulation when sitting for prolonged periods.

Stretch: Take advantage of escalator steps to stretch your calves.

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Breadcrumb Trail Links Diet & Fitness Published Apr 27, 2024  •  Last updated 2 days ago  •  4 minute read You can save this article by registering for free here. Or sign-in if you have an account. Air travel can be hard on the body especially if there are long flights or layovers. (Photo by Daniel…

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