Tips to Stay Healthy on the Road

Living in New York has many perks.

You walk through the streets and hear dozens of languages spoken from the millions of residents and tourists alike, all buzzing along from corner to corner. Look up and you’ll be dazzled by the soaring skyline that reaches out into the clouds in a magical array of glass, steel, brick, and stone. Follow your nose to any one of the incredible bakeries, pizzerias, food trucks, and restaurants and allow them to ply you with culinary delights from around the world.

There is no lack in New York. Anything and everything happens here at any moment of the day.

And like any devoted New Yorker, sometimes I just have to get the hell out.

I’m taking Food4ThoughtNYC on the road this weekend to go to my second home, 100 miles south in the good ol’ town of Philadelphia. And since New Yorkers are always on the go, traveling from point A to point B is simple and relatively cheap given the availability of charter buses willing to take you wherever you need to go at pretty much every hour of the day.

If you’re an East Coaster, than you’re familiar with the hoards of people clumped together on side streets, usually in the middle of Chinatown, waiting to be herded onto these buses. Maybe you’ve been one of them. I know I have. I mean, have you seen the cost of traveling by train? How is it cheaper to fly to Boston then to take a train from New York???

Anyway, I digress.

If you’re living in New York or any of the major cities dotting the coast and find yourself on a charter bus lumbering along I-95 to get to your weekend destination this summer, it’s vital to stay healthy while you’re on the road.

Photo courtesy: www.tubulosity.com
Photo courtesy: http://www.tubulosity.com

Here are some quick and easy tips to stay healthy while traveling:

1. Stay hydrated! Bring an bottle of water with you and keep hydrated along the way. If you can squeeze some lemon juice in there, then even better. Lemons may help prevent motion sickness and the electrolytes found in lemons will satiate your thirst more effectively.

2. If you’re on a longer trip with a stop or two along the way, get off the bus and stretch your legs. Do simple quad and hamstring stretches and walk around to get your blood flowing.  If you have a bit of space to sit up in your seat and stretch your legs and arms, then take advantage of that as well. You’re spending a good chunk of time sitting and not moving much, so any bit of exercise helps.

3. Bring healthy snacks or a meal from home. This will help you avoid buying fast food and sugary snacks at your next pit stop, plus it will save you money. My favorite thing to bring on board is either a small pack of raw almonds or a Kind bar. I avoid messy fruit or smelly foods. Keep it unfussy as much as possible.

4. The person sitting next to you is either snoring, sleeping on your shoulder, talking loudly on their phone, or hogging the arm rest, all of which pisses you off.  Before you go on a rampage, breathe deeply and meditate. Yes, meditate. Close your eyes, focus on your breathing and repeat positive affirmations to yourself to keep from flipping out. People will be people and the bus won’t stop for your temper tantrum. Keep your mental health in check as much as your physical health!

Before I get on my bus and hightail it out of New York, I thought I’d share some more great road trip health tips from the good people at EverydayHealth.com. Happy travels everyone!! 🙂

How to Stay Healthy on a Road Trip

Get tips on eating right, being comfortable, staying awake, and avoiding stress on your next road trip.

Medically reviewed by Kevin O. Hwang, MD, MPH

Road trip! Two words that can either lift your spirits in anticipation of your upcoming travel plans or that can give you a sinking feeling of dread. With a few easy strategies in place, though, any road trip can be fun and even healthy — and something you’ll want to do again. Read on to learn how you can manage to eat well, stay comfortable, and arrive at your destination feeling energized and refreshed.

Road Trip: Eating Healthy
Thoughts of eating “on the road” typically call to mind images of vending machines and fast food. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Here are better ways to eat while you’re traveling by car or bus:

  • Brown-bag it. Packing your own food is a great way to eat well while you travel. “Pack drinks and snacks in the car with you,” says Heidi Reichenberger McIndoo, MS, RD, a nutrition consultant based in Boston, Massachusetts. “Great items to bring on a car trips include plain water, enhanced flavored waters like vitamin water, dried fruit, fresh fruit like apples and bananas, cheese sticks, and nuts.” Be sure to wash any produce thoroughly before you leave, and bring a cooler to keep drinks and perishable items at a chill temperature.
  • Stay clear of vending machines. McIndoo warns against rest-stop food and vending machines: “They are notorious for being full of high-fat, high-salt, and high-sugar foods” — not what you need to stay healthy and energized on your road trip!
  • Munch regularly. Most people’s bodies are accustomed to eating something (whether a snack or meal) at least every four to five hours, and the same is true when you travel. If you go longer than that because you don’t want to stop driving, you may end up overeating later or snacking on the wrong kinds of foods.

Road Trip: Being Comfortable
Sitting in a car for hours on end can cause noticeable stiffness and muscular pain so it’s important to pay extra attention to comfort while on your road trip. The following tips can help you avoid body pain when you’re on the road:

  • Watch your posture. Make sure that you’re sitting comfortably at the wheel, with your seat set so that you’re not stretching to reach the steering wheel.
  • Move your seat. Position the seat at about a 100-degree angle so you’re not slouching, and be sure that the small of your back, the lumbar part, is supported. You can use a small pillow or even a rolled up towel for this purpose.
  • Use cruise control. On long drives, resting both feet on the floor is easier on your back and hips. Just be sure to continue paying close attention to the road ahead.
  • Take a break. Be sure to stop regularly (experts recommend every 20 to 30 minutes) to get out of your car and stretch before continuing on. This is especially true if you have chronic back pain or other issues that are triggered by sitting in one position for too long.

Road Trip: Staying Awake
One safety issue that is often overlooked on road trips is that of the sleepy driver. Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving but are less aware that driving drowsy can be just as fatal, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Driving drowsy can produce the same slow reaction time, decreased awareness, and visual changes that driving drunk will, especially if you’re driving at night. To combat drowsy driving,

  • Get enough rest. While it may seem obvious, make sure you get plenty of sleep before you leave. This can be tough if you’re running around with last-minute preparations. If you’re driving, however, being rested is important for your reaction time and overall competence. In addition, make sure on a multi-day trip that you give yourself enough time to unwind after a day at the wheel, and get a good night’s sleep before hitting the road again the next day.
  • Pay attention if you start to feel sleepy. Listen to your body and pull over if you begin to feel groggy. Take a little rest or change drivers.

Road Trip: Avoiding Stress
Some people enjoy driving, while others find it stressful. To reduce the stress driving, consider the following:

  • Think ahead. Try to arrange your travel time so that you can avoid driving through congested areas during rush hour.
  • Use relaxation techniques. If you’re stuck in traffic, relieve the frustration by focusing your attention on breathing deeply and slowly.
  • Let the music play. Bring along plenty of relaxing music to help you stay calm while driving.
  • Take breaks. Pull over to stretch or walk around when you need to.
  • Switch off. Change drivers often if possible.

Road trips can be fun and rewarding if you take the time to prepare for the road ahead. Being willing to go with the flow if traffic hits, weather changes, or you feel as if you need a break can make a big difference, too. So pack, prepare, and don’t forget to wear your seat belt!

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