Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important to our wellbeing, even and especially, during travels.
By Anne Mbonu
Here is a question for you – do you like to travel? The media tends to depict travelling as glamorous and trendy, and people often perceive travellers as having a higher status than non-travellers have. This is mostly the case for international travel, but is also applicable to local travel.
Although we associate travelling with long distance journeys to an exotic or foreign location for the purposes of relaxation, adventure and pleasure, that understanding does not encompass the entire scope of the word. In truth, it does not matter why we travel or whether we travel on foot, or by automobile, rail, aircraft, or sea vessel.
We travel whenever we make a trip from one location to another; ergo, the reality is that we all travel.
Frequent travellers with “hypermobile” lifestyles might appear glamorous to the casual onlooker; however, they are more likely to have a higher risk for developing health problems including psychological disorders, aches and pains of musculoskeletal origin, respiratory problems and deep vein thrombosis.
Road rage is an all too common occurrence, and may be the consequence of stress, anxiety and sleep dysregulation.
Our daily commute to and from work, particularly in very busy capital cities such as Lagos and Abuja, with heavy traffic and high atmospheric pollution, can also have a very significant health impact.
Whether we take a vacation or a stay-cation, it is important to establish a few rules of thumb for maintaining our health on the move. Read on for travel wellbeing tips.
- Start early – avoid stress by planning for your trip ahead of your departure time or date.
- Put your phone to good use – download an application that you can use to make a list of essential items to take with you.
- Tie up loose ends – complete unfinished tasks before you leave; for example, remove all perishable goods from the refrigerator and secure all external windows and doors.
- Schedule enough time around your usual daily routine to complete all planned activities. Avoid staying up late the night before you travel. Aim for six to eight hours of sleep.
- Stock up on toiletries and other daily necessities so you have enough for the trip duration.
- Check that you have the right luggage, and that your bags and boxes are still in good condition.
- Select the clothes you plan to wear; hang them up or lay them out for easy dressing on the day of travel.
- If leaving early, consider bathing or showering the night before, especially if travelling with little children or other dependents.
- Make an appointment with your doctor to get any travel vaccinations or medications you may need.
- Pack right – take only what you need. Your body will thank you for not having to lug a heavy bag or box about. You will also have enough space left in your luggage to bring back any gifts or souvenirs you purchase on your travels.
- Roll up your clothes instead of folding them; you will get more into your luggage that way. Better yet, use vacuum bags to expel air from your clothes.
- Make up your own first aid kit. Put an antiseptic solution, disinfectant hand rub, cotton wool and tissue paper, disposable gloves, plaster and some essential over the counter medicines for pain relief and abdominal discomfort.
- Avoid dehydration by taking water in a refillable bottle with you. You may also wish to take some snacks or finger foods, particularly on longer trips.
- Practise correct lifting techniques when moving and handling luggage.Always start in a safe position and never lift by bending forward. Instead, use your legs. Bend your hips and knees to squat or kneel down to your load, keeping it close to your body for as long as possible. Finally, straighten your legs to lift.
- Never lift heavy objects higher than shoulder level, and avoid leaning sideways or twisting your body while lifting or holding a heavy object especially while your back is bent.
- When sitting in the car, train or plane, always maintain the natural curve in your lower back. Use cushions and pillows to support your neck and lower back if necessary.
- If travelling on foot, wear cushioned flat shoes that support the natural arch in your foot and allow your toes and ankles to move flexibly.
- If possible, schedule breaks into your travel plan. Aim to stand up and walk around for up to 5 minutes at regular intervals. If this is not possible, try to stretch out your legs, arms and torso to the maximum extent possible without disturbing fellow travellers.
Prevent and Protect
- Reduce your risk of developing skin cancer by wearing protective clothing, applying sufficient amounts of high Sun Protection Factor (SPF) lotion to all exposed skin, and keeping out of direct sunlight.
- If you suffer from allergies, request antihistamines from your doctor and take them as prescribed.
- Moisturise your hands and lips to prevent chafing and chapping, particularly in dry weather.
- Take a small umbrella, especially when visiting places with unpredictable weather.
- If travelling for leisure, research your destination and prepare an itinerary of places to visit.
- If travelling for work, schedule regular breaks to avoid burn out and fatigue.
- Keep practising all the tips above; stay safe, pace yourself and always get a good night’s rest.
- Remember to take your regular prescription medication – consider getting a small dosette box as an aide memoire.
- Relax and unwind. Soak your feet in warm scented water or have a long bath.
- Do not worry; you can unpack later.
- Keep practising the healthy habits you have learned. They are useful even when you are not travelling.
- Start planning your next trip!
If you have specific health related travel questions, email this column for answers, tips and suggestions. I wish you safe journeys!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.
Dr Anne Mbonu MBBS, MSc International Health Management (distinction) is an accomplished health care professional with almost 20 years of clinical and management experience within the health sector. She honed her skills in the medical specialty of Psychiatry, and completed her Master's degree in International Health Management with distinction at the Imperial College Business School, London. She is very passionate about improving health and well being in the community, and is registered with the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council as well as the U.K General Medical Council.