“Wah, how nice to travel on business…” we would say as students, whenever we saw successful-looking businessmen and women travelling on first class or business class, immaculately dressed in suits and carrying leather briefcases. We too longed to one day also have a job that would allow us travel in the lap of luxury…to visit new cities, experience new cultures, etc.

Fast forward to today…ok, so many of us have ended up in jobs which require us to travel, but it’s not quite what we dreamed of ?!

Firstly, nowadays, luxury business travel on first class/business class is now reserved for the most successful of top-tier executives from big corporations and multi-national companies. Most average businessmen, entrepreneurs or normal employees like you and me on the other hand, are not quite in that bracket. Cost-cutting exercises are the norm these days…every business is trying to trim unnecessary expenses, and business travel is a key cost centre which is often the target of budget cuts.

So we find that more often than not, the objective these days is to save costs by using the only the cheapest of routes, the lowest of low-budget airlines, the longest of transits at odd hours in strange airports, and most basic of low-budget hotel rooms. Some business travellers might find that they have schedules so tight, that their experience of a new country is confined to the airport and the hotel meeting room!

Yes, business travel today is not quite the luxurious experience it once was. Which makes it all the more important to pay special attention to taking care of our own health, when we are on the road. Studies have shown that today’s fast paced travel schedules, can result in health complications such as high blood pressure, weight gain, chronic insomnia and high cholesterol levels.

Here are some tips to stay healthy while racing from one business meeting to the other in different countries.

1. Pack your own food & beverages. For those long flights and long waits at the airport, it’s always a good idea to pre-pack at least some food and something to drink, and have it in your carry-on luggage. Many travel-sized containers are available on the market for this purpose. You could pack snacks such as low-fat crackers, raisins and chopped almonds, as well as drinking water, chinese tea or unsweetened herbal tea.

Sandwiches make great easy-to-pack-and-eat options too, while an apple makes a nutritious and easy dessert. Having your own supplies will limit your dependence on the highly salted and processed food onboard airplanes or whatever is on offer at the airport.

2. Keep moving. Wear comfortable shoes you can walk in, while travelling. The rule of thumb is, the more you move, the better. So why not convert those long transits and waits at the airport, into an opportunity to work out? The wide open spaces in most airports are excellent for a long, brisk walk while waiting. Don’t use escalators and walkalators, opt to use stairs and the walkways.

3. Stay flexible. While sitting on a plane for hours and hours, try to schedule in a good stretch every half an hour or so. Try to get out of your seat and walk down the aisle and back again, once every two hours. Sitting cramped up in your seat for hours on end can leave you feeling stiff and tired, and cause swelling in your feet. The last thing a business traveller needs, is difficulty fitting into his/her shoes at the end of the flight!

4. Stick to your exercise routine. Once you reach your destination, try to make use of the hotel gym and/or swimming pool for an early morning or post-meeting workouts. If this is not an option from a timing perspective, try to pack a travel-sized yoga mat on which you can do your own exercises in your hotel room. You could also try an early morning or evening walk or jog, however, be mindful of personal safety if you travelling alone in an unsafe area.

5. Cut back on food and alcoholic drinks, and increase water intake. Try to stay away from alcohol while travelling on business. If consuming alcohol is expected by business associates or clients, try to drink as little as possible and keep drinking water to dilute the effects. In choosing food options, try to order food that has been grilled or baked as opposed to deep-fried. Ask for dressings and sauces to be served separately. Ensure that you get sufficient servings of vegetables and fruits, and keep yourself properly rehydrated during long business meetings.

6. Sleep it off. It could take time for your body to adjust to a different time zone and you could experience jet lag and other symptoms. Try to ensure you get sufficient sleep to offset the effects. If you can, try to schedule meetings at more sleep-friendly times, though this may not always be possible because of time constraints. If this is the case, review your schedule to see which events you might be able to skip during the trip, in order to catch up on sleep.

Ultimately, being determined and committed to maintaining your health and fitness on the road, will help you stay focused on your goal in spite of the disruption to your normal schedule. Don’t allow business travel to become an excuse to let your health and fitness goals slide. Staying healthy and fit while travelling will not just benefit you, but will be better for your business and organisation in the long run.


Personal finance author and trainer

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