Better Health During a Road Trip

Hit the Road With Ease

Remember summer vacation with the cooler in the back seat full of sandwiches and drinks? It was a good idea then and now as a way to eat well when traveling. While it is certainly a treat to try local specialty foods, too much variation from a healthy diet can cause issues once back in the car. Then there is the disciplined traveler who prefers not to stop for breaks, which means no drinks in the car. By now we all know that hydration is just as important on the road as at home. Experienced travelers will attest to the fact that when they eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise while on a trip they feel better. Here are some tips to help keep you safe and healthy while on the road.


How to Stay Healthy on a Road Trip

Here are a few tips to help you take a vacation from work – not from your health – while on a road trip.

Find Allies

Let your road trip companions know you want to block out an hour a day to exercise, or that you want to limit fast-foot pit stops. Don’t rely on willpower alone to get you through your trip.

Go in With a Game Plan

Locate gyms or activity centers with classes near your hotel. Use social media to crowdsource for healthy restaurant suggestions once you arrive at your destination. Look into whether there are any cities with grocery stores adjacent to your main highway. This way, you’ll have fewer excuses once you’re in the car.

Healthy Road Trip

Choose the Lesser Evil

It’s hard to maintain healthy eating habits while on the road. Make sandwiches with whole-grain bread and lean proteins. Purchase fiber-filled snacks such as cut veggies and fruits so you’ll stay full longer. But if you’re stuck miles from the nearest town, surrounded by nothing but gas stations and McDonald’s, there are healthy – well, healthy-ish – options.

At the gas station, steer clear of hot buffets. Instead, opt for protein-rich choices such as hard-boiled eggs, skim milk cheese sticks, water-packed tuna and yogurt. Roasted nuts, beef jerky, sunflower seeds and fruit are also good for on-the-go noshing. If a drive-thru’s most convenient, choose a chicken salad, grilled, not crispy, or get a burger sans bun. If possible, order sides like apple slices instead of fries.

Get Moving

If you’re driving a long distance, health experts recommend stopping at least every two hours for a bathroom break. Take a walk around the rest stop. Squeeze in a few simple curbside stretches. And if you’re really committed to sticking to your usual health regime, find the time for daily exercise.

Stay Hydrated

A recent study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior found that not drinking – water, that is – while driving may be just as dangerous as hitting the road after imbibing alcohol. Researchers observed that drivers with mild dehydration made just as many errors behind the wheel – lane drifting, late braking – as someone driving with a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 percent. Short explanation? Your brain isn’t at its best when you’re dehydrated. And between salty snacks, a scorching sun and a sea of never-ending traffic, it’s easy to get parched – or forget to drink water altogether – while on a road trip.

Protect Your Skin

You’re not lying on a beach, but don’t skimp on the sunscreen. A recent study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that nearly 53 percent of skin cancers in the U.S. occur on the left side of the body – the side that’s bathed in sunlight while you’re sitting in the driver’s seat.

Don’t the car windows protect you from sun exposure? Not quite. Windshields are partially treated to filter out ultraviolet radiation, but side and rear windows don’t offer much of a barrier. Transparent window film, which is available for purchase at most home improvement or auto stores, screens out nearly 100 percent of UVB and UVA rays.

Remember to Sleep

Between stiff hotel beds, late nights and early mornings, it’s easy to lose sleep while on the road. But no matter how tempting it might be to stay out late at a roadside bar or rise early to beat rush hour traffic, it’s wisest to catch a few extra hours of shut-eye instead. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving accounted for 2.5 percent of fatal car crashes – and 2 percent of crashes that resulted in injury – between 2005 and 2009. And the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll found that 60 percent of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy, and 37 percent admit to falling asleep at the wheel in the past year.

Even though you’re on vacation, try to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night, which the NSF recommends for all adults.

Practice Mindfulness

It’s easy to joke about road rage. But it’s a real – and occasionally fatal – phenomenon. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed more than 10,000 police reports and newspaper stories, and found that incidents of road rage contributed to 218 deaths and 12,610 injuries between 1990 and 1996.

Read full article in US News/July Issue

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