You probably already know that traveling can be hazardous to your health, particularly when it comes to picking up those nasty little respiratory and gastrointestinal viruses that are spread via shared surfaces on planes, hotels and restaurants. (If you don't know this, you're either hopelessly out of touch, or blissfully unaware.)
But it gets worse: Now there's evidence that it's not just colds and flu that business travelers have to fear.
A 2011study out of Columbia University's School of Public Health concluded that those who travel more than 20 days a month are at higher risk of illness, particularly cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.
The study suggests that the culprit is most likely the long hours biz travelers spend sitting, coupled with junk food diets, and the stress of life on the road.
So what can be done to ensure you stay as healthy as possible while traveling ... and beyond? The following time-honored tips will help improve both your short- and long-term health outlook:
1. Stay clean: Pack anti-bacterial wipes in your carry-on tote so that you can wipe down surfaces like armrests, tray tables, remote controls, door handles ... and your cell phone. This essential piece of gadgetry is one of the most germ-laden items you'll encounter in a day, so wipe it down as often as possible. And don't forget to wash your hands frequently: Plain old soap and water is one of the best preventative measures you can take to stay free of all kinds of microbes.
2. Move: Book hotels that offer gyms or other fitness facilities such as a pool. If this isn't possible, pack your running (or walking) shoes and try to get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per day — even if inclement weather means hoofing it around the nearest indoor mall. Also consider doing stretches and leg lifts every hour during a long-haul flight to help prevent deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). You don't even have to get up to do this — many exercises can be done while sitting in your seat.
3. Eat well: Try to eat low-cal, nutritious food where possible: Seek out restaurants that offer healthy food options, and hotels that offer health-conscious menus. This may be difficult at airports, or when the selection of roadside eateries is limited to fast food and more fast food —but remember, most fast-food joints offer at least one healthy item nowadays. And lastly, don't forget that what you drink is as important as what you eat. Drinking tons of water and staying away from alcohol and high-calorie drinks will keep you hydrated and healthy.
4. Get plenty of sleep: Your immune system functions best when you get at least eight hours per night, so book a hotel in a quiet area. Rooms at the back and on higher floors tend to be quieter. Make sure you room is not facing a railroad track, busy street or located over a ballroom. If you have to sleep on a red-eye flight, try to make your environment as conducive to sleep as possible by bringing ear plugs, a neck pillow and a sleep aid such as Ambien (if you need a little help and aren't opposed to pharmaceutical intervention). There are also white-noise apps you can get for your smartphone.
5. Limit stress: Not overbooking your schedule, bringing quiet music to listen on your iPod, and practicing yoga in your hotel room are all great ways to bring calm and order to what might be an otherwise hectic trip.