Up in the Air: Tips for Frequent Flyers or those Planning a Vacay

A jet-setting lifestyle can sound alluring but takes a toll on the body. Experts tell you how to navigate flights, especially if you take them often

Sneha Mahale

With summer vacations not too far away and the new decade having kicked off, you might feel inspired you to travel more, whether it’s because you have mustered the courage to actually make use of your leaves or because you have realised that boarding the Virar local during peak hours isn’t exactly extreme travel. 

Whatever it may be, the truth is, despite the allure of local and international travel, on and off our phone screens, it is something that takes a toll on the body. Apart from a harrowing jetlag, travelling can also send your daily fitness and health routines for toss because you’re missing your yoga class or allowing yourself to tuck into gluten-heavy pizzas, because well, you’re in northern Italy. In fact, a study published in 2018 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine states that people who travel frequently for business report more symptoms of depression and anxiety. Earlier research shows links between extensive travel and higher rates of obesity and blood pressure, too.

“Frequent flying, jetlag, change in the diet pattern and time zones, and lack of physical activity can invite health problems such as obesity, insomnia and indigestion. Uncomfortable airplane seats can cause muscle spasm or leg, back and neck pain,” explains Dr Vikrant Shah, consulting physician, intensivist and infection disease specialist at the Zen Multispeciality Hospital in Chembur, Mumbai. Travellers are also exposed to cold, flu, viruses and other health risks on flights.

That is not to say that we throw the baby out with the bath water. If you were planning to book tickets, don’t let this stop you. All we’re suggesting is that if you’re travelling to a destination, local or abroad, especially long distances, then, do it mindfully. And so, we’ve put together a few tips to help you do just that.

It’s all in the prep

Avoid overeating on the day as it can lead to acidity and digestive issues. So, what foods should one aim to eat while travelling? “I prefer having soups and salads and avoid oily foods for a few days before my flight. Plus, I drink copious amounts of water and green tea and I stick to my workout schedule, but stop the day before the flight,” shares Priyashmita Guha, director at a fintech trade body, who travels frequently for work.

Munmun Ganeriwal, nutritionist and lifestyle consultant with Yuktahaar – a diet, exercise and lifestyle intervention program that promotes a holistic approach towards sensible and sustainable weight loss – suggests that you adjust your sleep schedule according to the time zone you’re travelling to. “This helps reduce the effects of jetlag,” she shares. 

Timing is key

Sharad Krishna, director at a Mumbai-based pharma company, spends 20 days a month visiting factories in India and abroad. He says, “I’d take flights that depart late at night and arrive at the destination early next morning. A quick factory visit, a few meetings and I’d be back at the airport for a flight home.” Krishna, who has been diagnosed with insomnia, says that an irregular sleep cycle contributed significantly to his condition. 

Surviving a flight with a red eye needs some skill. “Even if you dose off between destinations, your sleep quality could get affected by the cabin light, noise and distractions onboard. Thus, frequent travellers often suffer from insomnia, weight gain and high blood pressure,” says Dr Shah. Keeping these things in mind, choose a flight, which lands at a time that allows you to rest before your vacation actually kicks off.

Get on board

Once those seatbelt signs are on, there’s little to do but remain strapped in. But a flight time that extends beyond six hours can lead to accumulation of fluids in your legs (approximately 250 ml in each), so it’s important to stretch them out. To that end calf and toes raises, shoulder stretches, ankle rolls and knee lifts work well. “Yoga stretches can help remove body stiffness and improve circulation that gets disturbed due to long sitting,” Ganeriwal suggests.

Local and international flights can also leave you feeling dehydrated. Studies suggest that up to 1.5 litres of water is lost from the body during a three-hour flight. The decreased amount of oxygen in the cabin also causes you to breathe more rapidly, leading to further dehydration. “Drink lots of water while you are on flight and avoid drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages, such as tea and coffee, both of which cause dehydration,” says Anjan Ghosh, a Mumbai-based nutritionist, adding that herbal tea is a good alternative.

Make the most of that hotel room

The first thing on your to-do list after landing should include beating jetlag instead of pub-hopping. So, give yourself some time to recuperate, drinks lots of water and eat veggies before you get back to the grind. “Avoid eating spicy and junk food as they could cause acidity and heartburn. Do not consume sugary drinks. You could get a sugar rush, but your energy levels may plummet after some time, leaving you tired. Practice mindfulness and meditation to stay alert and focused,” Ghosh recommends.

Quick tips to help you sail (or fly) through your travels

Sunlight has a major influence on our circadian clock. If you have travelled across time zones, then spending your day in the sun will help your body adjust to the new daylight schedule.

Exercise will help you adjust to a change in the sleep cycle more quickly. A couple of surya namaskars before you head out can go a long way.

Gradually adjusting your mealtimes to your new schedule will help relieve jetlag symptoms, so work on that consciously. And yes, happy flying!

Image: Shutterstock 


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