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Healthy Travel. Five "Must Know" Secrets

Aug 17, 2007
In September 2004, my wife and I enjoyed a bus tour of central and southern Europe. We had prepared for it with a fitness and exercise program before we left home and it paid dividends!

Towards the end of the tour, our journey took us past superb scenery on the Italian Ligurian Sea coast en-route from Florence to our overnight stop at Nice. The 5 coastal villages of the Cinque Terre with the shimmering sea as a backdrop made an unforgettable sight. It was one of the scenic highlights of the our.

Sadly, almost half the people on the bus didn't enjoy these spectacular sights because they were asleep! A surprising aspect was the age group of those who were fatigued. Most were under 50! My wife is in her 50s and I am in my 60s. We had traveled from Australia and were determined not to miss a thing. Similar sentiments were expressed by an active and alert couple from Seattle. We estimated they were in their 70s. They both agreed: "Why travel all this way to miss these views?"

So what are the secrets to travel fitness? Here are some suggestions:

START A FITNESS PROGRAM BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME.

Dr Mark Wise, author of "The Travel Doctor. Your Guide to Staying Healthy While You Travel," believes that "A healthy vacation starts several weeks before you head out the door." The last minute stresses of packing as well as the myriad of pre travel tasks can make you fatigued and vulnerable to illness.

My suggestion is to start an exercise and fitness program at least a month before you travel. The main focus of your exercises should be walking. If you want to really explore a city, you'll do a lot of walking and walking can be tiring. Go for a daily brisk walk for up to 30 minutes to get your heart rate up! You don't have to run or jog, just walk.

To supplement this aerobics program, include a strengthening or resistance program using light weights. Just a slight increase in strength, can make climbing stairs, walking and carrying cases that much easier. Weight bearing exercises also strengthen bones and are part of a program for those with osteoporosis.

One last suggestion. Wear comfortable shoes. When I travel, I know I'll do a lot of walking. I wear cross trainers or joggers that give good cushioning, particularly in the heels. A thick pair of walking socks also helps.

WATCH YOUR DIET.

To fully enjoy your travels you need energy to keep you sharp and alert. There are foods that are highly nutritious, that give you high energy and vitality throughout the day. There are also foods that are hard for your system to digest, that tire you out and make you slow and drowsy in the morning and afternoon.

The chief culprits are foods that contain saturated fats. These include sausage rolls, cakes, chips and doughnuts. Sadly those delicious cakes and pastries in Europe are very tempting, but they can make you drowsy and be difficult to digest. The process of digestion is the activity of your body that consumes the most energy. When you eat foods that are hard to digest, your body rushes blood from everywhere to the digestive system to work and break them down. In this process, your digestive system draws away blood from your brain and muscles. This is why you feel drowsy after a large meal.

The solution. Your breakfast and lunch should include food that is easy to digest. Eat more whole grain products such as oat meal and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Bananas in particular, will give you an energy boost. Supplement with nuts including almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts. They are nutritious and easy to carry.

HAVE A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP.

Jetlag and tiredness can take the edge off your holiday enjoyment. Most adults need around 7 hours' sleep a night, but when traveling, this is not always possible or desirable. When my wife and I visited Venice, we walked through St Marks Square at midnight. It was a surreal feeling with a sea fog drifting in from the Adriatic and almost total silence. We shared this experience with no more than a dozen other people. What a contrast to the mid afternoon tourist hordes!

The secret is quality sleep and a number of herbs and supplements can help. These include valerian, B group vitamins, magnesium and passionflower. A few drops of lavender on the side of your pillow will also help soothe and calm.

Never start a new treatment before consulting your doctor, especially if you are currently taking medication. The information published in this article is not intended as a substitute for personal medical advice from your physician or other qualified health-care practitioner. It is for information purposes only.
About the Author
Graeme Lanham is a freelance writer and health/fitness researcher. His new book "Your Life Fitness" includes current research studies on fitness and anti-aging. Discover more about travel health and fitness and receive a FREE subscription to his regular subscribers only newsletter at:
http://www.yourlifefitness.com
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