Physiotherapist Kaite Galotta gave us some insight on how to stay healthy and pain free while travelling. Read below her best tips!
Travel is such an incredible experience, whether it is to explore a new culture, relax, or to learn something new. But, let’s face it, travel can be very hard on the body. Long bus and plane rides, different beds, sometimes increased stress, and being out of your usual routine of wellness all contribute. I know this well after travelling and living out of a backpack for 15 months. At times I struggled to find space to stay healthy, so I came up with different strategies to stay healthy and pain free during travel.
Know yourself. No one actually does exercise that they don’t enjoy, especially while on holiday. So determine what you enjoy and seek it out. If you like hiking look up local hikes, if walking is your style stay in a walkable safe area, if you like yoga bring a mat (and an app), dancer? try local dance, if you love the gym go to a local one or try a workout video, and if you are a swimmer stay in a place with a pool. This can actually be an interesting cultural experience. I’ll never forget watching someone sitting on a leg press machine for extra weight in a gym in Peru with reggaetón beats blasting in the background.
Don’t be afraid to move. We know that movement is medicine. People were not made to sit for long periods, yet this is often required for travel. So whenever possible, waiting for a flight, at a bus stop, or even in your seat, move! This could mean going for a little walk, stretching, or doing a small seated cat-cow, range of motion exercise, ankle pumps or shoulder rolls. I’m definitely always that person stretching in the airport and I’ve even done yoga waiting for my flight. Moving at least every 30-60 minutes is best. So as long as it feels culturally appropriate and safe. Move!
Listen to your body. If you notice that you are feeling extra tight/sore after a journey this is a good time to stretch, roll, or get a massage. Maybe a little cardio, strengthening exercise, or a walk will help if you are feeling low energy.
Plan your trip with health in mind. For example, choose an accommodation that has enough space for some simple exercises. Yoga was my preferred method of exercise during my trip so I always chose locations which looked like they would have space for this if I could.
Learn what you need: If you don’t already have a set of exercises you do at home to manage pain or keep you healthy OR you aren’t sure how to adapt these for travel. Going to see a health care provider (ex. physio) and asking for ideas of what to do while travelling is important.
Bring the tools you need. What these are will depend on your situation but there are many small, easy to pack tools that are very useful in managing pain and doing basic exercises. I always bring a lacrosse ball (rolling muscle knots) and theraband (strengthening exercise) and optionally a travel yoga mat. I did this while travelling for 15 months out of a backpack so, believe me, you will find the space.
Don’t feel obligated to exercise as much as at home! If your trip is about relaxing - let your body rest. Going into the relaxation response is extremely important for healing, health, and recovery.
Prepare yourself physically. If you know your trip requires a lot of activity like walking or hiking, progressively train for it before you go to prepare your body.
Remember posture. Good posture is the position that creates the least stress on your muscles and joints. Sometimes it is hard to keep this alignment when we sit and people often start to slump, but this may lead to pain. To avoid this, while sitting you can use the airplane pillow or a rolled up sweater for low back support, or recline the seat to reduce stress on the low back. For the upper body think of wide chest/collar bones and a small ‘chin tuck’ to keep your neck aligned. You can also use a neck pillow to help support your neck.
Bring good shoes. Even if you won’t be walking a lot on the trip this is very important for airports (they are huge!). No one wants sore feet. Bring shoes you have worn before that are supportive and provide enough cushion (not flats or flip flops). If in doubt ask a physiotherapist!
Bring luggage you are physically capable of transporting. For example, if your bag is too heavy for you to lift into the overhead bin, check it; if you cannot carry a heavy bag bring a rolling suitcase. Don’t overpack, and ensure your ‘hand luggage’ isn’t too heavy or has supportive straps like a backpack as you will have to carry this around most often. Learn to lift your luggage properly, bending through the knees and hips with a neutral spine (no bending or twisting). And step to turn rather than twisting your spine. For most of my trip my backpack was light enough that I could comfortably walk with it (waist straps) but at one point I filled another bag with gifts for my family and could barely lift my stuff without wanting to cry. Don’t put yourself in that situation.
Drink water and try to ensure you are getting enough electrolytes. This may seem obvious but in some places, it is extremely easy to become dehydrated even while drinking a lot of water. This may mean packing some electrolytes from home.
Breathe. Even if you don’t realize it, travel can be very stressful. It throws us out of our normal, into a completely different environment where we are getting a lot of new information and have to make a lot of decisions. So taking some deep breaths into the lower rib cage can really help to reset the nervous system into a more relaxed state.
Remember that physical activity is only one aspect of health. It is also important to plan and make efforts for restful sleep, good nutrition, and mental health as well.
This may seem like a general list but there is no one size fits all exercise for travel, what you need to do depends on you, your trip, and your approach to health. Happy travels!