Health Matters

Chances are, you'll be traveling during the holiday season to reconnect with family and friends or take a much-needed vacation. While holiday travel can be great for your psyche, it can take a hefty toll on your health. The journey itself can be filled with stress—traffic, flight delays and those new, more invasive airport security screenings—as well as causing a disruption in your sleep schedule and eating habits; all of these can lower your immune system's ability to fight off cold and flu germs, making you more prone to getting sick. Once you arrive at your destination, you'll likely face large festive meals combined with a lot of sitting and schmoozing, not great for your waistline. If you have a smart action plan, though, you might be able to clear some of these hurdles to stay healthy and fit during the holiday season. Here are 10 tips for dealing with holiday travel provided by leading fitness and travel experts.

1. Plan meals in advance. "Pack your carry-on with healthy goodies so you have something on hand when hunger strikes," says vegan travel blogger Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, creator of the Healthy Voyager website and radio show. She recommends bringing a small bag of nuts, a few low-sugar energy bars or your favorite sandwich to eat during the flight. If you don't have time to pack some snacks, use an app like the free GateGuru to find out where you can get a healthy meal at the airport. If you're driving to your destination, avoid eating a heavy meal right before you hit the road to keep from getting drowsy; instead, eat a small low-fat meal and tote along some snacks to stay energized throughout your drive.

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2. Get a full night's rest. Make sleep a top priority on the night before your trip. Get the packing and other preparations done early in the day, so you're not driving drowsy on the road or slugging through the airport with a fatigue headache. Research has shown skipping even a few hours of sleep can make you more susceptible to catching a cold the next day. And it can cause you to be a less alert driver, which is why the AAA recommends getting at least six hours of shut-eye before a long road trip. If you can't, get a designated driver to help you out. And, if you're flying, make use of that in-flight pillow, blanket and eye mask on the airplane to help you recover those lost winks, says Scott-Hamilton.

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3. Stay active. Exercise will boost your energy and mood while traveling, says Mark Verstegen, a trainer and founder of Core Performance, who serves as the director of performance for the NFL Players Association. Wear comfortable shoes so you can walk around the airport terminal instead of sitting down to wait for boarding. And make a few trips up and down the aisle during your flight, even if you don't need the restroom. In the car, take breaks every two or three hours for a quick burst of fresh air and brisk walk around the service station. "Even ten minutes will do," Verstegen says.





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