Healthy travel has always been important, given our need for energy and a strong immune system while on the go. This year, optimizing our health has become even more of a priority. Since we have been inside for longer periods of time, our immune system has not been exposed as much to all the good and bad bacteria that forces the body to adapt and defend against pathogens.
We have to build back the diversity in the gut microbiome in order to have the strongest immune system possible. In addition to the tips below, there are ways to strengthen gut health even before you head out for the trip by incorporating daily fermented foods (sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi), resistant starches (sweet potatoes, root vegetables) and lowering stress.
While you are in the midst of travel, here are top tips to keep you energized, healthy and strong.
Tip #1: Incorporate Deep Breathing
Travel can increase anxiety and create a fear response in the brain. One of the best ways to calm a stressed state and improve overall satisfaction during travel is with deep breathing. Deep breathing improves relaxation response which is crucial to ease anxiety, and improves REM cycles which allow for deep restorative sleep. Guided breathing slows down the activity of Beta brain waves, which can make the brain feel scattered. When we take 5-10 minutes for guided breathing, our brains produce more alpha theta and delta brainwaves, responsible for deep relaxation. Deep breathing also increases melatonin production, which acts as an extremely powerful antioxidant responsible for regulating circadian rhythms and activating the immune system.
Benefits- reduces stress and calms the nervous system
Begin to deepen your breathing by inhaling for a 5 count and exhaling for 5. Bring attention to your stomach. Inhale presses the belly out, exhale pulls the belly in. Inhale 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, exhale 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (continue at your own pace)
Benefits- Strengthens the nervous system, boosts immune system, expand lung capacity
Rapid and continuous breath
Sit nice and tall. Deeply breath in through the nose, close the mouth and make short continuous exhalations through the nose 20 times. (Show example)
Repeat at your own pace.
Tip #2: Legs up the Wall
Legs up the wall stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), which is responsible for calming the body and mind, reducing stress and fatigue while stimulating circulation to lower inflammation. This pose is a supportive inversion, which helps regulate blood sugar, stimulate digestion and reduce fatigue. Lie with legs up the wall for 5-15 minutes after a long flight or right before bed. It will have an immediate calming effect on the body and increase circulation.
Tip #3: Enjoy Honey at Night
Adding 1-2 tablespoons of honey into tea or hot water before bed, our bodies will be able to naturally repair throughout the night. The liver is responsible for regulating sleep hormones, increasing fat metabolism and lowering inflammation in the body. Our liver needs glycogen in order to do this and keep stress hormones (like cortisol) at bay. Honey restocks the liver selectively without digestive burden or spiking blood sugar and forms a stable supply of liver glycogen. Honey also contributes to the release of melatonin, which is the hormone required for both the recovery and rebuilding of body tissues during rest. Melatonin is highly anti-cancer and absolutely necessary for healthy cells. Look for raw honey or take it with you during a trip. This can be done during the 8 hour eating window.
Tip #4: Boost Metabolism and Energy with Productivity Planks
A four-minute plank routine will ignite the metabolism, improve circulation to the brain and prepare the body and mind to reach peak performance. Planks engage the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques and glutes. This is important because each muscle group serves a different purpose and gives you a different definition. The transverse abdominis increases abdominal pressure so you can lift more weight. It also helps to flatten out the stomach. The rectus abdominis improves performance in sports that require jumping and it gives you the 6-pack look. The obliques are responsible for side bending and waist twisting moves. Developing these muscles also gives you that nice hourglass shape. The glutes take pressure off the back and reduce risk of injury. Any type of plank will boost energy and improve productivity.
Come onto your forearms with legs extended straight back. Clasp hands and bring elbows directly under the shoulders. Come up onto the balls of your feet, forming a straight line from head to heels.
Draw the belly button toward the spine. Engage quads and glutes the entire time. Hold for 30 seconds to 1-minute.
Come onto your right forearm with elbow under shoulder and feet stacked. Lift hips up as high as possible, forming a straight line from head to heels.
Extend left arm directly over shoulder and press right hand into the mat. Keep core engaged the entire time. Hold for 30 seconds each side.
Place hands under shoulders and come up onto the balls of your feet. Keep your arms extended straight and gaze toward the floor.
Squeeze shoulder blades together and draw the belly button toward the spine. Keep quads and glutes engaged the entire time. Hold for 30 seconds to 1-minute.
Straight-Arm Plank with Shoulder Touch:
Place hands under shoulders and come up onto the balls of your feet. Bring feet wider than mat width. Keep arms extended straight and gaze toward the floor.
Keeping hips still, bring the right hand up to touch the left shoulder. Return to center and bring your left hand up to touch your right shoulder. Continue to alternate, keeping the torso and legs as still as possible. Perform for 30 seconds to 1-minute.
Tip # 5: Travel with Superfood Snacks
Dark chocolate (70% and above) is made up of powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals, which is the culprit for premature aging. The polyphenols and flavonoids in dark chocolate serve as the cleanup crew in the cells, which boosts the immune system, brightens skin, strengthens hair and delivers sustained energy.
Walnuts are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which protect the brain and improve cognitive health. Their high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals also improve mental alertness. The properties of walnuts also protect against inflammation which can affect the brain.
Raspberries and blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, which fight oxidative stress and boost the immune system while traveling. This in turn fights wrinkles, signs of aging and reduces inflammation in the body. Raspberries are also high in water content making it a prime candidate for weight loss and staying hydrated on the road.
Macadamia nuts are one of the only food sources that contain palmitoleic acid (a type of monounsaturated fatty acid that may speed up fat metabolism, thus reducing the body’s ability to store fat). Contains both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, which helps you feel full while removing toxins from the body and assisting in proper digestion. High in copper, which helps with the utilization of iron and aids in the functioning and protection of the thyroid (very important for proper weight management).
Author: Nora Tobin, performance enhancement and executive coach, nutrition specialist and CEO of Nora’s Naturals coffee, highlights the effects that all stages of travel can have on your overall health and wellbeing.