6 Things That Help Science Journalist Max Lugavere Stay Healthy While Traveling
Getting good sleep, enjoying some morning sunlight, hydrating, exercising, and eating well—these are all things that comprise my everyday health and wellness routine. And because I travel frequently for work, I've learned over time how to stay consistent in my routine while I'm away from home. Read on for six things that I typically pack to make the travel transition easier on my body and mind:
On airplanes, the noise—even though it's white noise—is very grating. Environmental noise pollution, in general, is a major problem: Studies show1 that it's associated with stress, sleep disruption, learning difficulties, even higher risk of heart disease. When you think about it, hearing is the only sense that we can't consciously shut off. So, being a little more diligent about the noise that enters our ears, to me, is so important for our well-being.
To reduce the unnecessary stimulation that comes from the constant white noise on airplanes, I'll wear my noise-canceling headphones and play music instead. I listen to all types, but mainly, I'm a big fan of rock music. I also love musicals and have recently become obsessed with synthwave, which is a genre of music influenced by '80s film soundtracks and video games.
Travel snacks to eat healthfully on the plane
I set myself up for healthy eating on a trip by booking accommodations at hotels I know will offer the same quality of food I would make or eat at home. For me, that's Westin Hotels & Resorts for their Eat Well Menu, which was designed to give guests fresh, nutritious, and seasonal choices when dining at the hotel. I know I'll have a variety of balanced menu options that help me stick to my everyday diet throughout my entire stay—so that's one less thing to worry about while traveling. This goes a long way in helping my body undo the effects of sitting after long drives or flights more quickly.
This one's a given. Staying hydrated is key, especially while traveling, so I always pack my water bottle and fill up whenever I can—and not just with water! Herbal tea can also be hydrating, which I'll always grab at my hotel throughout the day, whether it’s green tea for the antioxidants in the morning or chamomile to help me sleep at night.
As a quick refresher, H2O is critical for our health: Every system in our body depends on it to function. Water flushes toxins and waste out of organs, helps carry oxygen and nutrients to cells, and provides a healthy environment for tissues. When we're dehydrated, our body has trouble carrying out normal functions and begins to feel fatigued—not good! So, even if you're getting plenty of sleep, starting your day with a healthy, balanced breakfast, and moving your body, you're still shortchanging your health if you're not adequately hydrated. And by the way, you don't want to get into the habit of drinking only when you're thirsty—thirst is actually an indicator that your body is already dehydrated2.
Workout clothes and sneakers
Getting exercise and daily movement is a big part of my wellness routine at home, and it doesn't change when I travel—if anything, I prioritize it, especially after long-haul travel. Staying active helps counter the negative effects of prolonged sitting, like muscle tightening and reduced cerebral blood flow. So, I always pack workout-friendly clothes and the proper shoes because I'll be making use of the hotel's gym.
For a great, effective workout while on trips, keep your rest times short and perform higher reps. I love to lift weights or do high-intensity bodyweight exercises. I also like to keep my NEAT3 (or non-exercise activity thermogenesis) up, meaning I'm walking more, even if I have to make up reasons to leave the hotel, like exploring local supermarkets or farmers markets.
The cool thing about staying at Westin is that I can save some of that space thanks to their on-demand Gear Lending Program for guests, which is exactly what it sounds like—fitness clothes and shoes available whenever you need them. Another unmatched perk is getting the lay of the land, a local-approved running map, and a potential running partner or group through Westin's Run Concierges. And speaking of all that time spent moving outside...
This one will depend on where I'm traveling, but if my destination is an area where I'll only have access to conventional drugstores, I'll always pack my own mineral sunscreen. The safest sun protection ingredient is zinc oxide, and I'll usually just bring my own along with me. And while getting vitamin D from the sun is crucial to health, it's still important to avoid and prevent burning. The last thing I want is to end up on a trip where I spend excessive amounts of time in the sun without any sun protection.
One of the most increasingly helpful things I take along with me, especially if I'm traveling for work and need to adjust to a new time zone, is a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses. I'm a big fan of these because I tend to use my laptop or my smartphone at night, and I want to be cognizant of regulating my circadian rhythm away from home on a different schedule.
These glasses block blue light from your devices that research shows4 suppresses your body's natural melatonin production. By the time my mind and body are ready for sleep, the rest is easy: Getting into the ultra-comfortable Heavenly beds at Westin—with a bit of lavender essential oil balm to help me relax even further—has got to be one of my favorite perks of travel.
Max Lugavere is a health and science journalist and the author of The New York Times bestseller Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life, published in eight languages around the globe. He is also the host of the No. 1 iTunes health podcast The Genius Life.
He appears regularly on The Dr. Oz Show, the Rachael Ray Show, and The Doctors. Lugavere has contributed to CNN, Vice, and Fast Company. He has been featured on NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, and in The New York Times and People Magazine. He is an internationally sought-after speaker and has given talks at South by Southwest, TEDx, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Biohacker Summit in Stockholm, Sweden, and many others.