May 20 2011 by Chris McGinnis
A new medical study by researchers at Columbia University that looks into the cardiovascular health of business travelers has been making the rounds in the media lately. The study examined data from the medical records of 13,057 employed patients engaged in a corporate wellness plan.
There's good news and bad news to report. First, the good news: Some business travel might be good for you. The study found that business travelers who are away from home between one and six nights per month are healthier and less likely to be obese than non-travelers.
Bad news: What I find even more interesting is that non-travelers tend to be as unhealthy as high frequency business travelers--with similarly high rates of obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
What does it all mean? To me, the connection between all this comes down to time and motion. A business traveler can cover thousands of miles in a car or a plane each day, but only move a few hundred feet under his or her own steam. To and from the car, from the car to the plane at the airport, to and from the hotel room, to and from the hotel breakfast bar, lounge or vending machines. You get the picture.
Moderately frequent business travelers have the time to get off the travel treadmill and exercise, take walks, go to the gym and move around. But very frequent travelers don't really have that option--the constant movement from place to place leaves little time to take a walk, prepare and eat a healthy meal or stick with a training regimen at the gym.
The study noted that because 81 percent of business travel is by car, factors such as fattening drive-through fast food and long hours of sitting could also contribute to health problems.
So if you are a very frequent traveler, you've got to get moving more and eating less when you are on the road. Here are some tips:
>At hotels and office buildings, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator every time--the same goes for those moving sidewalks at the airport. Avoid them if you can.
>Try to reduce your caloric intake on long trips where you will be immobile for long periods of time. Sitting still in a car or on a plane burns one calorie per minute (see below), so you have to take in fewer. How? Avoid fried, highly processed starchy foods. Fill up on soup or salad instead of burgers or steaks and fries.
>At the hotel breakfast buffet, limit yourself to one pass through the line. Don't go back for seconds. If you don't have that kind of will power, take your food back to your room.
>Consider meeting with clients for a walk instead of a drink or a meal. A long walk through a park or around a block could yield better results than you might expect. The same goes for time spent with family or friends when you are home--meet up for a walk!
For more information on how sitting still affects your health, see this: