It’s winter in New Zealand at the moment and I’ve just escaped to Europe to bask in the Summer sun and eat endless cups of gelato – so dreamy. I’m spending some time in Croatia to see family, Paris to eat my body weight in macaroons and finishing up in LA to soak up the health scene (life is about balance right?). Given all of this long-haul travelling I figured it's a good time to post on keeping healthy while flying, so I can put these tips into practice too!
An airplane isn’t the healthiest of environments. Between the dry recycled air, cramped cabins and sitting rigid for extended periods, flying can really take a toll on our body. Throw in crossing a few time zones and the potential for some poor sleep (unless you’re someone who can sleep anywhere - then I am jealous), it’s expected you may feel a little worse-for-wear when you land. Fortunately there are many things that can be done to help ensure when you arrive at your destination you’re ready for an adventure. Here’s some tips for keeping healthy while flying:
1. Stay hydrated
One of the most punishing effects of flying is dehydration. The humidity of an air craft is notoriously low, which means the air is very dry and if we’re not careful this really sets us on a one-way road to dehydration. This may not sound all that scary, but given the human body is on average 65% water, even a small drop in hydration levels can lead to fatigue, headaches, dry skin and lips, and an increased risk of falling prey to airborne bugs (and let’s be honest, airplanes are really just one big microbe party). Avoiding dehydration is simple – just make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your flight!
- Your best choice of beverage is always water.
- Although water is freely available on board (just ask if you're in between in-flight service), I buy a fresh bottle once through security so I can drink more easily in the air. If you bring it on the plane the staff will refill it for you - just ask nicely.
- Avoid alcohol while flying as this further contributes to dehydration.
Use your flight time to disconnect and relax – there’ll be no pinging emails to distract you up in the air! Bring a book you’ve been wanting to read, make use of the in-flight entertainment and watch a movie or listen to your favourite music, or try have a snooze. Comfort is important to relax so wear your comfiest of comfy clothes to fly in – think track pants, a loose fitted tee and a few loose warmer layers to strip on/off when required.
- Travel neck pillows are great at helping to minimise neck and shoulder pain or discomfort that can occur with flying. You can find them for sale at most airports.
- It’s hard to properly relax if our body temperature isn’t right. To keep warm while flying bring a few layers e.g. sweater, thick socks or a cardigan, then if you arrive at a warmer destination you can easily strip off and adjust to your new temperature.
- Bringing a little bag of airplane-friendly hygiene products e.g. mini cleansers, moistriser, tooth brush and tooth paste, to freshen up with on board will make you feel a million bucks. Remember to keep them under 100ml and in zip lock or clear bag.
3. Move your body where possiable
When flying we’re sitting for extended periods and this can cause our metabolic rate and digestion to slow (hello constipation) and our muscles and joints to get sore and achy. As humans we're made to move, so those long haul flights can be a challenge. To help combat this get movement in wherever possible. This is especially important in avoiding Deep Vein Thrombosis, an ailment that may occur while flying, often bought on by a combination of factors including dehydration, low cabin pressure and inactivity.
- While sitting do small regular seated exercises – try neck and shoulder rolls, ankle and wrist rotations, flexing and pointing your toes, and leg lifts. Check your in-flight magazine for more recommended exercises.
- To boost blood flow regularly walk up and down the aisles or do some squats and stretches at the back of the plane. I try and do this whenever I go to the bathroom.
- If you're in-between flights or in transit this is a great opportunity to stretch your legs and go for a walk around the terminal and explore the shops, eateries and sights on offer.
4. Eat well - but don't stress
I’ve had some really great plane food, but also some kind of bad. Before flying enjoy a really nutritious meal, and if anything additional catches your eye on the departure side you could bring it on board. But otherwise, don't fret and go with the flow - when unprepared simply make the best decision from what’s available. I found organising a few extra snacks can be a life saver with keeping your appetite satisfied while flying - small packets of prepackaged nuts travel well.
- Airplane food can often be high in salt – be cautious of this, as it may make you thirstier.
- You’ll get a mix of food on offer at the airport. Avoid processed foods, deep-fried or heavy baked goods e.g. muffin or sweets, and instead go for colourful salads, cafe-style options (e.g. bowls of oats, eggs on toast) or protein + veggie combinations.
- Amp up your fresh fruit and veggie intake as much as possible around travelling as this will help keep your immune system in tip top shape, which is important when flying. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, is particularly helpful in supporting our immunity. Keep an eye-out for a smoothie bar at the airport, I love getting a fruit + veg smoothie before take-off.
5. Get some zzz’s
An airplane may not provide the most ideal conditions for sleep, but it’s important to try and get some shut-eye anyway. A lack of sleep decreases our immunity and energy levels, which are both important while travelling (as well as making us super grouchy to be around - speaking from experience, oops).
- If you're flying long-haul at night, try and request a window seat as it’ll offer a little extra room and a nice flat wall surface to rest your head on.
- Consider air plugs/noise cancelling headphones and an eye mask, as they’ll help cancel out any noisy or visual stimulus that might otherwise disrupt sleep.
- Be mindful (and consider steering clear if you’re sensitive) of the caffeine in coffee and some teas, as well as the sugar content in juices – they may affect your sleep while flying, and any long-haul sleep is gold.