How to Stay Healthy as a Business Traveler

There’s no shortage of doom-and-gloom blogs explaining why frequent business travel is a health risk. Regular flights expose you to so much radiation there’s a push to have regular travelers classified as radiation workers. The combination of jet lag and stress from airports effect your mood and ability to concentrate for multiple days. Automobile travel, which accounts for 81% of business travel, requires long-stretches of sitting and typically unhealthy food options.


These issues don’t imply difficulties for just short-term business travelers. The average stay in our corporate housing is about 90 days. Our clients often mention tight project deadlines and day-to-day challenges that keep them from maintaining a consistent schedule. Because of this, business travelers are often unable to follow standard advice like working the gym into their routine or cooking their weekly meals on a Sunday. Consistent schedules are a luxury, even for business travelers on long-term assignments.


Chances are you prioritize your career if you’re the type that gets asked to go on a business trip. There’s a reason why visionaries as varied as financier T. Boone Pickens and ex-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo credit healthy living as a key to success – good health makes you happier and more productive. While nothing listed here is the same diet advice your doctor would give you, it will help you eat reasonably healthy while meeting a demanding schedule.


Section 1: Maintaining Your Diet


The modern world isn’t designed for healthy eating. Time commitments often force us into eating high-calorie, high-sodium fast food out of necessity. When we’re traveling for work, we not only experience more time commitments than usual, but are somewhere unfamiliar. A Big Mac is more tempting when you have thirty minutes to find food you at least kind of like. After working all day, cooking during the rare moments we aren’t obligated to do something sounds awful. I assume most of the people reading this are like me and want to use limited personal time on the things that really matter like family, friends, and watching Netflix.


Calorie Tracking


The link between calorie consumption and weight is well-understood. Unfortunately, keeping track of how many calories one consumes while out of town is usually too difficult. That’s where apps like MyFitnessPal come in. These apps track calorie and nutrient consumption, either through approximation using the type of food and weight or by nutrition information provided by restaurants. It’s a convenient way to measure how much and how well you’re eating.


Going Somewhere New? Download Apps Like Tasteful


Fast food is omnipresent because it’s convenient. Similarity of product encourage companies to compete on price and location, which is why one chain occasionally runs two locations within a mile of each other. Fast food companies also give an extra value proposition to business travelers: the food is consistent. Even if a fast food burger isn’t your favorite meal, it is good enough. Nobody wants the extra stress of finding a new restaurant or cooking a meal after a long day.

That’s where Tasteful comes in. This app allows users to filter restaurants by type-of-diet and see user reviews. In effect, this replicates the two value propositions fast food gives business travelers: food becomes easy to find and you know if it’s good. There are multiple apps providing this service, so you can find healthy options in most markets worldwide.


If Fast Food is Your Only Option, Try Taco Bell


At least in the US, Taco Bell is considered one of the healthier fast food restaurants. Outlets like Business Insider are already writing about the chain’s move to better menu options. Instead of focusing on calorie and carbohydrate dense offerings like most fast food chains, Taco Bell has expanded its options to include low-calorie, vegetarian, and vegan options. Look at the company’s nutrition information to find out what meets your dietary needs.


Section 2: Maintaining Your Relationships


A 1997 study of 10,000 travelling World Bank employees found a near three-fold increase of psychological insurance claims compared to non-traveling staff. While the volume and kind of work performed by World Bank staff influences these numbers, the statistic illustrates that constant traveling is tough on one’s mental well-being. The exhaustion from jetlag and long hours is the obvious culprit. What’s less obvious are the effects of isolation that come with business travel.


Maintaining Your Family Relationships


It shouldn’t have surprised me that Google predicted my search for “how to deal with a traveling spouse” when all I had typed was “how to deal.” Regular business travel can significantly stress family relationships, especially when young children are involved. Communication is a constant theme in research about long-distance relationships. Setting aside time to talk with your family daily is important, even if it’s just to ask boring questions about how their day went.


Part of why regular travel psychologically upsets family relationships is that it upsets routine. Establishing new routines while you’re traveling is one way to retain a sense of normalcy. Even though time spent with your spouse may decrease from a few hours daily to a thirty-minute phone call, boring questions like “how was work today?” still matter when you’re on a work assignment.


Making Friends


This isn’t too relevant for short-term travelers, but for our clients it’s a real concern. If you’re working somewhere for three months, you want a close friend to get a drink with after a long day. Our clients occasionally make off-hand comments complaining about spending a few months exclusively with co-workers (even when those co-workers share their excellent taste in corporate housing providers). The people you work with don’t always share your interests, especially if you have niche hobbies.


The best solution I’ve found is joining local clubs and intramural sports teams. This is tired-but-valuable advice in my experience. I moved to Houston for this job, and the relocation was tough at the start. Like most cities of its’ size, it’s notoriously hard for newcomers to find a social group in Houston. Luckily, there are organizations that center around my interests. Ever since discovering these, I haven’t had trouble finding friends.


Section 3: Exercise


As the Harvard Business Review puts it, regular exercise is part of your job. Thankfully, getting adequate exercise doesn’t mean intense gym workouts four times a week (although, those that enjoy weight training should download APP if you need help finding a good gym where you’re going). Residents of walkable cities like New York already get the bare minimum of exercise needed to improve health. This study found that fifteen-minutes of activity a day reduced mortality from all causes by 14% for typically sedentary people. This improves life expectancy by three years. The simple answer to exercise is to walk to work if you’re in a walkable city.


What if I don’t live somewhere walkable?


Of course, not everywhere is New York. Google estimates it would take six hours if I tried to walk to work from my apartment in the Houston Heights to our Northwest Houston office. This is the reality in most US cities. Here, cities are often designed around providing personal space. While this is slowly changing, with even Houston (notoriously the most sprawling city in the US) beginning to favor dense development in the urban core, walking is not a feasible mode of transportation for most US residents.


If walking to work isn’t feasible, consider walking somewhere nearby for lunch. If your office isn’t located somewhere near restaurants, plan a daily walk around your neighborhood when you get up in the morning. There are tons of benefits associated with early-morning activity. In my case, I’ve found that I drink significantly less coffee on days when I go running before work. I already feel awake when I leave for work so I don’t need caffeine to give me an extra push, preventing me from getting into the cycle of drinking more coffee to get out of the crash from the first cup.


Find Somewhere Comfortable to Live


Of course, staying somewhere comfortable is important for your well-being. A hotel is great for a few days, but next time you’re on a long-term assignment consider our corporate housing. Many of our clients report increased happiness and productivity staying in our full-sized corporate apartments as opposed to extended stays and smaller serviced apartments. Plus, every housing solution we provide is custom made for every individual client – we really do try to fit as many amenities as possible into a given client’s budget. Next time you’re on a work assignment somewhere for thirty days or longer, call us at +1-888-899-7829.


Article by Rion Thompson