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Business travel redesign: How to stay healthy during long business flights

It’s important for high-performing individuals to know their success formula. This will vary from person to person. What is needed for you to perform at your optimal level? You know the basics of how to travel smart.
airport travel
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It’s important for high-performing individuals to know their success formula. This will vary from person to person. What is needed for you to perform at your optimal level?

You know the basics of how to travel smart. But if you don’t arrive fresh, healthy and energized for business every time, you need to redesign your travel routine.

Problem: You get uncomfortable and achy in your plane seat


  • Be sure to stretch. Constant movement will be one of your greatest tools. High altitudes and prolonged sitting can increase joint and muscle stiffness and can even cause swelling in your legs and feet. Start off by repeatedly contracting and relaxing your calves and quadriceps while seated. This can act as a pump for your joints and muscles and help circulate and recycle joint fluid. Standing up and moving around as often as possible will also help to alleviate aching muscles and soreness during flights. Stretch your quadriceps, hamstrings and low back muscles for 45 to 60 seconds every hour. This may reduce muscle tension post-flight.
  • Be sure your ergonomics are ideal. Proper sitting and resting positions can be critical to negate neck and back tension often felt during air travel. Purchase a comfortable memory foam travel pillow to keep your neck in a neutral position. Some aircraft are equipped with an adjustable headrest. Use these to your advantage to help keep your neck straight – especially if your head tends to lean back over the tops of chairs.
  • Use the tools of the trade. Compression socks and tights greatly contribute to preventing joint swelling stiffness. These items can be purchased over the counter – look for 10 to 15 mmHg (millimeter of mercury) compression – at your local pharmacy or running and sporting goods stores. Some individuals may require medical-grade garments (20 to 40 mmHg compression), and all garments should be properly measured and fitted by a health practitioner. A chiropractic doctor can individualize these recommendations for you.

Problem: You always catch your neighbour’s cold


  • Hydrate your membranes. Viruses gain access to your body via mucus membranes (your nose, mouth and eyes). Your mucus membranes get weak when dehydrated. So your first line of defence is strong and hydrated membranes. Counter the dry atmosphere in airports and planes with saline eye drops, a nasal spray with the antibacterial xylitol and a good-quality lip balm with shea butter. Manuka honey lozenges can increase your saliva production and act as another protection against bacteria and viruses.
  • Ramp up your antiviral nutrients. In an otherwise healthy individual, high doses of specific nutrients will give your immune system the extra edge. Consider taking extra doses of vitamin C, zinc and vitamin A. Check with a naturopathic doctor to make sure your nutrient dosage is appropriate and effective.

Problem: You arrive haggard before your meetings


  • Engage in mindfulness. Download a breathing guide or meditation track onto your hand-held device. Tune out of your surroundings with noise-cancelling headphones, and tune in to your body. Doing this on long-haul flights or long layovers will reduce stress and improve your alertness upon arrival.
  • Cleanse and stimulate. Wash your face with stimulating essential oils like peppermint, lavender, chamomile, basil or lemon. Place one to five drops of one of the oils on your dry hands, rub together and fill your palms with water at a sink or with a water bottle. Splash onto your face to refresh your skin and stimulate your senses. Alternatively, add a few drops of essential oils to an unscented hand wipe and use on your face, neck, upper back, chest, hands and underarms.
  • Hydrate and activate your cells. It is best to avoid alcohol, caffeine and overly salty foods. Instead, opt for whole foods like antioxidant-rich berries and salads with dark leafy greens, unsalted nuts and seeds. Drink plenty of water, including at least one litre of fluids with added electrolytes before arrival. Consider taking coenzyme Q10 or bacopa to activate your mitochondria and improve your focus. A naturopathic doctor can guide you in using nutrients and plant medicines to optimize your travel formula.

Dr. Duriell Bernard is a chiropractor, performance practitioner and a health and lifestyle consultant with a focus on functional strength and movement. Dr. Erica Kubanek, B.Sc., ND, is a naturopathic doctor with a focus on functional medicine. Both doctors practise at Qi Integrated Health in Vancouver.

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