You’ve spent the past couple of years staying fit and healthy despite the unusual circumstances of mostly staying home. Now you’re packing the car for a well-deserved summer road trip, fraught with fast food, convenience stores, and hours of sitting around with unhealthy snacks within arm’s reach. Can you keep up the good work? You can, experts say – if you plan.
“The idea is to keep to one’s routine and healthy habits as much as possible on the road, just as you do at home,” says Dr. Ian Neeland, a preventive cardiologist and associate professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.
Preventive cardiologist Dr. Puja Mehta concurs.
“Everything is in the planning,” says Mehta, associate professor in the Emory Women’s Heart Center at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “It can be a lot of fun and relieve a lot of stress along the way.”
So while you’re checking your budget and consulting maps and travel guides, here are some health-related factors to consider.
1. Stay hydrated, but wisely.
“Travel with water bottles and a cooler” rather than stopping for sodas, Mehta suggests.
2. Build in breaks.
When you’re sitting in the car for hours at a time, blood doesn’t pump as well throughout the body, Neeland shares. “It’s a good idea to stop every two or three hours, just to get up and stretch and walk around and get the blood flowing.”
That’s especially true, he says, for people at risk for blood clots, including those who smoke, are pregnant, take birth control pills, or have conditions such as obesity, atrial fibrillation, or diabetes. Clots can travel to the brain, heart, and elsewhere, causing a stroke, heart attack, or other damage.
That same advice holds for people with orthopedic problems, Mehta adds. “If you’re sitting for hours, it’s not good for your back,” she says. “And if you know you have back pain, bring the back support you need.”
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3. The sun doesn’t shine just at the beach.
“It’s blasting through the car window,” Mehta says. “Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses while you’re driving.”
“You can get sunburned on your arms and face,” Neeland adds. “It’s also important to