For Your Health, End The Layover Laziness

What do you do on layovers? Nap? Catch up on email? Mindlessly watch some sports without any rooting interest? Christopher Berger, a physiologist, has a better idea.

It’s simple. Stand up. Walk away from the gate. Heck, leave the premises if you have at least three or four hours. There’s no rule that says you have to spend the layover inside the airport. Baltimore has a fitness trail encircling the airport grounds (and it’s not the only one with a walking path). So what if it’s not the most scenic stroll of your life? “Anything is better than eating fast food and waiting for your flight to show,” Berger says.

Berger, chair of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Task Force on Healthy Air Travel, is on a mission against the sedentary airport lifestyle. He understands that people on vacation might want to chill; he’s not above vegging out in a gate area from time to time himself. But for frequent business travelers with a fitness regimen at home, falling out of the routine quickly takes a toll. “If you travel a lot, this is a big deal,” he says. “You can’t let yourself be that deconditioned. You have to have a plan if you travel at least once a week. It’s worth talking about.”A plan is as easy as packing a pair of lightweight walking shoes and taking a brisk stroll around the airport. Check out the public art, the chapel, the yoga room or services you might not expect to find, like medical clinics offering immunizations and air-sickness medicine. You might not need to see a doctor, but it’s interesting to explore.

Since 2007, Berger has done much of this himself conducting a study of fitness opportunities at every major U.S. hub airport. He has flown 488 times, including 100 cross-country trips. The research is complete, and he expects to release the findings this summer – and eventually convince airports to make it easier to burn calories on a layover without sprinting to catch a connecting flight.

The return of airport lockers would go a long way toward freeing travelers from the gate area. “Airports needs to be willing for you to drop off your bag.” he says. “But post-September 11, people don’t like unattended bags at airports.” And in the wake of the Boston bombings, Berger’s not expecting an attitude shift anytime soon. In the meantime, he recommends checking to see if your airline loyalty program babysits luggage.

If you can check bags and carry on just a backpack, you can become as mobile as Berger is on layovers. Unlike most travelers, he’s not paranoid about leaving the terminal if he has at least three hours (and he has never missed a flight when doing so), especially in cities with an airport light rail station. In Salt Lake City, you can get in a round of golf at a course adjacent to the airport.

Minneapolis’s airport is a favorite for a layover field trip. “Out of the airplane, you can be at the light rail in under 15 minutes, and that runs every 10 to 15 minutes. I’d say within 45 minutes you can be downtown. It’s totally walkable, flat, well laid out, pedestrian paths all over the place,” he says. “There are parks you can go to. Just lay in the sun, get some fresh air. Budget 45 minutes or so to get back. I’ve done it in three hours.”

He has a trick for a speedy return: Use the terminal likely to have the shortest TSA security line. Forget about the terminal with the airline that has a hub there. For instance, in Atlanta, don’t go through Delta’s terminal. Return through the one serving US Airways and Air Tran. “You can bet dollars to donuts that line won’t be as long,” Berger says. However, do your homework to make sure you can walk from your entry terminal to your gate. At Washington National, for instance, changing terminals can require a bus ride, negating the time savings.

Berger hopes airports will move in this direction for the sake of competition, if nothing else. And he believes the strategy is best suited for big airports in the middle of the country. “In West Coast or East Coast cities, no one changes planes except for international flights,” he says. “It doesn’t work as conceptually as it does at a place like Dallas or Denver or Atlanta.”

Don’t overlook full-service hotels near airports for fitness amenities, too, especially if it’s raining and you can’t go outside. Many offer day passes to their gym and swimming pool, Berger says, and are easily accessible by light rail or shuttle from the airport.

Simply bypassing the tram between terminals and walking – which isn’t always as far as you might imagine – marks baby steps toward breaking the habit of layover laziness.

“It’s not going to turn you into a marathon runner,” Berger says. “But you’re expending something in the way of calories.”

Via the New York Times

[Photo credits: Flickr users Dogpong and Moominmolly]

Photos: Watch the Natural History Museum of Utah take shape

Photo by Stuart Ruckman

The doors to the brand new Natural History Museum of Utah are officially set to open in a little over a week. On November 18, the state-of-the-art facility will welcome visitors to take sight of part of the museum’s collection of 1.2 million objects of natural history and science–think dinosaur bones, rare insects and pre-historic tools–in ten brand new, interactive galleries.

The new building, which will be called the Rio Tinto Center, features a stunning design inspired by Utah’s landscape and was built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) “gold” standards. The museum gets its name from Rio Tinto, the UK-based parent company of Utah companies Kennecott Land Company, Kennecott Exploration and Kennecott Utah Copper, who donated $15 million to the project back in 2008. Fittingly, the exterior of the museum will be partially covered in copper. The building itself is located in the University of Utah’s Research Park, allowing easy access to footpaths and trails, as well as views of the Salt Lake Valley.

Click through the gallery below to watch the building as it took shape.%Gallery-137427%

Last month, Salt Lake City also opened a The Leonardo, a combination science, technology and art museum. The addition of these two new museums are just two more reasons to visit Utah, giving travelers a little something to do indoors when not skiing, hiking, horseback riding, or taking in the incredible beauty the state has to offer.

(Photo by Stuart Ruckman)

Accidental bear spray discharge clears Utah hotel

A Utah hotel was evacuated when bear spray was accidentally discharged.A housekeeper working in a hotel in Utah cleared the entire building this past weekend, when she accidentally discharged a can of bear spray. The woman was pushing her cart down a hall in the Marriott Hotel in Salt Lake City and didn’t notice that someone and dropped the can on the floor. When she rolled the cart over bear spray, it began discharging its contents, which is not unlike pepper spray, but much more powerful.

The smell from the spray was so strong, that all the guests had to be evacuated from the hotel. It took about a half-hour for the staff to ventilate the building enough to allow the patrons back inside. The hapless housekeeper was also taken to the hospital, as the pepper spray irritated her eyes to the point that she couldn’t open them.

A similar incident occurred a month ago at the Grand Tetons National Park visitor center, where a ranger left a can of bear spray on a seat in the auditorium, and a visitor accidentally set it off by sitting on it. That building had to be cleared as well and afterwards, about 20 people suffered temporary side effects.

Bear spray is commonly carried by hikers visiting destinations where there is a real possibility of encountering the creatures. The potent pepper spray is designed to stop a bear in its tracks, without doing any lasting damage to the animal, and it is likely that this particular can was accidentally left behind by someone heading out on a day hike. Hopefully they didn’t need it where they were going.

Outdoor Retailer gear expo begins today

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market begins today!Today is the start of the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, held bi-annually in Salt Lake City, Utah. The OR show is a gathering of outdoor and travel gear manufacturers who come together to show off their latest tents, backpacks, clothing, and other products to industry buyers, as well as the media. Over the next four days, companies like The North Face and Patagonia will unveil new products that will be hitting stores over the next few months and eventually find their way into our suitcases and gear closets.

Two of Gadling’s intrepid reporters will be on hand at Outdoor Retailer, and they’ll be sharing updates from the show floor via Twitter. If you’re a gear junkie, you won’t want to miss their tweets from the event, which will offer a glimpse of where the gear industry is headed in the near future. Follow Pam Mandel at @nerdseyeview and Kraig Becker at @kungfujedi for the latest gear news directly from the show, and be sure to tweet back if you have questions or want more information on a product.

Both Pam and Kraig write gear reviews for Gadling as well, and much of what they see over the next few days will be appearing on the site in the months ahead. We’ll be letting you know which items deserve a place in your travel collection and which items are best left on the store shelf.

Disruptive passenger arrested in Denver after bomb threat

A disruptive passenger was arrested at Denver International Airport this past weekend when he said he had a bomb. The passenger was late for a flight to Salt Lake City, missed the connection and left his luggage on the plane. After being “disruptive in the gate area” and making inappropriate comments,” a United Airlines spokesman told CNN, the passenger claimed he had a bomb in his bag.

This was enough to get the plane back to the gate – not to mention the bag off the plane. This was followed by an hour-long delay while the incident was investigated by the authorities.

Now, the passenger is being charged with interfering with public transportation. A trip to the Denver jail is in his future, according to the report.

[photo by cliff1066 via Flickr]