Go Hiking: It’s Better For You Than You Thought

hiking, walkingNot feeling healthy? Go hiking. Two new studies from the UK show that a hike, or even a good walk around the city streets, boosts mental and physical health.

A new survey by Ramblers, the British walking charity, found that a quarter of adults in Britain walk for an hour or less a week. And when they’re talking about walking, they don’t mean hitting the trails in the local nature reserve, they mean all types of walking, including walking to the shops, work or school. Presumably walking to the fridge to get another lager isn’t included. Of the more than 2,000 people surveyed, a staggering 43 percent said they walked for only two hours or less a week.

The Ramblers cites government health advisers who recommend that you get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. Walking counts in this, and is one of the easiest ways to get fit. Not only does it reduce the risk of several physical ailments like heart disease, it reduces weight and improves mental activity and emotional well being. It also saves money on gas and public transport.
The British Heart Foundation has more details on their webpage.

Another new study shows that being outside more is more beneficial than we generally think. While many people worry about the harmful effects of the sun, a new study by Edinburgh University has found that UV rays cause the body to produce nitric oxide, a compound that reduces blood pressure. Researchers suspect that the benefits of exposure to the sun may outweigh the risks.

[Photo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources]

Airline Madness: Baggage fees vs. Obese people who take up two seats

Airline Madness is Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances. You can catch up on all of the previous tournament action here.

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This Airline Madness first round match-up is sure to spark plenty of debate. The #4 seed, Baggage fees, ticks off just about everyone. On the other hand, #13 seed Obese people who take up two seats is too big to be ignored. If we’re traveling, we need luggage. However, airlines seem to punish us for packing even a normal amount of clothing by charging us exorbitant fees just to check a bag. Meanwhile, the limited space we do have for ourselves on the plane is being infringed upon by overweight passengers overflowing into our seats. If you’re too heavy to fit in one seat, shouldn’t you have to purchase a second?

Only one of these airline annoyances can advance to the second round. Learn more about them and then vote for the one that you simply can’t stand.

#4 Baggage fees
We understand that some people overpack and attempt to bring way too much crap onto the plane. But, what about the people who just want to pack properly for their two week business trip or family vacation? How can the price of a single bag not be included in your airline ticket? Are we all supposed to fly with one change of clothes in our carry-on bags? Let us pack like normal human beings and travel with some personal belongings without shelling out an additional $50!

#13 Obese people who take up two seats
Not all obese people are created equally. Some overeat, others have genetic disorders, while many suffer from crippling medical issues. Regardless of the reason, however, there is no excuse for taking up someone else’s space. I paid for my seat and only I get to use it. If you can’t fit in one seat, shouldn’t you have to pay for the space that you do need? It’s not a punishment; it’s just common sense. Once a child becomes too large to sit on his parent’s lap, he needs his own seat. Shouldn’t the same hold true once your waistline is too large to fit in a single seat?

Only one pet peeve can advance. Will it be Baggage fees or Obese people who take up two seats. Vote for the one that pisses you off the most and then share your feelings in the comments!
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First round voting ends at 11:59PM EDT on Friday, March 16.

More Airline Madness:
#1 Annoying passengers vs. #16 Disgusting bathrooms
#2 Legroom vs. #15 Inefficient boarding procedures
#3 Lack of free food/prices for food vs. #14 Cold cabin/no blankets
#5 Lack of overhead space vs. Inattentive parents of crying babies
#6 Change fees/no free standby vs. #11 Lack of personal entertainment/charging for entertainment
#7 Rude airline staff vs. #10 Having to turn off electronic devices during takeoff & landing
#8 People who recline their seats vs. #9 People who get mad at people who recline their seats
Hotel Madness: Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances

Catch up on all the Airline Madness here.

Babies and first class: why is this an issue?

babies first classEarlier this week, I saw a story about babies and first class air travel posted on Facebook. The Facebook poster asked our own Heather Poole (flight attendant, mother, and new book author!) for her thoughts on the story, and she replied, “I’m fine with babies in first class. Usually they just sleep.” Columnist Brett Snyder is a frequent flier and new dad wondering if he should use miles to upgrade his first flight with the baby. Reading the article and the many comments, I wonder: why is this (or really any story about babies and airplanes) a contentious issue?

Long before I even thought about having children, I thought the same about babies in first class that I thought about anyone in the front of the plane: must be nice for them. Sure, it might be a waste of money to give a premium seat to someone whose legs don’t touch the ground and who can’t enjoy the free Champagne, but it’s the parents’ choice to splurge on the ticket. If the parents are more comfortable, the kid might be happier and thus quiet — a win-win for everyone on the plane. Does the child “deserve” to sit up front? Perhaps not, but airplane seating has never been based on merit. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, a passenger is a passenger, no matter how small.As the veteran of nearly 20 flights with an infant in Europe, the US and trans-Atlantic, I’ve been fortunate to fly a few times with my daughter in business class. While the roomy seats and meals make a 10 hour flight easier with a baby, more valuable is the ability to skip check-in and security lines, board the plane early, and spend layovers in a spacious lounge with a place to heat baby food or change a diaper. Some of those perks used to be standard for all passengers with small children, but have now gone the way of the hot meal in coach. Some airlines still make travel easier for parents: JetBlue is one of the only US-based airlines to allow you to gate-check a stroller of any size and check your first bag free (checking a bag becomes inevitable with a baby). Gulf Air offers free “Sky Nannies” on long-haul flights for young children, and Lufthansa offers a guide service (for a fee) to escort families traveling through their German hubs. Turkish Airlines (my most frequently-used airline while I live in Istanbul) always offers a “baby meal” and blocks off empty seats when possible to give us more room.

I’m also fortunate to have an easy baby who so far (knock on wood) has been very well behaved on every flight. This is in part very good luck, but also due to the fact that I watch her constantly and head off any signs of crying before they start. I’ll hold and feed her as often as it takes, even if it means I rarely rest anymore on a plane. Many of the same people who’ve given me “the look” when boarding with an infant have complimented me after on her behavior. Brett also notes in his article: “Don’t just sit there while your baby screams. Do everything you can to calm him and people will be more understanding.” This is good advice, but does it really need to be said?! I’d never dream of sitting by idly while my child disturbed other people and I’m embarrassed by any other parents who would consider such behavior acceptable. Still, I recognize that even with the most watchful parents, sometimes a cranky baby is unavoidable but I hope that when/if that day comes, my fellow passengers will see how hard I’m trying to make the flight easier for all of us. Better still, if I anticipate a difficult age for my baby to fly, I’ll look into alternative methods of travel (or postpone until an easier time).

If we are going to ban babies from first class, or even segregate them from adults on all flights, why stop there? Why not a separate flight for the armrest-hogs, the obese, the incessant talkers, or the drunk and belligerent? I’d like a plane full of only frequent flyers, who know not to use their cell phone after the door closes, who don’t rush the aisles the minute the wheels touch down, who don’t recline their seats during drink service or bring smelly food (or nail polish) onto the plane. Start flights for only considerate, experienced travelers and you will find me in the front of the plane, with my baby on my lap.

For more about (considerate) travel with a baby, read my past “Knocked Up Abroad” stories here.

Vote in Gadling’s Airline Madness Competition!

See more categories here

Fat flight attendants welcomed back to Air India, but only if thinner

Air India welcomes fat flight attendants backThe cringe-worthy debate over larger fliers has generally been limited to passengers, and it looks like that’s where it will remain. Over the summer, it looked as though flight attendants were being brought into the cross-hairs, when Air India fired several for being too fat. Well, the carrier is willing to forgive and forget … as long as the ladies have slimmed down a bit.

According to The Globe and Mail, Air India is “inviting them back,” it says of the plus-sized flight attendants, “because of a shortage of cabin crew.” There’s only one catch: they have to have shed some pounds. The airline doesn’t want those who haven’t taken steps to remedy the causes of their termination.

So, the airline’s message seems to be, “We really need your help, but only if you aren’t too fat. The shortage isn’t that bad.”

What I want to know is if Air India is offering a relocation package. There are some hotties in Mexico who are looking for work in the sky.

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[photo by BriYYZ via Flickr]

Australian airlines see obese passengers as growing problem

In the United States, finding ways to accommodate oversized passengers may be the subject of uneven enforcement, but in Australia, it’s uncharted territory. In fact, this in-flight service problem is so ignored that the terminology isn’t even standard. According to Virgin Blue, being too grande for the seat is considered an impairment, while Tiger Airways isn’t sure if it’s a “comfort” issue or a “medical” issue. And last year, Jetstar demonstrated the genius of making one large passenger by two seats: both of them on the aisle. A spokesman for Jetstar, by the way, says, “Obesity is not a disability.”

Then, pray tell, what is it? Distinction from does not equate to definition of. And an inability to define imperils the formulation and enforcement of any policy … not that that’s a problem for Jetstar, whose spokesman added, “There’s no rules around what requirements we should do for somebody if they’re above a certain height or weight.” Virgin Blue also doesn’t have a policy for this.

Qantas has received complaints, too, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, but it punts responsibility back to the passengers: “”The only way for a customer to guarantee extra space is to purchase two economy tickets or fly business- or first-class.”

Needless to say, the majority of Australians support a formal system for addressing obese passengers, according to a study by companytravel.com.au. In fact, 70 percent of survey respondents weighed in favorably believed that “obese or largely overweight people should have to purchase two economy-class seat tickets when travelling by plane.” Only two years ago, 53 percent felt this way.

Clearly, this is a growing problem for Australian airlines. The county’s Department of Health and Ageing puts 41 percent of men and 25 percent o women in the “obese” category. Twenty years ago, the rates were only half as large.

[photo by didbygraham via Flickr]