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]

Six ways for road warriors to stay in shape

Business travel can be brutal on your body. One night, you’re out with clients, sipping that extra cocktail and scarfing down dessert – you don’t want your client doing these things alone. The next day, you stuff fistfuls of French fries into your mouth between meetings and devour a fast food “snack” as midnight is closing in. The project needs to stay on track, so you eat what you can while you work, and sleep is out of the question. This happens over and over … making it close to impossible to take care of yourself while you’re on the road. Before you know it, you’ve gained (or lost) too much weight, dark circles are forming under your eyes and your complexion has gone to hell.

There has to be a better way …

All is not lost. There’s plenty you can do to take care of yourself while living the road warrior life. None takes too much time (important, since you don’t have any), and your bag won’t have to get much fuller. If you decide you want to recapture some vigor while traveling frequently, check out the six tips below.

1. Decide you need to make a change … and mean it
When I was a management consultant, I came across plenty of lists like this one. Occasionally, I’d give something a try, but the path of least resistance always won. None of those writers seemed to have any idea how hard it is to motivate yourself in the land of the 16-hour day, endless meetings and crushing workloads. For the first few weeks, you have to make the clear and difficult decision to knowingly turn your life for the worse. After that, it starts to get better.

2. Workout “lite” is your only option
Short workouts will probably be your only option. So, don’t plan to hit the weights for an hour or more. Instead, stick to cardio. If you run, use the treadmill in the hotel gym instead of turning to the streets. Cardio machines (e.g., treadmills and exercise bikes) have the added advantage of multi-tasking: you can read reports (or the newspaper), check your Blackberry or take notes on what you need to do that day.

3. Make time to walk
Short walks during the day give you a chance to clear your head. Step outside a few times and walk around the parking lot. Each jaunt shouldn’t last much longer than a leisurely trip to the bathroom. To recapture some productivity, bring something to read, or catch up on calls or e-mails. You’ll be moving your body, at least, and the change of pace will do you good.

4. Back to basic (training)
My drill sergeants always found a way to cram exercise into my life. While you probably don’t want to bust out a few sets of pushups during a conference call, their method for squeezing workouts into short periods of time can be helpful. When you can back to your hotel room, for example, do a few pushups and situps before you go to bed – maybe while you watch some television. Over time, you’ll find yourself doing more reps.

5. Watch the booze
When someone else is picking up the tab, it’s all too easy to have another glass of wine, especially if you’re accustomed to slurping vino from a box. All those team and client dinners add up, though, and you wind up paying for it in the end. At some point in the evening, switch to sparkling water or soda water with lime. It looks like liquor and feels different from the nonalcoholic stuff you normally drink. The best part: it’ll be easier to get up in the morning.

6. Roam when you call home
Having a family can make the road warrior’s life even harder. Any chance to call home becomes incredibly valuable, and just about anything else will be sacrificed when you want to dial those all-important digits. Instead of calling from your room, walk the hotel grounds while you talk. If you’re staying in your room, do some flutter kicks or toe-raises while you chat away. Don’t work out so hard that you can’t carry on a conversation, but do use more muscles than those in your jaw.