Business Today

When Flying Kills

Hypermobile business travellers often face a slew of health hazards; Here is what you can do.
Team BT   New Delhi     Print Edition: February 11, 2018
When Flying Kills
Illustration by Safia Zahid

Do you fly frequently because your job demands it? At first, it seems exciting and glamorous. But after a time you realise there is no charm left in amassing frequent flyer miles just as George Clooney did in the Hollywood classic Up in the Air. The grim reality: Frequent air travel can cause a whole range of health problems due to loss of sleep, lack of exercise, poor eating and added stress. There could be potentially fatal health hazards such as deep vein thrombosis, caused by sitting in one posture for too long, especially on long-distance flights. In such cases, blood clots form in a large vein, and if a clot breaks loose, it can end up blocking an artery. Flying too often could also lead to lower immunity, obesity, lung and cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Who suffers most: From junior executives to service providers to NGO workers, most people travel for work and do it on a shoestring budget, which accelerates the negative health impact. "Hectic, working weekends are now an integral part of our life, and that needs to change," says a senior official who spends around 20 days a month holding meetings on weekdays and interviewing during weekends. That kind of hyperactivity can leave one stressed beyond repair.

Companies can help: Video conferencing can help reduce the kind of burnout mentioned above. However, businesses do require face-to-face interactions and networking with larger teams, and travel is inescapable. It makes sense, therefore, if the company HR starts tracking how many hours an executive spends on flights during a month and cuts down on travel time to improve productivity.

What you can do: Taking a break from frequent travelling, drinking a lot of water, eating healthy, getting up to walk when on a long flight or just stretching your legs will help reduce health-related concerns. Part of the problem occurs when you try and clear the workload between breakfast and dinner without taking some time off and pursuing your fitness routine. Typically, one needs at least four days of active exercise every week. Some people opt for breathing exercises as these can be done anytime and anywhere. Others do yoga and meditation that do not require heading to the gym. Also, try and space out your flight timings and the work that follows. You may work 18-19 hours a day, but the next day you will be physically exhausted and mentally unproductive. So, do not let fatigue and travel weariness rule your life.

Try 'Alert' Foods, 'Sleep' Menu

It sounds like a well-packaged marketing pitch, but an Indian company claims it serves the health conscious. Last year, ITC came up with a 'sleep' menu to promote a good night's rest and in 2016, introduced 'alert meets', a range of 'alert' foods low on carbs and sugars to ensure no one feels drowsy at a post-lunch meeting. The idea is to use ingredients that induces sleep or keeps you awake, as required.

Vijay Nagpal, Corporate Chef at ITC Hotels, says, "We have developed the menu in consultation with the scientists at ITC's Life Sciences & Technology Centre in Bengaluru. During the trials (at a non-invasive sleep lab), we monitored sleep patterns that showed significant improvement in the quality of sleep upon consumption of the items from the 'Swasthya' menu before bedtime. For meetings, we offer 'alert meets' that score high on health and taste."

You can also get a tailor-made menu at any star hotel. Most of them offer health foods such as low gluten diet or diabetic-friendly meals with sugar-free desserts. Other than food, your bed and pillows, as well as the lighting and air quality of the room, will help you sleep well.

 

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