Business Travel Woes: Up In The Air, Down With Your Health

Many of us dream of having a job that involves travel, and while George Clooney and Vera Farmiggia gave us a little perspective on the emotional toll of such a thing, a recent study shows that going up in the air (or out on the road) for business can also be bad for your health. A recent study from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health says that those who travel frequently for business have a higher body mass index, cholesterol levels, and worse general health than those who don’t.

Researchers surveyed medical records of more than 13,000 employees, provided through a corporate wellness program, and found that those who traveled heavily (20 times per month) had worse health indicators than those who traveled less (one to six times per month). Some of the heavy travelers’ health measures include:

  • Had a mean Body Mass Index (BMI) of 27.5 kg/m2 versus 26.1 for light travelers
  • Had a mean HDL level of 53.3 mg/DLversus 56.1 for light travelers
  • Had a mean Diastolic pressure of 76.2 mmHG versus 74.6 for light travelers
  • Were 260% more likely to rate their health as fair to poor compared to light travelers

While the differences in cholesterol and BMI were fairly small, the difference in perceived health was huge; study author Catherine Richards points out why this is still of big concern:

…while the differences in clinical values for diastolic blood pressure and HDL were small, the results for self rated health are of concern because this simple measure is a very robust predictor of mortality. Similarly, the associations between business travel and obesity are noteworthy because of the many negative health consequences of this condition.

So what to do if your job has you on the road more than a few times a year? The study authors suggest monitoring your health closely, but one way you can dodge the bullet of poor health is to make sure you get exercise, even on the road. The study authors also note that at least 80 percent of business travel is done in automobiles, which means long hours of sitting and poor food choices; air travel isn’t necessarily much better.

If you don’t have a hotel gym and can’t pack a resistance band or workout DVD, there are still some creative ways to get moving. (If you’re not doing the obvious and getting out of your seat to walk around here and there; that’s a good place to start.) Try this Trifecta of Airport Asanas from MindBodyGreen — no equipment required — or check out’s suitcase workout below (all you need is your carry-on):

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