Staying in Shape on the Busiest Travel Day of the Year

Nov 26, 2013, 12:05 PM

file Baltimore Washington International Airport

The normally hectic pre-Thanksgiving travel day could be more frenzied than usual this year because of predicted storms in the west that could move east—and storms are often a precursor to flight delays. So why not use the extra time to get a jump start on 2014 resolutions?

Mindful that air passengers are captive audiences, many airports have added fitness options ranging from trail markers to let you know how far you’ve walked on the airport’s walking trail (Baltimore Washington International) to a yoga room (San Francisco International and Dallas Fort Worth) and even a full fitness center with workout clothes for rent (Toronto Pearson).

Airport Hotel Gyms

While most airports don’t yet have a gym right on the premises, a growing number of airports have hotels with attached gyms in one of the terminals, including Chicago O’Hare and Orlando International. (The hotels are located outside of the security areas, so if you’re planning a workout, build in the time you need to shower, dress and clear security before boarding your flight.) Passes to the airport gyms are typically under $20 per person. Check your airport’s website for hotels onsite, and then check the hotel to find out rates and rules for short term use. And remember to wear your sneakers to the airport so you’re sure you have them for the workout.

Airport Walking Trails

In addition to the walking trail at Baltimore Washington International, a growing number of airports have marked walking trails. Keep that in mind when you pack your carryon, as there aren’t usually storage facilities for luggage once you pass security, though for $39-50 you can get a day pass at many airline clubs where you can find a quiet corner, snacks and a place to store you hand luggage while you walk the indoor trail. Ask at the airport information desk where the trail begins, or check the American Heart Association walking path website or phone app, and put in “airport” for the search engine section marked “type of path.”

No formal airport trail at your departure airport? Say no to the golf cart ride to the gate, the moving sidewalk and the rocking chairs that often line terminal windows, and simply walk the corridors. Keep the headphones off, though, to be sure you‘re aware of speeding passengers late for their flight who may not be paying attention to walking fellow travelers, as well as airport transport and security vehicles. Download a pedometer to your Smartphone so you can track how many steps you’ve taken.

Other Healthy Ideas at the Airport

  • Flu Shots: Many airports have onsite travel clinics and some may have flu shots on hand if you haven’t gotten yours yet. Another flu shot option is to stop into a pharmacy at the mall on the way to or from Black Friday shopping, even if you’re travelling away from home. Here’s a flu shot locator for wherever you find yourself this holiday. Expect to pay $25, although many insurers will reimburse some or all of the cost.
  • Healthy Eating on the Go: Pay attention to menu boards on your walk. Knowing which healthy options airport food outlets have on hand can help you make smarter choices. Some of the healthiest choices may be at the newspaper and magazine store. Many now have whole racks of healthier options, including 100-calorie snacks, nuts and low-fat crackers. And always check airport food outlet refrigerator cases, which are likely to have yogurt and small size containers of hummus and pretzels.
  • Where’s the AED?: On your walk, or just on the way to the gate, practice spotting the automated external defibrillators. It’s good practice for whenever you’re in a public space so you’ll know where to head to, or direct somewhere else, if there’s an emergency.

>>Bonus Link: Read a NewPublicHealth post about a CPR training kiosk at the Dallas Fort Worth airport. Training and a quiz to reinforce what you’ve learned, takes only a few minutes. More airports could add the kiosks in the next year.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.