It’s been said that 2021 is the “year of the road trip” and with more Americans saying they’ll feel ready to take a road trip by their personal car by June (according to a TripIt survey), you’ll be in good company if you’re planning on seeing what America has to offer by car.
Road travel can be a great way to get out of town for a short trip and enjoy a change of scenery safely and affordably. But if a slew of drive-thru fast-food restaurants and gas station sugary snacks come to mind when you think about a road trip, you’re probably wondering if it’s possible to take a road trip that won’t derail your health goals.
Keep reading for moves you can do in the car, mini workouts you can do at rest stops, and more. This guide will also include tips like healthy road trip snacks, packing drinks and food for quick, healthy meals, as well as the importance of getting good sleep and staying safe by social distancing and practicing good hygiene.
Your Road Trip Planner for a Healthier Getaway
Plan on packing healthy food. If you’re on a road trip beyond a few hours and plan on staying overnight somewhere, you’ll save money and calories by packing some healthy road trip snacks and meals to take with you. Stash a cooler with ice and freezer packs in an accessible place in the car and make healthy sandwiches, yogurt, cheese sticks, sliced fruit and sliced raw veggies.
Having healthy options at the ready when you’re getting a little hungry will help prevent falling prey to a greasy combo meal on the road or bags of salty snacks at the rest stop. Keep hand sanitizer in your car and purse or backpack to reduce exposure to germs and viruses.
Bring a lot of water. Yes, drinking water (or anything) on your road trip will mean you might have to make more stops but it’s important to stay hydrated so you feel alert and it gives you an excuse to get out of the sitting position and move around. “Make sure to consume enough water for your body to carry out normal functions and to prevent dehydration,” suggests Jessica Mazzucco, NYC area certified fitness trainer and founder of TheGluteRecruit.com.
You might want to bring a large, reusable water bottle from home to refill at rest stops. (It’s the greener option, too!) We like ones that have a flip-top and easy-sip straw so drivers can stay hydrated while keeping one hand on the wheel.
Come up with excuses to pull over. Some people like to boast about how fast they covered mileage on a trip and how they “barely stopped” before arriving at their destination. But if you want to have a healthier road trip, you’re going to need to move around more often. “Ideally, you should take a break from sitting every 30 minutes,” suggests Mazzucco. “However, it may be harder to take 30-minute breaks on a road trip, so I recommend stopping every one to two hours. Anywhere from walking for a few minutes to 10 minutes is beneficial to reduce the health risks of too much sitting.”
Half as many calories are burned when you are sitting, and your digestion can slow down after sitting too long, says Mazzucco. “Prolonged periods of sitting can also make your glutes and abdominals weaker. Weakened glutes and core muscles can lead to lower back and knee pain, as well as making it harder to perform workouts with the correct form.”
Do a mini workout every time you stop. A good way to get more steps in during a road trip is to plan stops along the way to get out of the car and walk for about 5 to 10 minutes, suggests Mazzucco. Any time you have to stop to get gas or food, get out of the car and walk around to promote circulation throughout the body, she advises. “Packing a resistance band like the TYR Resistance Band is one of the best tools you can bring with you,” says Mazzucco. “It’s light for travel and helps to make bodyweight exercises more challenging.”
Take advantage of benches by doing triceps dips, step-ups, and push-ups on them. Jumping jacks and high-knees in place will also get your heart rate up while increasing your step count.
Remember to move in the car. Take advantage of the passenger role and use the time to do some light stretching in the car. You can try neck rolls and neck stretches as well as some arm/shoulder stretching and chest stretches from your seat—all while wearing your seatbelt! Check out more road trip moves here.
While you won’t increase your step count or your heart rate—unless you’re really dancing in the car!—simply changing positions and relieving some tension from tight muscles can help reduce soreness later. Drivers can bring awareness to their glutes by squeezing them here and there throughout the drive to reduce atrophy, suggests Mazzucco.
Plan on doing light exercise when you arrive. Try to time your road trip so it’ll still be light outside when you get to your destination. Take a nice long walk, hike, or run and enjoy the new scenery. “Going out and getting fresh air will also help you sleep better and most likely improve your mood,” says Mazzucco.
Stretch before you sleep. It might not seem like you did much while sitting in the car all day but you might find that your back, neck, and legs feel tight or experience soreness in other areas.
Try some of these stretches that help counteract the effects of sitting:
Standing Quad Stretch: Stand up straight, hold onto a chair and bend the knee to bring one foot behind you, holding the foot with the same hand and pulling it towards your butt
Standing Hip Circle: Stand on one leg and bring the opposite knee up to hip height, making a circle with the knee.
Lying Hamstring Stretch: Lie on the floor, legs extended. Bring one knee into your chest and hold, extend the other leg out.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.