If you're a road warrior for your company, you might not be a good candidate to be an actual warrior.

That's because people who travel for business three weeks per month or more are almost twice as likely to be obese compared to workers who travel just one to six nights per month.

That's one of the findings in a recent study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York.

That's only the start of the bad news for constant travelers, unfortunately. Higher blood pressure and lower high-density lipoprotein (the good cholesterol) are also part of the package.

Spending just 14 or more nights away from home per month also seems to be too much. These near-half-time travelers are significantly more likely to feel unhealthy, have trouble sleeping, and deal with anxiety, depression, and alcohol dependence. Higher levels of smoking and getting little or no exercise are also reported by regular business travelers. 

The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, was based on data from the health assessments of over 18,000 employees.

"Although only about 12 percent of employees in the data we looked at traveled for business 14 or more nights per month, the clustering of all these health conditions among extensive business travelers is worrying, both for their own health and the health of the organizations they work for," writes lead study author Andrew Rundle in the Harvard Business Review.

Rundle and colleagues do offer some solutions that both employers and employees can implement to make business travel more healthy and productive for all involved. 

"At the individual level, employees who travel extensively need to take responsibility for the decisions they make around diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and sleep," Rundle explains. "However, to do this, employees will likely need support in the form of education, training, and a corporate culture that emphasizes healthy business travel."

He suggests that employers and employees should choose business accommodations with access to healthy food options and decent exercise facilities (not your run-of-the-mill dinky and depressing hotel fitness room). Ideally, companies could provide employees with memberships to national gym chains.

"Employers can also provide their business travelers training in a variety of stress management approaches and sleep hygiene techniques," Rundle adds.

Finally, he says the best way to deal with the rough rigors of all that travel could be to consider cutting it out if it isn't absolutely necessary to be there in person every time. 

"Business travel can surely be educational, and even fun, not to mention necessary for many people; but the wear and tear resulting from constant trips may not be altogether worth it," he says.

Published on: Jun 2, 2018
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