Who’s up for a road trip? Whether it’s to visit family across the state or to see a part of the county you’ve never been to, the road trip is a time-honored American tradition. A recent survey of 3,000 Americans found that almost 40% of vacations are taken by car – and baby boomers take the most road trips of all Americans.
There are plenty of benefits to traveling by car, like the flexibility of stopping at any point and the ability to pack as much luggage as can fit into the trunk.
But while road trips can be spontaneous and flexible, they still involve a lot of sitting in the car, which can be uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous for our bodies. Deep vein thrombosis, potentially fatal blood clots in the deep veins of the lower legs and thighs, is usually associated with air travel, but it is also a risk for automobile passengers. Cardiologists warn that people traveling for more than four hours in any confined space – like a car – may be at risk for this condition.
If you are predisposed to blood clots, talk to your doctor before going on a long car or plane trip. He or she may recommend aspirin or another blood thinner before and during the trip. You may also consider compression stockings, which can help prevent both vein thrombosis and uncomfortable leg swelling. Here are some more tips to help prevent DVT and a few other ways to stay comfortable and healthy on a long car trip.
Take a Break Every Two Hours
This one is really important. Stop, get out of the car, and walk around every two hours. Sitting in one position for more than two hours is also hard on your back. It can compress the disks between your vertebrae, which can cause numbness or tingling in your legs. Your neck and hips can get uncomfortable, too. Taking a short break lets passengers stretch their legs and helps drivers take a mental break to stay alert. Look for rest areas with outdoor walking areas and public bathrooms.
Take advantage of your rest stops and stretch. Stretch out your back by standing tall and circling your shoulders five times. Reach your arms overhead, and hold for five seconds. Lower arms and repeat the stretch a few times. Passengers can also stretch out their ankles and lower legs while in the car. Do ankle rolls and alternate flexing and pointing your feet every half hour or so to reduce the risk of DVT.
Watch Your Posture
Drivers and passengers can stay comfortable by maintaining good posture in the car. If you’re driving, make sure you’re close enough to the steering wheel that you don’t have to hunch to reach it, but not so close that your arms are too close to your body. Adjust mirrors so you can look at them with without dropping or raising your chin. Both driver and passengers can reduce back pain by using a lumbar pillow.
Greasy fast food, salty gas station snacks, and vending machine fare are easy on a road trip but not the best for your body. Any swelling from too much sodium will feel even more uncomfortable in the car. Registered dietitian Heidi Reichenberger McIndoo recommends that road trippers plan ahead by packing healthy snacks and meals to eat on the road. She suggests bringing dried and fresh fruit, cheese sticks, and nuts to ward off any cravings for unhealthy food while on the road. Pack your cooler with plain or vitamin water and stay hydrated, too.