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Exercise need not take a vacation when you do

Traveling provides many opportunities to enjoy life outside our typical daily life. Unusual environments and experiences can create lasting memories.

But traveling is also hectic, involves endless waiting and causes disruption in our daily routine, exercise included. While the logistics of traveling may challenge the ability to strike a balance between healthy food choices, adequate sleep and, in particular, exercise, planning ahead can make a vast difference. Exercise doesn't have to take a vacation even if you are.

Travel, whether by way of car, train or plane, tends to involve a fair amount of sitting -- often in close, confining quarters. Sitting is the body's bane and tends to create more stress on the lower back than standing.

If you're in the throes of a long trip, ease the stress by practicing relaxed breathing. Taking deep, regular breaths can be an excellent coping mechanism for anxiety associated with travel. This rhythmic breathing will help you get more oxygen to your brain, calming your thoughts.

Ease the fatigue of sitting by stretching. Sit with your hips against the back of your seat. Bend forward and rest your folded arms on your knees. Let your head relax. Let your arms fall below your knees so your upper body is lying across your legs. Completely relax and hold for 30 seconds to one minute.

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To stretch your glutes and hips, sit in a chair with your back straight. Place the outside of your right ankle on top of our left thigh, just above the knee. Place your left hand around your right ankle and your right hand on the inside of your right knee. Gently push down on the right until the thigh is parallel to the ground. Hold for 10 seconds; rotate your hip in and up. Repeat three to five times.

For your neck, sit with your back straight and feet flat on the ground. Turn your head to the right 45 degrees. Next, drop your head forward, bringing your right ear toward your chest. Place your left hand on top of your head and gently press down. Keep your shoulders down and your body still. Repeat on the left side.

Here are additional ideas:

Layovers and delays tend to be the norm when traveling by plane. Rather than sit in the gate area, use the time to be active by walking the concourses. Lace up your athletic shoes, store your belongings in a temporary locker (most major airports have them) and head out for a brisk 20-25 minute walk.

When making plane reservations, request an exit row, the bulkhead or aisle seat. These areas of a plane tend to provide more legroom and make it easier to get in and out of your seat. Airlines also will serve alternative, healthy meals upon request, which can be done at the time the reservation is made.

When selecting a hotel, call ahead or search their Web site for on-site fitness facilities. If one is not available, ask about local health clubs that may provide special accommodations for guests. Inquire if the hotel has personal trainers. If you're a runner or walker and want company, inquire about local walking or running groups. Even without access to a health club, basic push-ups, sit-ups and a variety of stretching can be done in your room.

In restaurants, avoid buffet-style dining. Research shows the more choices you have, the more calories you'll eat. Start with soup because it fills you up and decreases your chances of overeating. Limit alcohol. Just two drinks with dinner can add 250 calories to your daily total. Ask for foods baked, grilled or broiled. Skip dessert or split it with your dining partner.

Ann Walker is a personal trainer and kinesiologist and has a master's degree in exercise physiology. You can reach her at lifestyle@postbulletin.com

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