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There is a lot of evidence to support the mental benefits of traveling and related activities, such as learning to speak tourist before your next vacation. Few activities stimulate our minds like a trip that stretches our senses. All of these firing neurons, according to neuropsychologists, leaves us with stronger short and long-term memories – something you may have noticed while experiencing the return trip effect.

Physically however, jet lag, irregular sleep, and varying leg room all have more subtle, cumulative effects on the rest of our bodies. Here’s what to look out for and all of the treatments you need to keep your traveling body as young as your sexy mind.

superman escalatorRadiating Flights

Earth’s atmosphere protects us from solar, stellar, and magnetic radiation from the cosmos and is less dense the further we get from the surface. The logic goes that the higher up we are, the more radiation we are exposed to, damaging our cells and ultimately aging our bodies. A study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AGOC) on pregnant women found that while flying does expose us to more radiation than at sea level, an average high-dose flight only exposes a human body to 15% of the maximum dosage for a 24 hour period.

  • Calculate Your Recent Inflight Radiation Exposure – Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommend very frequent flyers and flight crew be aware of the amount of ionizing radiation they’re being exposed to. The FAA has a free tool you can use to estimate your exposure over a given time.
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The same study by the AGOC also found that levels of radiation increase to potentially dangerous amounts during some solar-energetic particle events. Travelers, especially pregnant women should monitor the Space Weather Prediction Alerts website.

Stressing On Altitude

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Flying at high altitudes means less oxygen inside pressurized cabins – a travel technology originally designed for war – which increases oxidative stress in the human body the Journal of Nature found. The effects were measured on athletes training at moderate altitudes of 915 meters (~3,000 feet) for 2 weeks. Although there was a measurable increase in free radicals, the test subjects who were given antioxidants were less effected.

Researchers of the study concluded that pilots, flight attendants, and frequent business travelers who spend extend periods in the air may be adversely affected by increased oxidation and should consider consuming produce high in the vitamins A, B, C, E and Z. To further combat the stress of jet lag on your body, be sure to shift your mealtimes 24 hours in advance of crossing timezones.

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Researchers at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that those who took flights of 4 hours or more were more than 3 times likely to develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT). One effective (and fun) way to prevent DVT is by consuming small amounts of red wine while staying physically active at least for 5-10 minute per 2 hours of flight time.

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Remember to also wear stylishly loose socks and pants so you’re not restricting blood flow further to your lower parts – a fashion choice that could also save your life in a plane crash.

Back To Sea Level Basics

It might by now seem like every flight is trying to kill you but all you need is a bit of exercise, sleep, and wine to prevent the aging effects of flying in the sky like a jelly bird. The biggest – most common – worry is one we deal with everyday: bacteria. Your chances of getting ill after a flight or two increase due to being confined in close quarters with other people, not because of circulated air. Avoid the dirtiest seats on the airplane, wash your hands frequently, and keep your internal alarm clock hydrated to prevent traveler’s constipation.

I published a slightly aged version of this post originally back in 2008.