You’re travelling in a car from the airport to your destination. Your beautiful surroundings go unnoticed because you spend your drive consumed by neck pain, thanks to your snooze on the flight. Upon arrival, you haul your tightly-stuffed backpack and immediately regret it, as the weight trails from your shoulders to your lower back. Lugging the suitcase at an angle does your arms no favours either. Before you reach your destination, you have already marred your enjoyment (and body).
Ergonomic travelling is hardly ever made a priority. Constant travel can deteriorate your physiological health if proper precautions are not taken. Social media-fuelled wanderlust has turned everyone into a traveller, especially the millennial generation. Unfortunately, not many young travellers pay attention to the items they are carrying and end up sabotaging their own health for their passion. Mehak Sharma is a 28-year-old travelling physiotherapist, who explains to OT the diminishing health of millennials due to poor physical practices. “All my patients used to be 50-60 years old," she says. "Now, 90% of them are 20-25 years of age because their posture is so bad." She points out that these travellers tend to overfill their luggage. "They should go for good quality luggage. There should be proportionate weight on both your shoulders. And pick a good trolley. Don’t fall for online discounts. Go and check out the products yourself".
What is ergonomics?
Ergonomics refers to the inclusion of anatomy and physiology in the process of designing, so as to ensure the product is optimised for human use. In simple terms, the needs of your body dictates the design and features of a product. It is also referred to as human factors engineering.
How is ergonomics related to travel?
While ergonomics is typically focussed around work-related products, the past few years has also seen a rise in ergonomically engineered products for travel purposes. Suitcases, backpacks, pillows have all been redesigned to ensure maximisation of efficiency while avoiding physical harm.
Additionally, travellers often tend to work on the go. Laptops and cameras have also been given ergonomic designs and add-on products that help a person work effectively.
What products should you use?
The market for travel products is endless. There are many basic products that can help you maintain posture during your travels.
Neck pillows: While the effects of neck pillows have been public for a while, there are still many that consider it a meaningless tchotchke. In fact, they are great accessories to support your neck and head when you are in a seated position. If you plan to sleep on an airplane, this will help you avoid neck pain. Its support is also helpful while experiencing sudden bumps during travel.
Butterfly pillows: These pillows are often seen in taxis on the driver’s seat, wedged between the headrest and backrest. Long drives may not allow you to maintain a healthy posture for many hours. These pillows align the neck and shoulder, reducing strain on them. They also keep your posture intact for several hours, which in turn allows easy breathing.
Lumbar back support: Backaches have become quite common due to poor physical health. Tedious journeys—more often than not—add to the misery. A lumbar back support is essential to keep your lower back aligned. The curve of the cushion is designed to fit to one’s back and allow for relaxation. Any hard surface can be the supporting surface for the product, including airplane or car seats, walls, chairs and sofas.
Suitcases: The cornerstone of travel is surely the suitcase. A badly constructed suitcase will not only affect your wrists and arms, but also your shoulders and back. Invest in one that has 360-degrees-wheels. These will allow you to transport the weight without burdening your shoulders.
Backpacks: Overfilling is the first thing to be corrected. Backpacks and hand luggage is meant to hold your essentials. Stick to that rule. Additionally, do not fawn over looks. Pay attention to the straps and ensure you have shoulder pads. Thin strings will affect your back. The damage may not be immediately evident. But over the course of days or years, you could fall into a trap of irreversible harm.
What are some health tips to follow?
While ergonomics are important as far as products are concerned, general health is dependent on the person’s habits. Mehak advises, “ Keep yourself hydrated. I’ve been on a trip for the last three days and I’m doing my workouts in the room. Something that you can do easily. You don’t have to be dependable on external factors. Simple things like carrying a resistant band in your bag can help you stay active”.