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According to a recent study by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, those who travel for business two weeks or more per month have a higher body mass index, higher rates of obesity and poorer self-rated health than those who travel less often.  The study released Friday by Andrew G. Rundel, DrPH and Catherine A. Richards, MPH, draws data from medical records of over 13,000 employees involved in a corporate wellness program provided by EHE International.  A full breakdown of the findings can be found online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Light travelers (those who traveled between one and six nights per month) actually scored the best on health measures, while employees who did not travel at all were 60% more likely than light travelers to rate their health as fair to poor and had a mean body mass index of 26.7 kg/m2.  Researchers suggest that this statistic may reflect the fact that employees in poor health are less likely to travel.

The authors note that one probable cause of obesity in business travelers is the long hours spent sitting in automobiles.  While air travel accounted for just 16% of business travel, driving personal automobiles accounted for 81%.  The authors believe that extended time in an automobile often leads to poor food choices.

The report states, Whether travel is by car or plane, it essentially represents increased sedentary time and represents reduced overall time for physical activity.  In addition, overnight stays in hotels may interrupt exercise schedules.

The results generally confirmed what frequent travelers already knew.  When asked how they felt about their overall health, frequent travelers were 260% more likely to rate it fair to poor.  Dr. Andrew Rundle recommends that companies offer education programs and strategies for employees to improve diet and activity while traveling.

The study does note that researchers did not have data on income levels or personality types - two factors that could affect the differences in obesity and other health issues.