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How To Exercise While Traveling

You don't have to go from Mr. T to Mr. Blobby when you pack up the backpack! There are tried and tested ways to stay in shape while traveling...

Shorter Version

Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute

The problem

Traveling and fitness might not be the best of pals. While one’s trying to tempt you with bubbling Indian curries and lazy days on Greek beaches, the other is petitioning for an arduous gym sesh and some protein shake.

Adding to that is the way that travel can disrupt routines and rituals. But that’s kind of the point, right?

How to exercise while traveling

You don’t have to go from Mr. T to Mr. Blobby when you pack up the backpack! There are tried and tested ways to exercise while traveling. It might just be a case of shifting your priorities a little, thinking about what you want to do when you’re abroad, and assessing the lifestyle choices you make on the road.

Simple tweaks alone can help.

That could be something as small as swapping a stack of pancakes for some fruit and cereal at breakfast. And there are also bigger shifts underway in the travel industry that should make it even easier to stay healthy. You can join the cohorts of adventure travelers on the hiking trails, for example. You can set travel aims that will inevitably increase fitness. Or, you could take things slow and nurture a new routine as you go.

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Longer Version

Est. Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Where to start

Whether it’s pav bhaji in Jaipur, pad Thai in Bangkok, Belgian waffles drizzled with chocolate, or jalapeno-sizzling tacos in Mexico City, there are loads of meals that could expand the waistline and get you putting on the pounds while traveling. And that’s not even mentioning the health effects of upping the booze intake – they don’t call it the backpacker pub crawl for nothing!

But foodie temptations and libations aside, long-term travelers often encounter an even worse problem when trying to stay fit and exercise while traveling: The lack of a routine. Gone are those early-morning gym sessions. Forget those post-work runs. Say goodbye to your planned low-fat meal schedule.

This all adds up to a challenge. Just how do you expect to stay fit while on the road? Cue this in-the-know guide. It’s got tips and tricks and lifestyle pointers that have helped oodles of globetrotters stay ship shape and looking good while they hop from continent to continent.

Set challenging travel goals

Sail the Atlantic in a catamaran. Cross the Austrian Alps. Complete the Camino. Ski through the craggy Carpathians.

These might seem like travel experiences reserved for the glorified Victorian explorers of old, but they’re not.

Actually, boundary-breaking adventures like these are now more accessible than ever before and literally make you exercise while traveling. The global adventure tourism market is peaking at a wallet-fattening value of $586 billion annually. That means there should be plenty of outfitters ready to get you suited for kayak trips down the Amazon or pilgrimages up Mount Kilimanjaro!

Plan experiences that will push you

Instead of languishing by a poolside downing Pina Coladas, why not try something a little more outlandish? Trade sunbeds for cycling trips. Swap heavy lunches with hardcore treks. Just do something you wouldn’t have thought of before. But be sure to make it something that pushes your energy levels, burns calories, and pumps those muscles.

It should be a cinch to plan this sort of adventure. Stats show that as many as 86% of traveling millennials now prioritize experiences over everything else. That means there’s less of a focus on kicking it with a cold one, more of a focus on ziplining, canyoneering, rafting, and kayaking. And there are more tour operators about to help you get it done!

Give your travel some routine

It’s been estimated that a mere 40% of us manage to stick to previous fitness regimes when we head off on long-term travel. That’s less than half managing to hit the treadmill. Okay, lots of those calories will be burned lugging a backpack, but that’s hardly a substitute.

It is much better to plan some sort of traveling where you can keep that routine in place. These days, slow travel is booming. It means taking your time to see places. No quick in-and-out visits to blast the Lonely Planet hotspots. Instead, monthly rentals and getting to know the locals is key. That also means you should have extra time to squeeze in morning runs and whatnot.

Get up early

You can do nothing without the day to do it in. Many a traveler has wasted fine sunsets, perfect yoga mornings, and beautiful hiking adventures to lazing around. Even the most ardent night owls should try to shift their patterns to make the most of the early hours. I was one – and now I’m typing this while gazing at the 6 am mists roll off the Sri Lankan mountains!

Never forget the mental health

Healthy mind, healthy body – so the mantra goes. Just as important as your physical health is your mental wellbeing. You’ll need to keep tabs on that as you travel. Even if you consider yourself to be someone who would never suffer from non-physical complaints, the very disruptive nature of travel can often have a surprising effect. So when you exercise while traveling, make sure to add a mental health check-in to your routine as well.

Be sure to ground yourself wherever you are, and never lose sight of the bigger picture.

Counter homesickness by staying in touch with family and embracing as many new experiences as you can. Keep reading and try not to drink too much too often – that’s sure to throw your brainwaves out of sync!

Actionable Steps


Plan your travels differently

Travel doesn’t have to be about swim-up cocktail bars and late nights on the beach. It can also be about real adventure. Treks, kayaking excursions, whitewater rafting, surf trips – globetrotting and keeping fit can now be one and the same.


Consider slow travel to build routines

If it’s the loss of a routine that means you start skipping the gym, then why not make a new routine on the road? Slow travel is all about taking it…well, slow. Spend months somewhere rather than days. You’ll end up feeling like a local, and you’ll have the added bonus of a regular life pattern that makes it easier to stay healthy.


Get up early

Go to sleep early; rise early. Not only will doing that give you the whole day to adventure, explore, and exercise, but it will also (sometimes) keep you from hitting the bars the night before!


Don’t lose sight of your mental health

New environments, smells, people, tastes, sights, every day, all the time – sounds fun, eh? Well, it’s also hard to keep up with sometimes. It can throw mental challenges your way. Just be sure to keep in check with your brain as well as your body; it’s the best foundation for physical fitness.

About the Author

Rich Francis

Rich Francis

Endless Traveler

Since bagging his English and Ancient History degree, Rich has traveled from the canyons of Mexico to the surf-splashed bays of Bali, done five interrails, toured India, Indonesia, Thailand, and New Zealand, hiked in Italy and France, skied across the Alps, and lived in countless countries for a month or more at a time. Now at five continents and upwards of 50 countries (gaining a TEFL certification along the way), it’s safe to say he is a seasoned traveler.
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