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Travel and Exercise…Can the Two Really Co-Exist?

Spring is upon us and that means Spring Break travel for lots of people and the ever-looming SUMMER vacations! Friends, family, and patients ask me all the time “how can I exercise when I travel?” For some, travel is not just something that happens seasonally or a few times a year but every month or EVERY WEEK if the job demands it. So, how can we be successful at planning for and actually FOLLOWING THROUGH with exercise when we travel? I hope to provide you with information that not only answers that question but also convinces you that yes, exercising while traveling for work or vacation is something you actually want to do!

First, let me address the benefits of exercising when you travel. Staying involved in an exercise routine when “on the road” can help us stay in our routine when at home. This is especially important if you frequently travel for work. Keeping as consistent of a routine as possible, whether you are at home or away, will help you adhere to an exercise program long-term. Exercise helps us make healthier food choices along with staying focused during business meetings, sleeping better while away from home, and meeting the recommended goal of 10,000 steps per day1.

Second, how can we successfully plan for exercise? Be realistic when setting your goal of how many times you will be able to exercise on your trip. The idea is to be successful, not end up feeling guilty because you did not meet your goal. If you will be away for 5-7 days, a realistic goal would be exercising 3-4 days during your trip. If your trip is shorter, say 2-4 days, set a goal of exercising 1-3 days while away. If you are traveling for business, look at the meeting agenda ahead of time and plan in your exercise sessions. Could you exercise at the hotel’s fitness center over your lunch break instead of waiting until after dinner? Does the gym you belong to at home partner with IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (www.ihrsa.org)? If so, you can find a gym at your destination that will allow you entrance to the facility for free or for a reduced-cost guest fee.

If on vacation, think about what activities you already have planned and set a reasonable goal for exercise for the week. No one wants to feel “scheduled” on vacation, so consider a mode of exercise that fits more into your plans; for example, a walking routine. Walking is a great way to experience a new city or the beach while on vacation and it can help you adhere to your goal of exercising, too. Encourage other members of your traveling party to exercise with you for added accountability and decide what time of day is best to exercise. Think outside the box of traditional exercises…does the resort or community you are visiting have tennis courts? Are there bikes available for rent to use on bike paths or the beach?

What if you do not have access to exercise equipment or a safe place to walk while on your trip? Here are a few ideas for exercising in your hotel room or living room while traveling. First, consider purchasing a resistance band to take along with you. Resistance bands are a great way to perform strength training (you can use them in place of dumbbells for most any exercise) and they are light weight! The resistance band is only going to weigh a few ounces so you do not have to worry about luggage weight (especially if you are flying). You can purchase resistance bands at several retail locations but I recommend purchasing from Power Systems (www.power-systems.com). Power Systems is located in Knoxville and they manufacture and sell all kinds of fitness equipment. The quality of equipment is top-notch and the customer service is great. In addition to resistance bands, Power Systems also has a small digest-size handbook for resistance training that provides pictures and descriptions of all different kinds of exercises to do with the resistance band. Again, it’s small and easy to carry in your luggage.

Of course, if purchasing a resistance band is not what you want to do, you can always incorporate push ups and chair squats into your travel routine. Both exercises are very functional, build strength, and do not require any equipment…just your own body weight! If performing push ups on your toes and hands on the floor is too difficult, consider modifying the exercise to make it fit your fitness level. Perform the push up on your knees and hands or consider putting your hands on a higher surface, like a counter top or desk, to make the push up even easier. The goal is to be able to perform 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions and be challenged when you do them, so find the modification that meets you at your fitness and strength level.

Chair squats consist of standing in front of a sturdy chair and squatting down until you barely touch your rear to the seat and then standing back up. The idea is to not sit all the way down, just far enough to touch the seat and then stand back up. The chair acts as a guide for the depth of your squat and is there in case you lose your balance but try to keep from sitting all the way down. Again, the goal is to perform 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions and be challenged while doing them.

Whether you are traveling for business or for pleasure, it IS possible to be successful at adhereing to your exercise routine. All it takes is a little planning and setting a reasonable goal. Remember to focus on staying hydrated while traveling, especially when you fly and planning healthy snacks and meals, too. Check back for Part 2 of this blog when our registered dietitian will be discussing meal planning strategies while traveling.

Rebecca Johnson, ACE-CPT

Exercise Physiologist

New Life Center for Bariatric Surgery

1. “10,000 Steps.” Shape Up America! Shape Up America!, 2006. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. http://www.shapeup.org/shape/steps.php.

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