Exercise while traveling can be difficult for multiple reasons. It’s not unusual for travelers to have a busy itinerary, be it for leisure or for work. As such, busy schedules can leave little time or motivation for exercise. Traveling can disrupt a person's normal routine, including eating and sleeping patterns, making it harder to find the motivation and energy to stay consistent with exercise and other aspects of your routine. It's important to stick to the habits you've set up, like working out at the same time every day in the morning or evening, for example.
Having a good sense of your schedule will help with this; however, there are times that fitting in a workout may not be possible. It's possible that donning a pair of running shoes and going for a walk or run may be the most convenient mode of exercise. Always be sure to do your research when doing this to make sure you are aware of any possible pitfalls or safety concerns while exploring. There are a number of good apps out there to help you plan your walking or running route. This can be a great way to explore the area that you are visiting. After a long haul flight or a full day in the office or a boardroom, exercise can be highly beneficial, aiding sleep, helping you manage your stress levels, and helping restore your energy levels.
According to Nike running coach David Coligado, jet leg and extended periods of travel on aircraft result in a reduction of oxygen delivery to the tissues of the body (Stinson, 2018). Therefore, exercise is an ideal mode in which to help with oxygen delivery to all of the body's systems, helping to reduce the feeling of fatigue that accompanies air travel. In 1987, a study at the University of Toronto found that exercise helped lessen the effects of jet lag as well. When scientists examined hamsters, their conclusions were that humans also had a positive outcome by incorporating exercise while experiencing jet lag (Stinson, 2018). This can be especially true if you exercise outdoors with exposure to sunlight, as it can help reset your circadian rhythms.
Access to a gym or other exercise facilities may be problematic on the road; to combat this, there are many small pieces of equipment that you can travel with to help you stay consistent on the road. Some of these may include bands, loops, a jumping rope, a travel roller, acupressure balls, or a pair of running shoes.
Packing a jump rope doesn't take much in terms of weight or space. Jumping rope can help improve cardiovascular fitness, increase muscular endurance, and establish rhythm. A study by Baker (2013) found that jumping rope is a highly effective form of cardiovascular exercise, and it can be effective with just a few minutes a day of skipping. The study found that after six weeks of daily 10-minute jump-rope sessions, participants demonstrated similar improvements to their cardiovascular health as those who jogged for 30 minutes a day. According to research, jumping rope at a moderate pace roughly equates to running an eight-minute mile. Plus, it burns more calories per minute and engages more muscles than swimming or rowing while still qualifying as a low-impact workout (Steele, 2018).
Body weight exercises can be a good tool for helping you with strength and conditioning.Squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks, in addition to a number of other exercises, can be altered to suit various time parameters and be effective in helping you stay consistent with your exercise routine. Partaking in local classes like yoga in the park or other activities of interest may be another good option while on the go; they can require minimal equipment and help you meet new people in your travels.
For those that require a bit more challenge or are rehabbing specific areas, flat bands and large and small loops can be a lightweight option that is ideal for travel. Banded exercises (see guide) are a lightweight and easy way to add some resistance or more, depending on which bands you use. They can be incorporated with any number of exercises and provide the option of targeting muscles from different angles by using furniture to anchor them. Small loops are a wonderful way to assist with exercises like pushups or provide resistance for glute, hip, and shoulder exercises. If you are looking for ideas of how to incorporate bands into your routine, please check out our Resistance Band Exercise Booklet; all of these exercises can be adapted for large loops and flat bands.
If balance is one of your training goals, using spare blankets or towels in your hotel room or in your accommodations can add a challenge beyond single leg exercises performed on the flat. Adding elements like changing your head position, standing on your tiptoes, or closing your eyes, if it is safe to do so, may also increase the level of difficulty in your training.
The travel roller can be a great tool for recovery from all forms of exercise, including running, body weight exercises, banded exercises, and skipping. It's compact, so it will fit in any suitcase, and is hollow, so you can store bands, balls, or a skipping rope inside. This is a wonderful piece of equipment as it allows for recovery after a long day at the office while you are on your feet, a day of sight-seeing, or after a workout on the go. If you don't have enough space for a roller, a wave tool can also be a great option as it is made from a durable fiberglass/nylon composite, ensuring it will survive the rigors of travel and being compact enough to fit in a carry on.
Acupressure balls can be a good adjunct as they provide versatility for areas of focus and typically have a variety of different resistance to provide the appropriate type of input to different trigger points. To use them you place the ball over an area of tension being mindful not to harm delicate areas like the neck, armpit or groin and gradually apply body weight or pressure. Focus on your breath while maintaining pressure, you do not have to apply pressure to the point of pain to achieve results. Once a sense of release is achieved move the ball to another region of tension and repeat as desired.
To stay healthy and fit while traveling for work or fun, it's important to keep up your normal habits of getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. Exercise is an important part of living a healthy life, and you should make it a priority even when you're traveling. Regular exercise can help reduce stress levels, boost energy, and improve overall well-being. Whether it's a quick workout in the hotel gym or your room, a morning run in a new city, or a yoga session in a local park, there are plenty of ways to stay active while traveling. By making exercise a part of their daily routine, travelers can ensure that they stay healthy and energized throughout their trip, allowing them to make the most of their travel experience. So, it's important to pack your workout gear, incorporate exercise into your schedule, and make fitness a priority while on the go.
Baker, A. (2013) Comparison of Rope Skipping and Jogging as Methods of Improving Cardiovascular Efficiency in College Men, Research Quarterly. American Association of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. 240–243.https://doi.org/10.1080/10671188.1968.10618043
Stinson (2018, July 12). The Best Way to Beat Jet Lag Isn’t to Sleep It Off, so Get Out of Bed and Try This Instead. Retrieved March 2, 2023, from https://www.elitedaily.com/p/can-exercise-help-jet-lag-heres-why-you-should-work-out-instead-of-sleeping-it-off-9744397
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