Vacations are a wonderful opportunity to relax, unwind and escape from the daily grind. For many people, the “daily grind” includes a fitness routine of some sort, so a vacation might feel like a chance to let that slide. Taking a break from your regular gym routine can be beneficial: It provides an opportunity for recovery and allows muscle fatigue to dissipate. On the other hand, getting some vacation exercise can help you maintain your hard-earned fitness levels and energize your mind and body for all the exciting adventures (or relaxing endeavors) you have planned. 

You can incorporate exercise into just about any holiday without disrupting your vacation enjoyment. The key is to adapt your routine to fit the trip. Be flexible, both physically and mentally. 

Don’t Underestimate a Good Walk

Whether you’re exploring a European city or strolling down a beach boardwalk, many tourist destinations are navigable on foot. Walking is a great low-impact activity that totally counts as exercise, even if you’re having fun while doing it! If you can walk at a steady pace for 30 minutes a day, you can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. So, take advantage of your new surroundings by going for walks or jogs. Discover local parks, scenic trails or vibrant neighborhoods on foot. Walk along the beach with your morning coffee and look for shells. As long as you are moving, you’re technically getting the job done. 

Hotel Options

Many hotels have a decent gym accessible for guests, and it can be fun working out somewhere new for a change. (This is also really helpful if you’re staying near neighborhoods where walking/running outdoors may not be safe options.) Use the hotel’s machines for a quality strength-training session, jump on the ubiquitous treadmill or elliptical, stream a workout video or see if they have something new to try. (The last hotel I stayed in had a Peloton bike, so I was able to participate in my first spin “class” without having to shell out for my own bike or membership.)

For many people, the difficulty of taking advantage of a hotel’s amenities is remembering to make the time to do so. If you want to make a visit to the hotel gym part of your fitness routine, try to set a time each day that won’t interfere with other vacation activities, particularly if you’re traveling as part of a group. Typically, the best times to visit the gym are in the early morning or late afternoon, when everyone else is taking some downtime. 

Beach Vacation Perks

Aside from the cardio workout that comes from schlepping your gear down to the shore each day, the beach lends itself to a wide variety of fun physical activities that will definitely keep you fit. Walking in the sand is a great way to get your heart rate up, and will work different muscles than just walking on solid ground (your body needs to perform extra work to provide stability to your joints). Alternatively, swimming is one of the best full-body cardiovascular workouts, because it uses so many different muscle groups without any jarring impact on your bones and joints. If you’re not comfortable swimming in open water — it’s definitely an acquired taste — even playing in the water counts. 

Paddleboarding, kayaking and surfing are all excellent forms of beachy exercise, and many places offer gear rental for reasonable prices. On shore, you might be surprised by how much exercise you can get by engaging in popular beach games like Kan Jam, Ladder Ball, cornhole, volleyball or even just having a game of catch. 

Use What You’ve Got

If you’re someone who needs workouts to feel more structured to be satisfying, bodyweight exercises can be done just about anywhere and anytime. This encompasses any motion that utilizes your own body as resistance, such as squats, lunges, pushups and planks. Because you don’t need any equipment (although a mat might make things more comfortable), you can modify bodyweight exercise routines in a ton of different ways to accomplish different goals. 

For example, if you feel the need to really get your heart rate going, you could do a HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workout that could look like this:

    1. Warm-up: 2 minutes of jumping jacks or high knees
    2. 30 seconds of burpees followed by 30 seconds of rest
    3. 30 seconds of jump squats followed by 30 seconds of rest
    4. 30 seconds of mountain climbers followed by 30 seconds of rest
    5. 30 seconds of plank jacks followed by 30 seconds of rest
    6. 30 seconds of lunges followed by 30 seconds of rest
    7. Repeat steps 2-6 for a total of three rounds
    8. Cool down: 2-3 minutes of stretching

Alternatively, you could do what the website NerdFitness calls the 20-minute Hotel Room Workout (the link includes GIFs of each exercise): 

    • 20 bodyweight squats
    • 15 incline pushups
    • 10 one-arm luggage rows, both sides (using your suitcase as your weight)
    • 10 reverse crunches

If you’re at a loss for ideas, a Google search for “vacation workout ideas” reveals myriad resources with helpful instructions for bodyweight exercise routines, like this one from Planet Fitness.

Be Flexible

Don’t forget the benefits of stretching when you’re traveling. There’s nothing quite like a good stretch session after a long flight, or taking 10 minutes to do some Sun Salutations to wake up in the morning. An easy yoga flow routine can also help combat jet lag and help alleviate travel-related stress. 

Ultimately, how much exercise you get on vacation is a personal choice. The most important thing is to not be too hard on yourself if you spend the whole time lying on a lounge chair with a fruity beverage — self-care is multifaceted (wink wink).

Top image: Monkey Business Images, via

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