It’s vacation season, and for many that means visiting faraway friends, exploring new places and possibly even crossing some things of the ol’ bucket list.
Unfortunately, traveling often also means lots of sitting, interrupted sleep patterns due to time zone changes, unhealthy eating, and workout routines that are sporadic, if not nonexistent.
According to Denver physical therapist Dr. Patrick Donovan, however, travel doesn’t have to be synonymous with unhealthy habits and a lack of exercise.
“Vacations are a time to reboot mentally while reconnecting with friends and family, but this doesn’t have to happen at the expense of your health,” said Dr. Donovan, owner of Heather Lane Physical Therapy in Denver. “With just a little forethought and planning, you can stay active and healthy throughout your trip, whether it ‘s for a few days or a few weeks.”
So, for the purpose of planning, Dr. Donovan offers the following tips for staying fit and healthy while traveling:
Plan Around an Activity: Don’t just plan your vacation around a place. Consider making one or a series of activities central to your agenda. For instance, plan to go on a hiking tour, try snorkeling for the first time, or make vacation a family camping trip.
Keep Moving En Route: Whether you’re flying or driving, you’re going to likely do a lot of sitting and waiting on either end of your trip. So, capitalize on breaks in your trip to go for short walks – do some stretching, or warm the body through some dynamic exercises (i.e., lunges, light jogging, arm/leg swings, etc.)
Explore on Foot/Bike: Once you’re at your new destination, resolve to explore the area on foot, either by jogging a new route each morning or taking regular walking tours of the area. Or, see the local sites from the seat of a rented bike.
Strength Train Using Body Weight: Even though you’re likely to be in an unfamiliar place with little to no gym access, don’t let that keep you from exercise. Whether in your hotel room or at a local park, your body weight provides ideal resistance while doing lunges, dips, push-ups, planks, and so on.
Stay Hydrated: When you’re out of your element and distracted by new people and places, hydration habits can go awry. Carry a reusable water bottle with you at all times as a reminder to hydrate continually throughout the day, and consume sugary and/or alcoholic drinks in moderation.
Mind Your Diet: A disrupted or inconsistent schedule, coupled with a desire to try the local cuisine, can cause your good eating habits to go out the window. Continue to try new things, but do so with a plan. If you’re expecting a big dinner out one night, eat a lighter, healthier meal earlier in the day … and vice versa.
Don’t Skimp on Sleep: While you may be tempted to trade sleep for a few more hours of site-seeing, it’s not a trade worth making. Getting a good night’s sleep while on vacation will keep you more alert and active while improving the overall experience of your trip.
“And as you’re planning your trip, if you have any movement, discomfort or pain concerns that you feel may keep you from having a fun, relaxing time, visit a Physical Therapist before heading out,” said Dr. Donovan. “After a full assessment of the issue, a Physical Therapist can provide you with some treatment options and travel and/or exercise tips that can help you maximize your vacation’s enjoyment.”