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Travel: Find time for fitness
Taking a trip? Don't leave home without your commitment to stay fit.
One of the biggest reasons for a vacation is to leave your everyday routines behind. But there's one routine that you shouldn't abandon—exercise. Even if you're traveling for business, staying active can improve your trip. It can give you extra energy and relieve stress. And though you may not keep up the same level of exercise you do at home, it can make it easier to resume your regular routine when your trip is over.
"It takes discipline to stay fit when you're traveling," says Leonard Kaminsky, PhD, a member of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). "But the benefits are well worth it."
On your way
Whether you're traveling by plane, train or automobile, you can find a way to get a bit of exercise before you even reach your destination:
If you'll be flying, plan ahead by reserving an aisle seat so you can get up easily and stretch. Better yet, walk to the end of the plane and back. The important thing is to move around, Dr. Kaminsky says. If you have a layover, spend some of it walking.
On a train, take advantage of the space between the cars to stretch or do some deep knee bends.
If you're driving, stop every two or three hours in a park or rest area. Walk briskly or even do some pushups against a picnic bench. Stretch your shoulders, back and legs. And when you stop to eat, park at the far end of the lot and walk.
At your destination
If you'll be staying in a hotel or motel, try to get one with an exercise room. And don't count on a website description of their facility, Dr. Kaminsky says.
"Call the hotel, and ask what they actually have," he says. Choose one with a variety of up-to-date equipment. If your hotel doesn't have a gym, ask at the desk if a health club is nearby—it may even offer a discount to hotel guests. Your hotel concierge should also be able to point you to nearby city parks or walking trails.
Be sure to pack workout clothes, good walking shoes and other easily portable exercise gear, such as a jump rope.
Also, take advantage of your hotel pool. If it's a small pool, try walking or jogging back and forth in chest- or waist-deep water. If you're a YWCA or YMCA member, you may be able to get in a swim at a local facility.
Sneak in exercise throughout your trip by taking stairs instead of elevators and walking wherever you can—for a tour of the city, to restaurants and museums, or with co-workers during meetings instead of having everyone sit in a conference room.
And don't forget about stretching—it's easy to do anywhere, and doing it consistently will keep you flexible, Dr. Kaminsky says. Do simple stretching after meetings, when you get back to your hotel or any other time you have a few minutes to spare.
Don't leave home without it
If your activity level drops while you're traveling, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll get out of shape. Even a week off from exercise training won't significantly reduce your fitness level, according to the ACSM.
But it's always best to stay as active as you can.
"Exercise should be part of your lifestyle," Dr. Kaminsky says. "Taking a trip doesn't have to mean leaving it behind."