Use Vacation Time To Put Some Fun In Staying Fit

Why It Matters:

  • Vacation is for relaxation, but too many sedentary days can mean a backslide in your fitness plan.
  • Finding an exercise that’s enjoyable – whether at home or on a trip – can keep you motivated to be physically active.
  • Balance vacation indulgences with fun activities to keep fitness in check.

American Heart Association tkc.profilePicture Written by: American Heart Association | Transamerica
Aug. 20, 2019

5 Min readClock Icon

Beautiful beaches, local sightseeing, and plenty of rest and relaxation may await you on a dream vacation. Physical activity can be part of the enjoyment, too. Modest workouts and active excursions will keep you moving and help avoid an overload of sedentary time while you’re away.

Here are four common-sense principles that can assist in staying physically active, even if you ease up a bit on your fitness routine during vacation, said Michael Joyner, MD, a professor of anesthesiology who researches exercise physiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

1. Avoid too many consecutive days without exercise

“Rule number one: Never miss a third day in a row,” Joyner said. Skipping a day or two in your regular exercise plan won’t hurt, but when inaction reaches a third day it can become a roadblock, Joyner said. “You just don’t want to get out of the habit.”

Prolonged periods of inactivity can have detrimental effects on the cardiorespiratory system; meanwhile, endurance training can reverse the effects of age-related decline, studies have shown.1,2 

Reducing workout time or changing activities based on your vacation surroundings is understandable, though activity is important. If you’re accustomed to regular running or walking, try a 15- or 30-minute exercise session rather than an hour.

Consider doing something as simple as using the stairs instead of the elevator at your hotel. Or, take time to walk or run along the beach. Try to walk or bicycle to area attractions rather than driving. Swim to stay active and have a great time.

2. Keep a simple, go-to exercise plan in mind

“Have a workout in your back pocket,” Joyner said. Thinking about an exercise session in advance helps you adapt if workout equipment or space is unavailable. Ask whether your hotel has a fitness center and use it as one of your exercise options.

A goal for vacation time should be to maintain your ongoing level of fitness and not slide backwards, Joyner said. Plus, physical activity can serve as a buffer against additional food and drink you may indulge in on the trip, he said.

3. Get moving first thing in the morning

Working out in the morning ensures it gets done and avoids the possibility that other vacation activities will crowd out exercise later in the day.

“Do it first thing, before the day catches up with you,” said Joyner, an exercise enthusiast who learned the tactic from a track coach friend when traveling together years ago. Completing a 30-minute run early in the day was their goal, and if they found time to do another one later in the day, that was even better.

Runners can check with the hotel concierge to see if there’s an organized group that heads out each morning or whether there are suggested local running routes. Whatever you do to get moving, view it as a way to “get tuned up for the day,” Joyner said.

4. Find a favorite activity

At home or away, identify a physical activity you have a good time doing and stick with it to keep motivation high, such as bicycling, tennis, weightlifting, or golf. If you golf, walk the course rather than riding in a cart, Joyner said.

Combining a variety of exercises and activities to work different muscle groups can keep you fit and strong and help you excel in a favorite sport over the long run, as many pro athletes know. It also can be a good option for those with arthritis or recovering from an injury.3

The main objective is to choose a level and type of activity that’s right for you.

On vacation, opportunities are plentiful, and your plans don’t have to be rigid. Hike in the mountains. Snorkel at the ocean. Walk to view monuments and museums in a city. Try focused workouts if your vacation takes you to a spa.

All of it contributes to movement and overall health – and vacation fun.

“Do something,” Joyner said. “Find something you like.”


Things to Consider:

  • Devote time early in the day for a regular workout or some type of physical activity.
  • Avoid going three consecutive days without physical activity to ensure you don’t get out of the habit of exercising.
  • Look for ways to be active and have fun on vacation, such as hiking or swimming.

This article was prepared by the American Heart Association (AHA). Transamerica is not affiliated with the AHA and does not control, guarantee, or endorse the information.


1A 30-year Follow-up of the Dallas Bed Rest and Training Study ,” Circulation, March 2018.

2For Aging Bodies, Endurance and Resistance Training Can Help ,” Healthline, December 2018.

3Cross Training,” WebMD, November 2018.

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