According to a recent study conducted by travel website Expedia®, 53% of Americans think it is important to exercise while traveling. And honestly, there is some darn convincing, scientifically substantiated reasons why you shouldn’t skip a single workout, let alone a week or two of them. Skipping just over a week’s worth of workouts can result in a decrease in VO2max, how much oxygen you can utilize during intense exercise, of 7%. Magnetic Resonance Imaging has shown that even a short-term hiatus from exercising can have some significant effects on the cerebrovascular system, specifically in regards to hippocampal blood flow, and can negatively influence cognitive function. Even more importantly, skipping exercise affects motivation. The hardest thing about exercising is getting started; as study after study has shown, the longer the periods between exercise sessions, the less inspired one is to “just do it”. Finding ways to sneak in a workout while traveling is part of a healthy lifestyle.
The key to continuing to progress towards your health and fitness goals while traveling is planning. We’ve all been there (or maybe not): the hotel says it has a “fully-stocked” gym, only to get there and see that “fully-stocked” means a broken treadmill, a worn-down Nautilus® machine, and a couple of resistance bands within a stretch of their life. While your hotel room is adequate for some push-up variations, there is no better way to experience an unfamiliar municipality than by getting your heart rate up in one of its green spaces. While you are probing Mr. Google for the best place to stock your hotel mini fridge, get some info on the closest playgrounds. This is your chance to be creative, integrate some variety into your routine, and probably get yourself all kinds of social media love as onlookers reach for their phone to cast video of the superhero showing the neighborhood kids how to really use those still rings.
The benefits of exercising outdoors aren’t limited to getting your daily dose of vitamin D. Research has found that “green exercise” beats the friendly confines of your local gym in several ways. While you may think the wall-to-wall mirrors at the gym provide all the inspiration you need, research has shown that when you exercise outside, you tend to push yourself harder and have lower levels of perceived exertion. Those who make it a habit of taking their workout to the streets show higher levels of enthusiasm, energy, and vitality. And overall, those who try “green exercise” are more likely to make exercise a part of their daily life. There is nothing more revitalizing, to both your travel experience and your exercise regime, than getting in a great workout in a natural environment in some totally new (to you) place.
Without access to plates and dumbbells, the name of the game is intensity: high intensity. As recent research has shown, not only is high intensity interval training (HIIT) one of the best ways to improve overall conditioning, but it is significantly more effective at inducing gene transcription than other modes of exercise; it’s the closest thing to a sweaty fountain of youth that exercise science has found yet. Keep the intensity up and the rest periods short. It’s also time to get back to basics; running, push-ups, pull-ups, squats. Functional training mimics real-world activities and will help build the type of strength and conditioning you need in everyday life. For those who haven’t hit BarStarzz status yet, figuring out how to best utilize those monkey bars and park benches to get your heart rate up is probably a little intimidating. Luckily, the digital age has provided us free access to endless workouts and some of the world’s best trainers in the palm of our hand. While I’m certainly not the biggest advocate of bringing your smart devices to your workout, this is an instance where Dr. Rodriguez would prescribe some YouTube. Place the phone on a bench and get to work.
For optimal health, exercise has to become a part of your daily routine, even if today’s routine is taking place in uncharted territory without a gym in sight. Take your healthy lifestyle on the road by planning ahead, finding an inviting green space, and ratcheting up the intensity with the help of some digital resources.
Dr. Damian Rodriguez is the health and exercise scientist for doTERRA International, LLC. He holds a doctorate in health science, a master’s degree in exercise physiology, and countless professional certifications. He has spent most of his life researching nutrition, exercise, and the lifestyle behaviors associated with optimal health. Along with his passion for health, as someone who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is also involved in bringing awareness to autism spectrum disorders. There are varying opinions about many health and fitness topics. His opinions are his own and not necessarily that of doTERRA International, LLC. Consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to diet and exercise.