How to stay healthy while traveling

Fitness experts and frequent travelers share their tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle while on the road.

Don't ditch your fitness regime just because you're traveling. Image credit: PeopleImages/iStock
Don’t ditch your fitness regime just because you’re traveling. Image credit: PeopleImages/iStock

Are you constantly hopping on or off a plane or train for work and struggling to keep up your fitness regime?

Many business travelers are going through the same experience and have started putting their health first when it comes to making decisions on where to stay while away, with approximately 83 percent of corporate travelers considering fitness options when reserving accommodation, according to The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). 

It’s no surprise then, that most hotels cater to health-conscious travelers. But, with hotel chains like the Westin placing Pelotons in their suites, others boasting in-room gyms, and fitness brand Equinox launching its own hotel, why is it still so hard to stay healthy?

Long-haul flights, all-day business conferences, and navigating unfamiliar destinations are common hindrances to maintaining a health and fitness routine while on the road, with many travelers citing inadequate sleep, bad eating habits, and the general stress of traveling as the major negative side-effects of business travel.

If you need some encouragement and practical advice on how to stay fit while traveling, we’re here to help.

Exercise well

Staying healthy is well worth the effort, according to Jeremy Gordon, the co-founder of fitness app KinetiCoach.

Gordon, who has a military background, said he and his two co-founders came up with the idea for the custom workout app after military colleagues kept asking them for hotel room workouts when they traveled abroad.

“You don’t need a fancy gym to stay healthy, you need goals and guidance,” Gordon said.

He said tailored workouts that suit how you feel were much more beneficial than standard routines. Gordon suggested If you feel energetic, go for a strength and cardio workout, mixing weights with a run or a swim.

When you’re stressed or tired, opt for a low-key workout such as weightlifting, core work, or stretches to improve flexibility. Yoga and pilates make for easy hotel room workouts, or simply do exercises using your own body weight. 

A typical five-minute medium-intensity workout on KinetiCoach suggests doing reps and rounds of push-ups, jump switches, and situps. Lower-intensity workouts include reps of hollow rocks or rounds of 100 flutter kicks to build core strength. Jump switch lunges and squats are also recommended for hotel room workouts.

Getting out and exploring your destination on foot can also be a great way to get some exercise in, or ask the hotel concierge to recommend a running trail or hike close by.

Join a local running group to explore a new area. Image credit: alvarez/iStock
Join a local running group to explore a new area. Image credit: alvarez/iStock

Gordon said fitness shouldn’t stop once you’ve left your destination and recommends keeping the heart pumping while waiting for your flight.

“Stretch, take the stairs a few times or walk a few laps around the terminal while you’re waiting,” Gordon said.  

Sleep well

Former army scout Chris Castellano said he found it difficult to keep in top shape during his army career when he was sent to “austere environments” for work. 

“With no gyms around…(I) had to learn to improvise and adapt my fitness routine to stay in top shape,” he said.

“Later, when I was working in finance, I realized the similarities between staying fit while traveling in the military and while traveling for business.”

This led him to write a guide to keep fit while traveling and to establish website Fittest Travel to help others who were experiencing the same issues.

“The website covers what frequent travelers need to know about staying fit on the road – primarily how to find the best hotel gyms and travel workouts that are effective and adaptable for the obstacles that come with traveling,” he said.

Castellano said while exercise was important, sleep was one of the biggest factors to keeping healthy.

“Sleep should always be a priority,” he said.

“Experiment with what works for you but make sure you give yourself enough time to get a good night’s sleep.” 

Castellano said he liked to get at least seven hours’ sleep a night. 

Make sure you get enough sleep while traveling. Image credit: Moostocker/iStock
Make sure you get enough sleep while traveling. Image credit: Moostocker/iStock

After checking into your hotel, Castellano said you should make the room perfect for a good quality night’s sleep, such as dimming the lights, controlling the room temperature to suit your preferences, and doing exercise before hitting the hay. 

“I make the room dark and cold and I travel with an eye mask and headphones to listen to white noise,” he said. 

“If possible, do a quick and easy workout after arriving as it will help you to sleep.”

Eat well

Eating well goes hand-in-hand with exercise and a good night’s sleep, and while it’s hard to resist the rich continental breakfasts and open buffets at the hotel, it’s just as bad to skip the buffet entirely and overindulge on your next meal. 

Intellectual property consultant Kaitlin Mara travels frequently for business and leisure from her base in Geneva and said, as a vegan, she always needs a back-up plan for meals when traveling.

Mara said researching what food markets and grocery stores are near your hotel before you travel means you can buy healthy snacks or fresh food for meals to prepare ahead of time if choices are limited.

Visit local markets to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Image credit: anzeletti/iStock
Visit local markets to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Image credit: anzeletti/iStock

Mara said she always plans ahead for her trips to France, which she said is her most difficult travel destination food-wise. 

“Even vegetable dishes are often cooked in butter, and waiters and chefs can be resistant to making exceptions,” she said.

“A lot of vegans joke about having to survive on fries in France…(but) fruit and vegetables are easy enough to buy, and a salad or sandwich can easily be made even in an accommodation without a kitchen.” 

She also advised becoming culturally astute in places where being vegetarian or vegan aren’t well-known concepts. 

“For example, in Ethiopia ‘fasting’ means abstaining from all animal products,” she said. 

“While veganism may not be widely known, asking for ‘fasting food’ will be understood almost everywhere.”


Rachel Shue

Rachel is a freelance writer based in Barcelona, Spain and originally from Melbourne, Australia.