Pass your vacation fitness test this summer

Going on vacation can be relaxing for you and your family. But depending on what you do, it can also involve lots of activity. Hiking, watersports, even a long day at a theme park can be a good test of your fitness.  My Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week is about how an upcoming vacation is a good reason to get in shape.


Vacations are a great chance to get away, relax, and recuperate. They also present an opportunity to be active through hiking, cycling and many other pursuits. But even sightseeing and visiting theme parks can require far more activity than many people are accustomed to. In fact, many vacation activities are a good test of your fitness.

Unfortunately, many people find out the hard way—sore feet and achy legs, for example—that they weren’t prepared for this level of activity. The good news is that regular exercise can prepare you for your next vacation so you can focus on having fun, not your tired body.

There is good reason to choose an active vacation. Spending time outdoors can reduce stress and walking on the beach or snorkeling in the ocean seems like fun, not exercise. The end result is that being active on your vacation adds to the restorative effect of taking time away from your usual routine.

In one study people who had a physically active vacation reported that they felt mentally and physically fitter, felt more balanced and relaxed, could concentrate better during work, were in a better mood, and felt more recuperated than those who took it easy.

Even if you don’t choose a vacation to participate in a specific exercise you will likely spend time being active. Most vacation destinations are selected in part because there are interesting sights to see or are easy to get around without a car. This means you will be on your feet a lot more than usual.

Think about a family trip to Disney World. It is not uncommon for people to be on their feet for 12 hours and walk 10–15 miles in a single day. Most people don’t do that much walking in a typical week! This can lead to blisters, muscle soreness, and fatigue, limiting what you can do and, at the very least, making your time less enjoyable.

Since regular exercise promotes endurance and strength, being fit can make it easier to get through long days on vacation. If you spend much of your time sitting at work and home, visiting a museum or standing in long lines at a theme park can be daunting.

But if you spend more of your day up and moving you will have an easier time in these situations. A whole day walking around sightseeing can be exhausting, but less so if you are accustomed to taking long walks. That isn’t to say that you should walk for 10 hours each day, but regularly walking or do other activity for over an hour will help.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for your next active vacation. You should limit sitting and spend more time standing and moving around at work and at home. This will help you get ready for long days on your feet.

Dedicating 30 minutes each day to being active will build endurance, and you can get bigger benefits from doing more. If your vacation will include vigorous exercise, building strength through resistance training and flexibility through stretching or yoga can help you avoid injury.

Your goal should be enjoy your vacation and the extra activity it will likely include. In addition to the numerous other health benefits, improving your fitness through regular physical activity will help you appreciate your vacation time more with less stress, meaning you can return home relaxed and ready to take on your usual routine.

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