How to stay fit while travelling

I returned looking several pounds lighter after a hectic, week-long exploration of London, the English countryside and dreamy Paris. ‘Hectic’ is obviously the key word here but travel doesn’t have to make you pile on the kilos, really. Food and indulgence is a major part of getting to know a new place and there’s no reason why you should have to give that up. I certainly don’t. But I can’t recall a single vacation that didn’t leave me looking more toned than I did before booking my tickets. Here’s how you can do it too.

1. Choose an active itinerary

A wanderer

Most people associate a relaxing vacation with a complete lack of activity but that doesn’t have to be the case every time. Walking is in fact the best way to truly get the feel of a city and stumble upon gems that might not have made it to maps and articles. Active holidays that involve trekking, rafting and other adventure sports can in fact leave you with a becoming glow and flatter abs. In Paris, I’d walk miles and miles everyday while shuttling between neighbourhoods and by the end of my trip, I found that my jeans sat better on my waist and the flab around my belly had disappeared.

2. Make intelligent eating choices

Now that's a breakfast you don't have to say no to!
Now that’s a breakfast you don’t have to say no to!

I love trying the local food and walking into fine dining restaurants or local establishments can mean trying out a battery of dishes during the course of your meal. But here, take a leaf out of the book of the French and practise portion control. Try everything, but eat more of the lighter foods (salads, soups, grilled meat, fruit) and very less of the heavier stuff (fried foods, rich gravies, desserts, bread). Also, if you’re having a lavish lunch, try to have a meagre dinner and vice versa. As long as you’re not feasting at every meal, you should be fine. Breakfasts are usually at the hotel you’re staying at and that brings me to the next point.

3. Buffets can be your best friend

A salad buffet is a good reason to binge
A salad buffet is a good reason to binge

Buffets can look daunting to a weight watcher, what with the sheer variety of dishes on offer but I’ve always found them to be a great tool for eating healthy and feeling satisfied at the same time. Breakfast buffets often have an excellent array of fruits, yoghurt and cheeses on offer – binge on all of these. You can also have eggs any way you like as long as you skip the toast or have just one piece. Avoid the processed meats and baked goodies. But usually, I have fruits, yoghurt and a muffin for breakfast and I find that I can burn it off in no time. Don’t go back for seconds; instead linger over juice and coffee and you’ll feel great.

4. Carry walking/running shoes

Running shoes

How many times have the lack of walking shoes served as a convenient excuse not to walk? Make sure you carry a pair of sturdy sports shoes and use them to go for rejuvenating morning walks. Not only will you burn some much needed calories, you’ll also get a beautiful view of the town you’re staying in and the morning quiet is ideal food for your soul. I for one, love waking early while holidaying – and you can always reserve night-time partying for the last leg of the trip.

5. Utilise the hotel gym

The fitness centre
Look beyond those couches please!

All you need to do while packing is throw in one pair of gym wear and sports shoes. Now you’re all set to use those inviting fitness centres at luxury resorts and five star hotels. Imagine all the adrenaline that will rev you up when you sweat it out on a treadmill or stepping machine. Feel free to reward yourself with one extra goodie at breakfast.

6. Always carry water

The cherub at Lilau Square's fountain, Macau
You can’t always rely on a water fountain

Staying hydrated is a cardinal rule of fitness and it’s imperative if you want to get through all that walking and trekking without collapsing in a heap. If you’re travelling in a remote place, make sure you carry your own bottle of water wherever you go. And pre-filling a bottle with complimentary water from your hotel is always cheaper than purchasing several on the go.

7. Don’t let alcohol ruin your trip

Jyran Tandoor Dining and Lounge at Sofitel, Mumbai
Santa Cristina, a medium-bodied Tuscan wine

There are some travel experiences that are simply incomplete without a glass of wine or your favourite spirit. But when drinking, pace yourself out, supplement it with healthy snacks and stop short of being completely sloshed. Else, you’ll end up with a hangover and headache the day after and there goes your carefully prepared itinerary.

8. Devise a yoga-based / basic workout you can do anywhere

A woman practises tai chi at Lou Lim Ioc Garden in Macau
A woman practises tai chi at Lou Lim Ioc Garden in Macau

I love a good 30 minute indoor workout which includes stretches, crunches, lunges, squats, push-ups, sit-ups, spot jogging, skipping and my favourite yoga poses. You can even cut it down to fifteen minutes if you’re short on time but these are exercises you can do just about anywhere – even within the confines of a smallish room. Alternatively, switch to a music channel on the television and dance your sins away.

9. Buy your own food

Shopping cart
That shopping cart is your ticket to fitness

If you’re having an extended vacation, consider buying your own food from the local supermarket at least for one major meal in a day. When I was in London, I was on a shoestring budget and often ended up dining on bread, cheese and bananas purchased from the ubiquitous Tesco supermarket. Not only did I save money, I also saved on calories and unhealthy junk food. In Paris, I routinely dined on mouthwatering nectarines. Fruits might be expensive but they are worth every penny.

10. Practise breathing exercises when in the mountains


This is for asthmatics and those who have trouble coping with high altitudes. Learn a few deep breathing exercises and perform them every morning when you wake up. The ancient Indian disciple of pranayama has multifarious health benefits. You can try taking long and slow breaths through your belly, breathing alternatively through each nostril and inhaling through your mouth and exhaling through your nose.

Staying fit while travelling is not just about weight control; it’s also about avoiding problems with your digestion and breathing. And if you make frequent activity and healthy eating a way of life, travel will help you attain your fitness goals faster.

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