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Vacationing Abroad? Want To Keep Fit? Read This!

The fitness centre at the Casa Velas Hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Are you visiting a foreign country this summer or fall? If so, you’ve probably got a lot of things on your mind: languages, currencies, passports, maybe even vaccines and visas. The one thing you shouldn’t have to worry about is how to remain fit and healthy while abroad. So, how do you incorporate your exercise routine into another culture’s customs and routines?

If your hotel or lodging has a gym, you’re probably covered. But make sure to read instructions carefully before using new equipment, and pause to take a walk around the gym before jumping on any one piece of equipment right away. The equipment in hotel gyms isn’t serviced as frequently as the equipment you’re used to, so look for “out of order” signs or other warnings. Don’t be shy about telling hotel staff if a piece of equipment isn’t working properly — you could be preventing someone else’s injury later on. Also, respect other guests’ lineups. They’re on a schedule just like you.

This guide to running in foreign countries from Map My Fitness is a great primer for exercising overseas in general. It includes basic tips like not wearing logo merchandise, not using flashy technologies like smartphones or iPods, and alerting hosts and concierges that you’re heading out as well as when you plan to be back. Runners in particular should be wary of being out alone, and consider carrying small amounts of cash and a card with hotel or lodging address on it in case they become lost.

if you’re stuck in a hotel room or other space without access to a gym, regular good old callisthenics can help you stay fit. Things like push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, and jumping rope can keep you moving during a time when you’re more likely to be eating restaurant meals that are high in sugar, fat, and salt.

One of the best ways to get some exercise while abroad is to walk to the majority of your destinations. Just keep a steady pace. You’ll burn fewer calories, but the longer you walk the more they add up. Some cities also encourage bike rental, so you can pedal your way to your next destination. The EuroVelo network of bicycle routes across and throughout Europe even allows cyclists to ride great distances, like along ancient pilgrimage routes or between capitol cities. And, as travel expert Rick Steves points out riding a bicycle can bridge gaps in cultural understanding that you can’t cross with language.

However you choose to stay active while traveling, remember that you are a guest in another country. The customs (and the weight machines) may be different, but good sportsmanship is universal. So go ahead, and get into a beach volleyball game, or find a walking tour, or rent a bike. Play hard, play fair, have fun, and make new friends!