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How to Stay Healthy While Traveling Long Term

If you are a digital nomad like myself or have done any type of long-term traveling you probably know staying fit and healthy while traveling can be difficult.

One of my friends here in Valencia is still working hard to get back in shape and lose the weight she gained while traveling across South-East Asia.

But it’s not so much weight loss or just healthy eating I want to focus on here. I want to address your overall physical health which is affected when traveling.

Whether it’s from carrying around backpacks for months on end or from working on your laptop at local cafés with uncomfortable chairs that hurt your back. Or just from sleeping on bad mattresses.

And what about your exercise routine? Apart from when I lived in St Maarten where I went diving six days per week as part of my job, I know that it normally takes me a while before I get into a good exercise routine.

I recently spent a month working from Medellin, Colombia, where I shared a house with Melissa, a physical therapist from the USA.

One evening we met up with a group of digital nomads and ended up talking about backaches, knee injuries, and other discomforts while traveling. This is when I realized that it really is harder to stay healthy while traveling, and especially when traveling regularly or long term.

So after spending a month with Melissa, receiving so many tips about how to stay fit, prevent backaches, and improve my posture, I asked her if she would like to put some of her tips in writing.

And this is the result: 5 practical tips on how to stay healthy during long term travel.

It is much easier to get into health routines when your life is stable. Things get more complicated when your life involves a lot of travel, hotel stays, quick meals, etc.

Here are some things you can do to stay healthy and keep your body in good shape while you are traveling.

You’ll have more energy, a better mood, and you’ll be smarter (yes really, I’ll explain why below)!

Start planning your potential health habit challenges before your trip.

Reschedule your workouts so the travel day is your rest day. Try to work in a walk once you arrive. Wiggle on the plane! Doing ankle pumps or simple stretching exercises can help promote blood flow and help you feel a little less stiff once you arrive.

Look up fitness centers near your destination. Many smaller, privately owned fitness centers offer day passes or short term memberships.

A solid workout routine should include moderate-intensity cardiovascular training most days per week, strength training for major muscle groups 2-3 days per week, and flexibility exercises intermittently.

You can do it! Planning your workouts ahead of time will help you stay healthy while traveling.

Deal With Your Luggage the Right Way!

Bending, carrying, and lifting injuries are often a result of habitual movements, rather than one specific event.

If you are anything like me, you have spent some time sitting on your suitcase to get the zipper closed. Someone has to lug that suitcase across the airport and heave it into the trunk! At 49.9lb (22.6kg for my non-US friends), this is no small feat.

This article from OrthoInfo about how to lift and carry luggage the right way is a useful read.

Try to use big muscles to complete big tasks, i.e. bend your knees and use your legs to power lift. If you can’t stand up straight with a bag on your shoulder, it’s probably too heavy.

Nobody wants to deal with back pain instead of enjoying their travel experience, so be mindful about how you lift and carry things!

It’s easy to lose motivation to be active when you spend a few days sitting around. Keeping up with being active is a lot easier than starting a new workout program after time off.

Building exercise into your travel can be as simple as walking to your destinations instead of driving.

If you are traveling for work (or living the digital nomad lifestyle) and spending a lot of time at your computer, try doing a workout in the middle of the day. It’s a nice way to put the stressors of the morning behind you and you can approach the work ahead of you with new energy.

Add some stretches or at least position changes into your sitting work every 20-30 minutes. Healthline has a nice list of stretches you can do at work (or at that coffee shop you are working from).

If your travel plans involve a lot of walking, try doing a yoga routine in the afternoon, before heading for the cocktail lounge.