How? By staying active on your getaway. Research finds that incorporating fitness into your vacation does more than just cancel out those hedonistic calories. It makes you more relaxed, boosts your mood, and instils a better outlook even after you’ve returned home.
A dream vacation used to look something like this: lazy days parked on a lounge chair, a guacamoledunked chip in one hand and a margarita in the other. The only exercise was paddling over to the swim-up bar for another round. But now, more and more travellers are bringing their healthy lifestyles with them on holiday.
Last year, 44 per cent of the representatives in the USbased Virtuoso network of luxury travel agents saw a demand for active trips – up from just 33 per cent in 2011. Perhaps these fitness-focused travellers are intuiting what research has proven – that working out on a getaway can make you feel more relaxed and rejuvenated, erasing the feeling of needing a vacay from your vacay when you get home.
Guarantee a great trip...
People who engaged in physical activity while on holiday reported being in a better mood, and having less tension, and more energy than those who were less physically active, a Dutch study found.
“Exercise may enhance the secretion of serotonin, which has an antidepressant effect,” explains study author Jessica de Bloom of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. “Combined with other perks of a vacation – fun, reduced stress, and a sense of wonder and otherworldliness – the mood boost can be even greater.”
Not only does exercise lead to a better vacation, but it can also lead to better exercise – especially if you’re doing it outside. Outdoor activity has a 50 per cent greater benefit on mental health than hitting the gym. In fact, a review in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that natural environments make people feel revitalised and less tense.
If any natural environment has these benefits, imagine the extra impact an aweinspiring mountain range or an achingly beautiful blue expanse of Caribbean water offers. When you’re focused on breathtaking surroundings, you forget about unpleasant stuff like how tired your hamstrings feel or how the airline lost your luggage, allowing you to get more out of your workout and slash stress levels.
... And bring home the good vibes.
When people exercise in a new environment, they have more fun in the moment, but they also improve the way they feel about the activity going forward, says Gloria Petruzzelli, a sports psychologist and triathlete in the US. So if you’re a runner, jogging through France’s Luxembourg Garden in Paris, can get you excited about cruising around your own neighbourhood. “New sights renew your love of a routine that might have been feeling stale,” Gloria says.
Exercising while you’re away can also prevent you from bringing home one all-toocommon souvenir: extra kilos! Of course, it’s easy to fall into the “indulge now, pay later” philosophy of travel, but getting sweaty while you’re away will help you feel more motivated back at home because you’re not starting from a setback situation.
What’s more, learning a new sport or type of workout on your trip – like scuba diving in Belize or skiing in Aspen in the US – can build mental strength. “New challenges help you see yourself differently,” Gloria says. “The confidence you gain from moving out of your comfort zone extends into your home life, making you feel empowered at work and in your relationships.”