Exercising While Traveling

July 28, 2021

With travel once again an opportunity, I decided it was an opportune time to chat about physical activity while traveling. Work trips, family vacation, and couple getaways shouldn’t cramp your workout style. Relaxing is good, but exercise is an integral part of a self-care routine and there are easy ways to get moving while traveling. Below are some quick tips on how to get your sweat on during your next holiday.


Plane travel begs for a lot of sitting, so start your trip by making the most of your time in the airport. Take the stairs (you get an escalator pass if you have a rolling bag) and forgo moving walkways and trains to walk to your gate – bonus points if you have to run to avoid missing your departure. By eliminating the easy, least mobile route to your gate you are increasing your steps and getting your heart rate up in preparation for a lot of downtime on the plane. Treat your travel day as an exercise opportunity. 

First class pre-boarding? Status schmatus. Unless I have a bag that desperately needs that overhead bin, I personally am not going to be one of the first 100 people on a plane. Instead, you’ll find me walking the terminal, stretching my legs, or if nothing else, simply standing because I am about to sit FOR HOURS in a cramped space. I’ve never understood the mad rush to jet onto the plane (pun intended) for a $4 beverage in a plastic cup. Move until you can’t. Research shows that substituting periods of sedentation with light intensity physical activity decreases all-cause mortality.1,2 There are ways to incorporate more movement into every day, EVEN during travel.


Traveling is an opportunity to explore a new location. A trip is an adventure and the perfect opportunity to integrate more movement into your day. My absolute favorite thing to do when traveling is to go on a run and explore a new city via foot. I have a hard rule of “never travel without running shoes.” (I am also terrible at directions until I have run in a city, so my husband is in full support of these runs.) Look for local parks, running trails, or popular running routes on apps like MapMyRun which has an entire city section to find popular running routes in major cities worldwide. Go where others run and you will have lots of company.

Not a runner? Apply all of the above for walking. Additionally, skip the Uber or taxi to walk to your destination. You see a lot more on foot and walking is often less frustrating than taxiing in big cities. Pro tip: Wear street shoes for walking commutes and stash stilettos or loafers in your bag for dinner out. More steps, no blisters, hot date.

More often than not, my family’s vacations are built around physical activity. Mountain biking, road cycling, hiking, skiing and trekking are all activities we travel for, but regardless of the reason for travel, “adventures” can always be found. Rent a bike, look up a hike on AllTrails, Google “outdoor activities in ____” to incorporate an adventure into your next vacation.


If you are more of a class exerciser, look up the local Orangetheory, Barry’s Bootcamp, Soul Cycle, or a nearby yoga studio. First classes are often free or discounted so you can rack up some deals in your new destination. In summertime, you can also find several outdoor yoga classes occurring around cities. Sign up and show up.


It’s raining, you’re not in the best part of town, you are in and out for work meetings and don’t have time to hit the streets for a run. Check out your hotel gym or better yet, choose your hotel because of what equipment is offered in the gym. Look up a WOD (Work Out of the Day) online – there are a plethora of options – that works with the equipment available to you and get your sweat on. For those who travel regularly, consider investing in a set of TRX bands. This nifty device will allow you to get a great workout nearly anywhere.


No gym? No problem. There are several apps that can guide you through a body weight work out in even the smallest of spaces. Check out CNTR, Bodyweight: Your Own Gym or YogaGlo. These are some of my favorites but there are hundreds of fitness apps out there. Also, Tabata exercises get your heart rate up in very short periods of time. You can easily download tabata timers to help with these exercises.

Phone battery low? Short on time? I’ve got you there too. 7 minute workouts (feel free to double or triple up!) are perfect in a pinch. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) gets your heart rate up through short bursts of energy.

7 Minute Workout

Each exercise in this HIIT workout should be performed in rapid succession, allowing 30 seconds for each with 10 seconds rest in-between. Intensity should be around 8 on a discomfort scale of 1 to 10.

1 Jumping Jacks
2 Wall-sits
3 Push-ups
4 Abdominal crunches
5 Step-ups onto a chair
6 Squats
7 Triceps dips on a chair
8 Planks
9 High knees running in place
10 Lunges
11 Push-ups in rotations
12 Side planks


Really, you’re going to blame your sedentation on the kids? We have an answer for that too. Stroller walks, stroller runs, kid bike seats, baby carriers, hiking kid packs, . Even if you have bigger kids, they can handle short hikes (snacks make good bribes), city exploration, or short bike rides. If all of that seems impossible, you still have the HIIT work-outs (Yes, all necessary equipment is available in the bathroom if you need to lock yourself in for 7 minutes.) If all else fails, you can still have a dance party. Kids LOVE dance parties. Crank up the Pandora Kids Bop and shake it off, shake off. (You’re welcome T. Swift). 

While a lot of this is said in fun, it is in fact important for your overall health to move much and move often. Sometimes exercising while traveling takes creativity, but there really is no shortage of options. Get moving during that next vacation and then come brag to me about it!

1 Keith M Diaz, Andrea T Duran, Natalie Colabianchi, Suzanne E Judd, Virginia J Howard, Steven P Hooker, Potential Effects on Mortality of Replacing Sedentary Time With Short Sedentary Bouts or Physical Activity: A National Cohort Study, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 188, Issue 3, March 2019, Pages 537–544, https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwy271

2 Dohrn IM, Kwak L, Oja P, Sjöström M, Hagströmer M. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity: a 15-year follow-up of mortality in a national cohort. Clin Epidemiol. 2018;10:179–186. Published 2018 Jan 25. doi:10.2147/CLEP.S151613

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Mary Brittain Blankenship, MD, FAIHM

Dr. Blankenship

Mary Brittain Blankenship, is the founder and physician at Spruce MD Integrative Medicine. Board certified in both Internal Medicine and Integrative Medicine, she sees patients locally at her practice in Greenville, SC and virtually nationwide.

Registered Dietician

Integrative and Functional Medicine Providers