The ST Guide To... fitness on the go

Stay in shape while savouring the sights

Consider signing up for run- and-sightsee tours, such as running along the River Seine in Paris. Just remember to dress right in cold climates: warmly and in layers. Cover your head if needed.
Consider signing up for run- and-sightsee tours, such as running along the River Seine in Paris. Just remember to dress right in cold climates: warmly and in layers. Cover your head if needed.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
You can combine fitness and sightseeing when you are on an active holiday, such as climbing Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia.
You can combine fitness and sightseeing when you are on an active holiday, such as climbing Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia.ST FILE PHOTO

Good planning, using mobile apps and even buying a pair of shoes can keep the kilos away

Vacations are a double jeopardy. We feast while the fitness regime takes a breather. However, it is possible to stay fit on the go without overdoing it. With a bit of planning, more exercise than you imagine can easily be embedded into most trips.


Look for a hotel or homestay near a park, by a river or any lovely spot that inspires you to start or end each day - or every other day - with a walk or run. Or choose a hotel equipped with a good gym.

Wake up 30 minutes earlier for a morning workout, which would pep up any traveller for an active day ahead.

Some hotels have running or trail maps. In rural northern Vietnam, I picked up a homespun map at my inn and went on a 5km running trail that combined light outdoor exercise and a fun mini-expedition - gleaming rice fields, villages and rings of mountains all added to the sensation that I was leaving time and routine behind.


The hotel room is good enough for exercises that make use of your body weight. Some basics are squats, lunges, push-ups, planks and burpees, as well as stretches.

Google "hotel room workouts" for exercises galore on websites such as Nerd Fitness (, Built Lean ( and Choose from workouts of varying intensity, duration and style.

Light resistance bands made of rubber are perfect for a workout anywhere; they take up almost no space in the suitcase.


Download apps such as the free Nike+ Training Club, which is loaded with more than 100 workouts. The app comes with audio and visual guidance from experts.

Free travel fitness apps recommended by Men's Fitness, Travel + Leisure and other publications include The Johnson & Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout, My Fitness Pal and Spotify, which has a playlist for running.

Or do ad-hoc searches for workouts on YouTube. Once, ahead of my trip, a pilates instructor modified exercises for me to try in my hotel room. Using my mobile phone, she took video clips of me exercising in the studio, with an audio recording of her instructions. I tried some of these pilates movements and found the experience fun and familiar, and also mentally refreshing.


It is ideal to explore a destination on foot as it immerses a traveller in the locale and offers a free workout to boot. On a recent wintry trip to Japan, an ardent gym-going friend strolled for hours in scenic places such as the lush Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto.

Walk instead of relying on coaches or subways.

Those who are more athletic can sign up for run-and-sightsee tours, such as running along the River Seine in Paris ( or Nordic power-walking in Helsinki (

Cold climates should not stop travellers from exploring. Frosty or mild temperatures make walks a little more effortless. Just dress right: warmly and in layers. Cover your head if needed.


Pack a good pair of sneakers, or perhaps motivate yourself to walk more by buying a new pair of athletic shoes. Ideally, they should be stylish, lightweight and sporty, and versatile enough for a concert, city jaunt or soft trek. Try brands such as Nike, Reebok and Puma.

Some fashionable sneakers, such as those from Superga and Axel Arigato, are sturdy and have luxe touches such as embossed leather. They can be paired with jeans, athleisure wear and even skirts. When in doubt, start with an all-black pair.


An activity tracker from brands such as Jawbone and Fitbit can count the number of steps taken each day. Target 10,000 steps a day.

I loved the Jawbone tracker that I wore on my wrist during a walking gourmet tour of Provence, where I walked up to 12km a day, passing muscat vineyards, Benedictine monasteries and the Rhone Valley. The tiny tracker also estimated my hours of sleep, offered workout tips and cheered me on with notes of encouragement.

Alternatively, keep an exercise log.


Why not do it all with an active holiday? The options are endless: cycling along canals in the Netherlands, two-wheeling along Australian coasts, walking in Tuscany, or following in the footsteps of Japanese haiku poet Matsuo Basho, which I relished. Or aim high by climbing Mount Kinabalu, the Himalayan foothills or Kilimanjaro.

Otherwise, simply insert one or two active components into each itinerary. This can be anything from a two-hour kayak excursion in Sri Lanka to a day hike in national parks. Canada, which is celebrating its 150th birthday, has waived entrance fees for all its national parks this year.


To maximise the benefits of exercising, eat well and smartly. Anticipating a big dinner? Have a lighter lunch that day or the next. For snacks, how about local fruits or something healthy, delicious and home-grown?

A food diary allows a traveller to track the day's food intake, besides capturing the culinary memories of each destination.

I indulge in sundowners only when I travel. It's fun to relax with other wanderers over drinks, especially on a cruise to a remote place such as the Komodo islands of Indonesia or the Galapagos in Ecuador, when there is little to do in the evening.

But aim for a limit - perhaps one or two drinks a night.


Stay hydrated. I carry one or two 500ml soft, lightweight bottles. I never have to detour for a drink unless it's time to linger in a cafe. When empty, the bottles squeeze flat into my bag.


Do a pre-trip push of strength training (weight machines, resistance bands or body-weight exercises such as squats) and cardiovascular workouts (brisk walking, cycling or aerobics classes).

Then continue to stay fit after the journey. Ultimately, fitness is a lifestyle, at home or anywhere on the planet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2017, with the headline 'Stay in shape while savouring the sights'. Print Edition | Subscribe