You may only have 5 minutes, but you want to go hard or go home for those 5 – and that’s why you should give Tabata a try. Print out this infographic and stick it up on the fridge, the TV screen, your wardrobe – wherever you need it to be to get shit done. Then brace yourself for a) a high intensity interval workout and b) a vastly more toned bod in just a few short weeks. Detailed descriptions for each exercise can be found beneath the list.
2. One song workout
Party popper emojis at the ready – this workout takes LESS than 5 minutes to complete! The idea is that you work as hard as possible for one complete song – in this instance, it’s Maroon 5’s Sugar, but if you totally hate that song/think Adam Levine is a bit of a douche, there are loads more available through the power of Google. You’ll be doing crunches/lunges/biking/jumping jacks, but only for the grand total of 3:55.
3. Easy Arms
This app tells you everything you need to know in two words – it’s easy, and it’ll give every muscle in your upper arms the varied workout it deserves. You can customise the plan according to the equipment you own; we’d recommend some small dumbbells, but not much else. They also have Easy versions of butt, leg and app workouts – download all four and you’ll be a muscle machine before you know it.
Want to give Pilates a go, but also, cba to leave your house? Cassey Ho is the answer to your lazy gal prayers. Her YouTube channel, Blogilates, offers you a comprehensive workout for your abs, butt, thighs, or any other area you’d like to tone – and while Pilates is her main arena, she also offers speedy 3, 5 and 8 minute cardio or targeted toning options too. Her beginner workout playlist is the place to start, and then the channel is your Oyster – go forth and pilate.
5. 5-Minute Abs
If your tummy is your main area of interest (or contention, as the case may be), you need to give XHIT Daily’s 5 minute ab video a go. Trainer Rebecca talks you through 300 seconds of sweat, tears and Spiderman planks, but the point is that that’s all it is – and if you put your mind to it, you can do basically 300 seconds of anything. Results, as with all exercise, take time, but there’s a reason that this video has had almost 8 million views…
6. Leaner Legs
5 exercises, including pliés, leg lifts and fire hydrants + 12-15 reps of each = firmer, fitter legs in the promised 5 minutes. For a quicker result, combine the moves with regular cardio (sadly doing a sit up to reach for the bag of Doritos doesn’t count), but don’t forget to give yourself rest days, or you’ll end up with thighs that you can barely move, let alone flex. See the full routine here.
7. 30-day squat challenge
How many squats you can do in a minute? If you answered 10 or more, you can take on the30-day squat challenge, where you start out doing just 50 squats a day, and work your way up to triple figures slowly and safely. Okay, so towards the very end it might take you slightly longer than 5 mins (the final day is 250, argh!) but you’ll have an awesome butt to show for it. Check out the most common squat mistakes to make sure you’ve got the technique down properly, and feel free to play Ice Cube’s You Can Do It on repeat as you bend, obviously.
There’s sometimes a preconception that kettlebells are only for girls that lift, but actually, they’re for all girls, and guys, and whoever the hell else wants to lift them. This easy 5-minute routine (complete with snazzy instructional gifs) makes kettlebells seem totally approachable – you just need one bit of equipment and a bunch of enthusiasm to get through it.
9. Before-bed yoga
Not only does yoga strengthen your core, boost your muscle tone and make you wayyy more flexible than you ever dreamed possible (like, 90s Gladiator bendy, guys), it’s also the perfect way to destress. These easy before bed yoga poses will help you breathe out your troubles and make you ready for a proper, restful nights sleep. Namaste!
Who can carve out 45 minutes a day for exercise in December, arguably the busiest month of the year? Most of us are totally overcommitted during the holidays. As a result, it’s easy for our exercise routines to take a vacation. Well, let’s unwrap a gift just for you: a plan to get and stay fit in 5 minutes a day. For an investment of 300 seconds, you can boost your energy, fire up your metabolism, and tame holiday tension.
(Prevention’s Lean, Fit & Stress-Free Challenge has 5 super-fast workout routines guaranteed to help you stay lean and worry-free during the holiday season—All it takes is 5 minutes a day!)
Supershort workouts offer another benefit for the time-crunched: stick-to-itiveness. “If you give up exercising for a month, it will be a lot harder to start again in January,” says Nick Clayton, personal training manager at the National Strength and Conditioning Association. But 5 minutes a day can keep you mentally committed to fitness.
Each day, choose one of the ultra-efficient workouts in the series (links below). Do others if you have more time, but avoid strength workouts on consecutive days. Alternate routines throughout the month to achieve what we all really need in December: balance.
The heart-raising moves here make up your cardio workout. “Bigger movements that engage more muscles will give you the biggest bang for your buck,” says Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute in Orlando. To keep workouts short, choose exercises that work multiple parts of your body at once, like the four here.
Perform each move for 60 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds.
Want to burn fat and build strength with more 5-minute workouts like this one? Prevention’s Lean, Fit & Stress-Free Challenge shows you how to stay fit, blow off stress, and eat healthy during the busiest month of the year. Click here to sign up.
- Seal Jack
- Modified Mountain Climber
- Bicycle Crunch
- 5 On-The-Go Exercises for the Workplace
- Where Should You Do These Exercises?
- 1. Stationary Knee Lifts
- 2. Chair Dips
- 3. Desk Push-up
- 4. Triceps Kickback
- 5. Side-to-Side Lunge
- Get More Out of Your Exercises. Go PRO!
- What If I’m on a Business Trip?
- The Bottom Line
- Senior Exercise and Fitness Tips
- No matter your age, it’s never too late to get fit. These easy tips will help you get started safely and make it fun.
- Overcoming obstacles to getting active as you age
- What if you hate to exercise?
- Building a balanced exercise plan
- Getting started safely
- Tips for staying motivated
Stand tall, feet together, abs engaged, arms held straight in front parallel to floor, palms together. Jump, spreading legs and arms out to sides simultaneously, as shown. Quickly jump back to starting position, clapping hands together (like a seal).
MORE: 3 Jumping Jack Alternatives That Are Way Easier On Your Knees
Modified Mountain Climber
Place hands on seat of sturdy chair or arm of sofa and walk feet back to push-up position. Arms should be nearly straight with slight bend in elbows, hands directly under shoulders. From this position, bring right knee forward, tapping foot on floor before returning it behind you. Repeat on opposite side, then continue alternating as fast as possible with good form. (Psst! Add this one thing to your planking workout to seriously sculpt your core.)
With feet a bit more than hip-width apart, lift chest, extend arms forward, and shift weight back onto heels. Bend knees and push hips back and down as if sitting in a chair. Don’t let knees travel forward past toes. Sit back until thighs are almost parallel to floor, then push up through heels to return to starting position.
Perfect your squat jump with these tips:
Lie on back with knees bent, feet flat on floor, and hands behind head. Lift left leg and crunch torso to left to bring right elbow toward left knee. Return to starting position and repeat on other side, bringing left elbow and right knee together. Continue cycling legs and twisting upper body, alternating elbows and knees.
MORE: The Cardio Machine You’re Overlooking At The Gym That Will Seriously Tone Your Butt
5 On-The-Go Exercises for the Workplace
Get the Basics…
- Business professionals are creatures of habit, and finding time to do certain exercises is one of the greatest challenges.
- Each individual must make the effort to move the major muscle groups throughout the workday.
- Each exercise below is meant to address a combination of major muscle groups and to improve the circulation in the limbs.
Across the country, millions of people work in offices. This sedentary way of working has presented problems for higher-ups in these companies for decades. After all, as the health of employees declines, so does productivity.
Company-sponsored gyms have been built to address this growing concern and allows their workers to get fit at the office.
Visits to the gym are not convenient for everyone, but everyone can stand up in their work area and get moving a couple of times each day. If an intern can workout, then all business professionals can take the time to get fit as well! After all, some ab workouts only take four minutes.
Each exercise below is meant to address a combination of major muscle groups and to improve the circulation in the limbs. When these exercises are performed daily, those power lunches can be burned off without extensive effort.
For even more exercises that can be done from your office or home, sign up for an Exercise.com PRO account today for access to certified personal trainers, workout plans, and more.
Table of Contents
Where Should You Do These Exercises?
Most work areas include enough room to allow each of the following exercises to be completed in succession or individually throughout the day.
One of the ways to ensure that no one is too embarrassed is to encourage others in the area to take a break at the same time and do some exercises together.
There are many workouts that need zero weights. This should be music to any businessperson’s ears.
1. Stationary Knee Lifts
This exercise is also called walking high knees. However, you probably don’t want to be walking around the office doing this exercise.
In order to accommodate the office setting better, just do stationary knee lifts.
Even those with a weak back or neck can complete this exercise without strain. The consistent movement will work the back muscles that surround the ribs while encouraging improved blood flow in the legs.
- Stand up away from the desk with sufficient room to move the arms and legs.
- During this exercise, the arms are held bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbow with clenched fists.
- Lift the right leg and allow the knee to bend while lowering the arms to the point that the hands are parallel with the lifted knee.
- Repeat with the left leg for a combined total of 20 repetitions.
2. Chair Dips
Use of a chair without wheels is recommended for this exercise. If a stationary chair is not available, ensure that the desk chair is firmly blocked on two sides to prevent accidental falls.
When this exercise is completed correctly, the back of the legs and the muscles in the lower back will be stretched with each motion. This exercise can look a lot like a regular bench dip.
- With the chair firmly blocked, stand in front of the chair and place both palms on the leading edge of the chair. Some people prefer to place one hand on each side of the chair, but the chair seat can get in the way.
- Place the feet hip-width apart and lower the torso while bending the knees and hips.
- A steady movement will stretch the muscles when this exercise is completed in 10 repetitions.
3. Desk Push-up
Just like the name indicates, this exercise uses the desk as the floor in a push-up that will increase arm and back strength.
This is the same type of form that can be seen in the incline push-up. Care must be exercised to ensure the hands are firmly on the desk’s edge.
- Stand away from the desk at a comfortable distance. The difficulty of the push-up can be increased by standing further back. Hand position can be adjusted to strengthen various muscle groups in the arms.
- For 10 repetitions, use the edge of the desk to push back until the arms are straight.
4. Triceps Kickback
Also known as the dumbbell kickback, this exercise is a great option for getting fit at the office.
- Keep the arms by the sides while bending the arms and then straightening them from the elbow while marching in place.
- The legs are marching in place while the body is bent at the waist.
- Twenty repetitions will be felt in the back of the upper arms.
- A full water bottle in each hand will add some resistance for the tricep muscles.
5. Side-to-Side Lunge
Following long meetings in uncomfortable chairs, the side-to-side lunge relieves tension in the hips and lower back.
- While standing, take a large step to one side with the toes pointed forward. Bend the knee while keeping the opposite leg straight.
- Make the same motion to other side for a total of 10 lunges to each side.
Get More Out of Your Exercises. Go PRO!
What If I’m on a Business Trip?
Experienced road warriors know that exercising on the road is possible with additional effort.
Certain activities must be included every business trip to avoid some serious health conditions that are caused by immobility for sustained periods.
- Walk Multiple Times – Take a walk in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening. Ten minutes each time will assist with the stiffness that is borne from sleeping in an unfamiliar bed and being confined to a different schedule.
- Stand in the Airport – Instead of sitting in one of the stiff chairs waiting for an airplane, consider walking the area and standing until time to board the plane. Flights are uncomfortable and standing while in flight is not the safest approach to air travel.
- Stretch on the Plane – During very long flights when the skies are smooth, get up from the seat at least every hour. This habit will prevent that stiffness in the neck, back and legs that causes cramps during the night.
- Avoid Elevators – Whenever possible, the traveler should attempt to get additional exercise during the day by walking stairs and avoiding the convenience of elevators and escalators. Awareness of respiratory strain should be noted when the destination is at a higher altitude.
The Bottom Line
Business professionals are creatures of habit, and finding time to do certain exercises is one of the greatest challenges.
Each person has a different need for cardiovascular exercise, but all of these exercises will prevent the repetitive strain injuries that are more common in the workplace each year.
One can even fit exercise in on their business trips. After all, hotels do not take the time to create the hotel gyms for nothing.
Ergonomics reduces the risk of these injuries, but each individual must make the effort to move the major muscle groups throughout the workday.
When other people see one person adopting these exercises, a new trend can start in the office to prevent embarrassment and encourage healthy exercise for everyone.
So what are you waiting for? Take these steps and get business fit!
For even more exercises that you can do in the office, go PRO today to access workout plans, training logs, and more.
Senior Exercise and Fitness Tips
No matter your age, it’s never too late to get fit. These easy tips will help you get started safely and make it fun.
There are many reasons why we tend to slow down and become more sedentary with age. It may be due to health problems, weight or pain issues, or worries about falling. Or perhaps you think that exercising simply isn’t for you. But as you grow older, an active lifestyle becomes more important than ever to your health.
A recent Swedish study found that physical activity was the number one contributor to longevity, adding extra years to your life—even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. But getting active is not just about adding years to your life, it’s about adding life to your years.
Getting moving can help boost your energy, maintain your independence, protect your heart, and manage symptoms of illness or pain as well as your weight. Regular exercise is also good for your mind, mood, and memory.
Physical health benefits
Helps you maintain or lose weight. As metabolism naturally slows with age, maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge. Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories.
Reduces the impact of illness and chronic disease. People who exercise tend to have improved immune and digestive functioning, better blood pressure and bone density, and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.
Enhances mobility, flexibility, and balance. Exercise improves your strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn will help with balance, coordination, and reducing the risk of falls. Strength training also helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis.
Mental health benefits
Improves sleep. Quality sleep is vital for your overall health. Regular activity can help you fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, and wake feeling more energetic and refreshed.
Boosts mood and self-confidence. Exercise is a huge stress reliever and the endorphins produced can actually help reduce feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident.
Does amazing things for the brain. Activities like Sudoku or crossword puzzles can help keep your brain active, but little comes close to the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. It can help brain functions as diverse as multitasking and creativity and can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. Getting active may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Overcoming obstacles to getting active as you age
Starting or maintaining a regular exercise routine can be a challenge at any age—and it doesn’t get any easier as you get older. You may feel discouraged by health problems, aches and pains, or concerns about injuries or falls. If you’ve never exercised before, you may not know where to begin, or perhaps you think you’re too old or frail, and can never live up to the standards you set when you were younger. Or maybe you just think that exercise is boring.
While these may seem like good reasons to slow down and take it easy as you age, they’re even better reasons to get moving. Becoming more active can energize your mood, relieve stress, help you manage symptoms of illness and pain, and improve your overall sense of well-being. And reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t have to involve strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. You can gain the benefits from adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways. No matter your age or physical condition, it’s never too late to get your body moving, boost your health and outlook, and improve how you age.
Six myths about activity and aging
Myth 1: There’s no point to exercising. I’m going to get old anyway.
Fact: Regular physical activity helps you look and feel younger and stay independent longer. It also lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, and obesity. And the mood benefits of exercise can be just as great at 70 or 80 as they were at 20 or 30.
Myth 2: Exercise puts me at risk of falling down.
Fact: Regular exercise, by building strength and stamina, prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, actually reducing your risk of falling.
Myth 3: It’s too frustrating: I’ll never be the athlete I once was.
Fact: Changes in hormones, metabolism, bone density, and muscle mass mean that strength and performance levels inevitably decline with age, but that doesn’t mean you can no longer derive a sense of achievement from physical activity or improve your health. The key is to set lifestyle goals that are appropriate for your age. And remember: a sedentary lifestyle takes a much greater toll on athletic ability than biological aging.
Myth 4: I’m too old to start exercising.
Fact: You’re never too old to get moving and improve your health! In fact, adults who become active later in life often show greater physical and mental improvements than their younger counterparts. If you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a while, you won’t be encumbered by the same sports injuries that many regular exercisers experience in later life. In other words, there aren’t as many miles on your clock so you’ll quickly start reaping the rewards. Just begin with gentle activities and build up from there.
Myth 5: I can’t exercise because I’m disabled.
Fact: Chair-bound people face special challenges but can lift light weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics, chair yoga, and chair Tai Chi to increase their range of motion, improve muscle tone and flexibility, and promote cardiovascular health. Many swimming pools offer access to wheelchair users and there are adaptive exercise programs for wheelchair sports such as basketball.
Myth 6: I’m too weak or have too many aches and pains.
Fact: Getting moving can help you manage pain and improve your strength and self-confidence. Many older people find that regular activity not only helps stem the decline in strength and vitality that comes with age, but actually improves it. The key is to start off gently.
What if you hate to exercise?
If you dread working out, you’re not alone. But you don’t have to exercise until you’re soaked in sweat or every muscle aches to make a big difference to your health. Think about activities that you enjoy and how you can incorporate them into an exercise routine:
- Listen to music or an audiobook while lifting weights.
- Window shopping while walking laps at the mall.
- Get competitive while playing tennis.
- Take photographs on a nature hike.
- Meet new people at a yoga class or fitness center.
- Watch a favorite movie or TV show while on the treadmill.
- Instead of chatting with a friend over coffee, chat while walking, stretching, or strength training.
- Walk the golf course instead of using a cart.
- Walk or play fetch with a dog. If you don’t own a dog, offer to take a neighbor’s dog for a walk or volunteer at a pet shelter or rescue group.
- Go for a run, walk, or cycle when you’re feeling stressed—see how much better you feel afterwards.
- Find an exercise buddy, someone whose company you really enjoy, and try activities you’ve never tried before—you may find something you love. At worst, you’ve spent time with a good friend.
Building a balanced exercise plan
Staying active is not a science. Just remember that mixing different types of physical activity helps both to keep your workouts interesting and improve your overall health. The key is to find activities that you enjoy—based on the four building blocks of fitness. These are:
What it is: Maintains standing and stability, whether you’re stationary or moving around. Try yoga, Tai Chi, and posture exercises to gain confidence with balance.
Why it’s good for you: Improves balance, posture, and quality of your walking. Also reduces risk of falling and fear of falls.
What it is: Uses large muscle groups in rhythmic motions over a period of time. Cardio workouts get your heart pumping and you may even feel a little short of breath. Includes walking, stair climbing, swimming, hiking, cycling, rowing, tennis, and dancing.
Why it’s good for you: Helps lessen fatigue and shortness of breath. Promotes independence by improving endurance for daily activities such as walking, house cleaning, and errands.
3: Strength and power training
What it is: Builds up muscle with repetitive motion using weight or external resistance from body weight, machines, free weights, or elastic bands. Power training is often strength training done at a faster speed to increase power and reaction times.
Why it’s good for you: Strength training helps prevent loss of bone mass, builds muscle, and improves balance—both important for staying active and avoiding falls. Power training can improve your speed while crossing the street, for example, or prevent falls by enabling you to react quickly if you start to trip or lose balance. Building strength and power will help you stay independent and make day-to-day activities easier such as opening a jar, getting in and out of a car, and lifting objects.
What it is: Challenges the ability of your body’s joints to move freely through a full range of motion. This can be done through stationary stretches and stretches that involve movement to keep your muscles and joints supple and less prone to injury. Yoga is an excellent means of improving flexibility.
Why it’s good for you: Helps your body stay limber and increases your range of movement for ordinary physical activities, such as looking behind while driving, tying your shoes, shampooing your hair, and playing with your grandchildren.
Types of activities beneficial to older adults
Walking. Walking is a perfect way to start exercising. It requires no special equipment, aside from a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and can be done anywhere.
Senior sports or fitness classes. Keeps you motivated while also providing a source of fun, stress relief, and a place to meet friends.
Water aerobics and water sports. Working out in water reduces stress and strain on the body’s joints.
Yoga. Combines a series of poses with breathing. Moving through the poses helps improve strength, flexibility and balance, and can be adapted to any level.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Martial arts-inspired systems of movement that increase balance and strength. Classes for seniors are often available at local YMCA or community centers.
Getting started safely
Getting active is one of the healthiest decisions you can make as you age, but it’s important to do it safely.
Get medical clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a preexisting condition. Ask if there are any activities you should avoid.
Consider health concerns. Keep in mind how your ongoing health problems affect your workouts. For example, diabetics may need to adjust the timing of medication and meal plans when setting an exercise schedule.
Listen to your body. Exercise should never hurt or make you feel lousy. Stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if you feel dizzy or short of breath, develop chest pain or pressure, break out in a cold sweat, or experience pain. And put your routine on hold if a joint is red, swollen, or tender to the touch—the best way to cope with injuries is to avoid them in the first place. If you regularly experience pain or discomfort after exercising, try exercising for less time but more frequently throughout the day.
Start slow and build up steadily. If you haven’t been active in a while, build up your exercise program little by little. Try spacing workouts in ten-minute increments twice a day. Or try just one class each week. If you’re concerned about falling or have an ongoing heart problem, start with easy chair exercises to slowly increase your fitness and confidence.
Prevent injury and discomfort by warming up, cooling down, and keeping water handy.
Commit to an exercise schedule for at least 3 or 4 weeks so that it becomes habit, and force yourself to stick with it. This is much easier if you find activities you enjoy.
Experiment with mindfulness. Instead of zoning out when you exercise, try to focus on how your body feels as you move—the rhythm of your breathing, the way your feet strike the ground, your muscles flexing, for example. Practicing mindfulness will improve your physical condition faster, better relieve stress and anxiety, and make you more likely to avoid accidents or injuries.
If you have an injury, disability, weight problem, or diabetes…
While there are challenges that come with exercising with mobility issues, by adopting a creative approach, you can overcome any physical limitations and find enjoyable ways to get active and improve your health and well-being.
Support activity levels with the right diet
Diet as well as exercise can have a major impact on energy, mood, and fitness. Many older adults don’t get sufficient high-quality protein in their diets despite evidence suggesting they actually need more than younger people to maintain energy levels and lean muscle mass, promote recovery from illness and injury, and support overall health. Older adults without kidney disease or diabetes should aim for about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
- Vary your sources of protein instead of relying on just red meat, including more fish, poultry, beans, and eggs.
- Reduce the amount of processed carbohydrates you consume—pastries, cakes, pizza, cookies and chips—and replace them with high-quality protein.
- Snack on nuts and seeds instead of chips, replace a baked dessert with Greek yogurt, swap out slices of pizza for a grilled chicken breast and a side of beans.
Tips for staying motivated
It’s easy to become discouraged when illness, injury, or changes in the weather interrupt your routine and seem to set you back to square one. But there are ways to stay motivated when life’s challenges get in the way:
Focus on short-term goals, such as improving your mood and energy levels and reducing stress, rather than goals such as weight loss, which can take longer to achieve.
Reward yourself when you successfully complete a workout, reach a new fitness goal, or simply show up on a day when you were tempted to ditch your activity plans. Choose something you look forward to, but don’t allow yourself to do until after exercising, such as having a hot bath or a favorite cup of coffee.
Keep a log. Writing down your activities in an exercise journal not only holds you accountable, but is also a reminder of your accomplishments.
Get support. When you work out with a friend or family member, you can encourage and motivate each other.
How to stay fit when your routine changes
You’re on vacation
- Many hotels now have fitness centers. Bring along your exercise clothing or equipment (resistance band, bathing suit, or walking shoes).
- Get out and see the sights on foot rather than just by tour bus.
Caring for an ill spouse is taking up too much of your time
- Work out to an exercise video when your spouse is napping
- Ask a family member or friend to come over so you can go for a walk
Your usual exercise buddy moves away
- Ask another friend to go with you on your daily walk.
- Reach out to other older adults in your area—many are in the same boat, so be the one to break the ice.
- Join an exercise class at your local community center or senior center. This is a great way to meet other active people.
You move to a new community
- Check out the fitness centers, parks, community websites, and recreation associations in your new neighborhood.
- Look for activities that match your interests and abilities.
Illness keeps you out of action for a few weeks
- Wait until you feel better and then start your activity again.
- Gradually build back up to your previous level of activity.
You’re recovering from injury or surgery
- Talk with your doctor about specific exercises and activities you can do safely.
- Start slowly and gradually build up your activity level as you become stronger.
Many moons ago I came across an article about a guy who travel hacked a round the world airline ticket for $418. The article appeared in Gizmodo (I was a bit jealous I didn’t write the article) and featured a blogger named Steve Kamb from Nerd Fitness. I started reading his website, and we exchanged some messages, eventually met at a conference, and quickly became close friends. (Now he lives in NYC and I can’t get rid of him!) Steve is one of the biggest health and fitness bloggers out there, with Nerd Fitness reaching close to 2 million people per month!!! I always ping him for diet and fitness advice.
Now, Steve has a book out called Level Up Your Life. It’s a detailed guide to getting in shape, staying motivated, and doing all those epic quests you’ve always wanted to do. Like the website, it uses “nerdy” references to get the point across. I read it, loved it, and took copious notes! It’s worth every penny! Today he’s giving us in-depth advice on how to stay in shape on the road. Steve, take it away!
A few years back, after stumbling across some guy named Matt’s travel website, I was inspired to journey the world for 18 months, starting in Australia. When I landed in Sydney to start my life as a nomad, there was one thing above all others that terrified me:
Getting out of shape.
(OK, I was really afraid of spiders too.)
Any time I had traveled in the past, I abandoned my workouts and healthy eating went right out the window because: “Hey, I’m traveling!” Returning home from any trip was like taking five giant steps backward on my health and having to start over. It bummed me out, but I was always worried about missing that amazing meal or big night out.
I bet we all can relate.
But on this trip big multi-month trip, I thought, “Hey, I run a company called Nerd Fitness — if I can’t find a way to travel AND stay healthy, who would ever take advice from me?” I needed to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
I also wanted to prove that it was possible to have it all. That you can stay healthy and strong and fit, and also have amazing adventures, say yes to parties, eat local food, and live in the moment while traveling.
I traveled to more than 20 countries, hiked the Great Wall of China, swam with sharks, tracked wild animals in South America, and even lived like James Bond in Monaco. Also I sang in German at Oktoberfest in Germany, partied ’til sunrise at Carnival in Rio, island-hopped in Croatia during Yacht Week, and danced on the beaches of Thailand at a Full Moon Party.
I learned on that trip that being healthy and “living in the moment” DON’T have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, being healthy can be GREAT for helping you to live in the moment and say yes to adventures too.
I just published a book called Level Up Your Life about helping people live more adventurous lives and how to put a plan in place to make that happen, and it covers some of the stuff below along with more travel help. Today, Matt wanted me to share some of my advice with you. (Matt says: And with me too, because I always feel like I gain ten pounds when I travel!)
So here’s a blueprint for living healthy, taking care of yourself, and still doing all the fun stuff that made you want to travel in the first place.
A Workout You Can Do Anytime, Anywhere!
When most people think of exercise, they usually think of people torturing themselves in a gym with weight machines and running on treadmills like a hamster for hours at a time. Gross.
Besides, when you’re traveling, the LAST thing you want to be thinking about is being cooped up in a gym when you should be out exploring your new surroundings. I used to be a gym rat trying to get fit, and it wasn’t until I started traveling that I really had to dig into the motivation behind WHY we should take care of ourselves:
So we can do cool activities that remind us why being alive is amazing!
We only get one chance on this planet, and we only have one body to do it in, so we should probably take care of ourselves. Luckily, if we can do some basic things and put a few key systems in place while traveling (and when we’re not traveling), we’ll be ready to do whatever, wherever, whenever. Jackpot!
Basic Workout You Can Do Anywhere
To start, and hopefully this goes without saying, doing things like riding your bike, hiking, and going for walking tours is a FANTASTIC start to building a healthy body. It’s exercise that doesn’t really feel like exercise, because you’re also exploring new locations like Indiana Jones or Carmen Sandiego.
But I also want to teach you a basic workout that you can do ANYWHERE on the planet. I know this is true, because I’ve done it in a parking lot in Singapore, a bus stop in New Zealand, in the middle of the Australian Outback, and other absurd places.
This basic strength-training workout is really helpful to having a great experience while traveling: when you strength-train, you build your muscles, joints, and tendons stronger each time — preparing them for any activity you throw at them. Best of all, it’s quick, targets every muscle in your body with just a few functional movements, and can completed anywhere. This workout can help you get strong and healthy and still have plenty of time to do whatever else you need to do.
Here’s a full walk-through video from a few years back of me completing a basic workout with different variations for each exercise, on a playground in Manta, Ecuador:
Now, you might be wondering where to find a playground? Simple! Anytime you get to a new city, look on Google Maps or speak with the person who runs your hostel and ask for the nearest park. All you need is enough space on the ground to do your squats and push-ups, and something to hang from for your pull-ups.
I’ve done pull-ups on tree branches, bus stop overhangs, and parking lot structures; squats and lunges in the middle of a desert outside a tent; and push-ups practically everywhere.
(Can’t do pull-ups… yet or can’t find a tree branch? Do body weight rows using a desk or table, or pick up your suitcase and do dumbbell rows. Everything else you can do with just your body.)
Try the Nomadic Matt Travel Workout Plan:
- 3 sets of 10 bodyweight squats
- 3 sets of 10 push-ups
- 3 sets of 10 lunges
- 3 sets of 10 reverse crunches
- 3 sets of 10 backpack lifts
You can follow the above workout every other day, or even just once a week, and it’ll help you stay on target and keep you prepared for everything.
The best part? It all counts!
If you only have five minutes here and there, that’s fine. Do squats when you can. Crank out a few pull-ups when you find something to hang from while on your hike, or bust out a plank in an epic location because why the hell not.
Diet is 80% of the Battle!
Ugh, nobody wants to hear this while traveling, but how you eat will account for 80–90 percent of how you look and feel. Seriously! You can’t outrun a bad diet, and you can’t out-train one either. What we’re trying to avoid is the depression and crash dieting that follows a trip full of overeating abroad: “Ugh, where did all of this fat come from? Time to starve myself!” Nope, not anymore!
Instead, let’s put a decent plan in place so that we CANNOT go overboard while traveling and therefore skip drastic measures when we get back home — something that’s consistent and sustainable.
How do we do that? By building a simple, kickass nutrition plan that is easy to follow and applicable anywhere everywhere on the planet:
- Eat real food most of the time. Liquid calories are brutal.
- Don’t rely on meal timing or calorie counting.
- Do the best you can. Don’t freak out!
What we’re aiming for is food that keeps us satiated and on target, i.e., mostly vegetables, some form of protein (be it from animal sources or legumes), and then some fruits and/or nuts — occasionally a bit of rice or potatoes, and minimal bread or pasta or liquid calories.
You’ve probably heard of this type of diet referred to as “the Paleo diet” or “eating like a caveman.” It’s the ultimate time-tested nutrition strategy, as you’re eating natural foods that have existed for millennia. Better yet, these foods can generally be found anywhere on the planet, and it keeps things simple, so you don’t need to worry about counting calories or weighing your food. It’s one I’ve employed to great success throughout the world, but it does require you to be deliberate in your decision making with each meal.
You might be wondering specifically what you should and shouldn’t eat and how much. Let’s start with the “what,” and then we can cover the “how much.” Cap’n Crunch, pizza, pasta, bread, candy, soda — these are all processed foods full of nonsense, so we should avoid them whenever we can.
The focus should be on quality food from natural sources (this can often be easier in foreign countries than it is in the United States, as it seems this country is built around grains, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, and carbs!).
Here’s what you should be building your diet around:
- Meat: Real animals with four legs
- Fowl: Chicken, turkey, duck, hen — things with wings
- Fish: This also includes shrimp, lobster, crab, mussels, clams, and other water-dwelling creatures.
- Eggs: Chicken eggs, ostrich eggs, but not Cadbury Eggs!
- Vegetables: Dark, leafy green veggies are a favorite. No, corn is not a vegetable!
- Oils: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil — think natural.
- Fruits: A good source of carbs, but they can contain lots of natural sugar and can be higher in calories, so limit them if you’re trying to lose weight.
- Nuts: Loaded with healthy fats but high in calories, they’re good for a snack, but don’t eat bags and bags of them.
- Tubers: Sweet potatoes and yams. Higher in calories and carbs, but good right after a workout.
- Bacon: Nature’s candy!
Every meal should have a protein source and at least one vegetable; add some fruits and nuts. Avoid dairy and grains, or only eat them in minimal quantities.
Now, I can already see your brow furrowing, and you probably have the following question: “What about rice and pasta? That’s all I eat when I travel!” I get it — the cheap backpacker diet consists of rice, beans, and pasta — the most calories for the least amount of money (usually freeing up more money for more drinking, haha). These foods are pretty much just calories and carbs. If you’re trying to be healthy, make sure you are eating protein and vegetables too.
Consuming some rice or pasta or beans is fine; just don’t make it the only thing you eat, just so you can drink more. Your body will thank you, I promise.
This is something I struggled with when I began traveling, until I made a commitment to myself to start eating better, which required me to start spending more money on food (to get protein, vegetables, etc.). I either saved up more money before I went on my trip (a few bucks can mean a great meal in many countries!) or saved it elsewhere (by spending fewer nights out drinking). It requires a bit of discipline, but if you’re committed to staying healthy and not wrecking your body (and waistline!) while traveling, it requires you to make some changes.
You don’t need to just eat broccoli and chicken when traveling and ignore anything that tastes good. Instead, try to make 80% of your meals healthy, and then eat whatever you want the other few meals. Your body won’t balloon up after one bad meal, but if you let one bad meal become a month of eating poorly, it will cause problems.
So find balance: if you are going to eat a big unhealthy dinner, eat a small breakfast and lunch. If you just had a massive breakfast, skip lunch — it evens out at the end of the day. Skipping a meal can be called intermittent fasting and can be really beneficial actually!
I also implement the “never two in a row” rule. I never eat two bad meals in a row. If I’m in a location known for something unhealthy and delicious, I make sure the meals before and after are really healthy so one bad meal doesn’t become a habit.
The Nomadic Matt Nutrition Travel Strategy:
- Eat real food! Mostly vegetables, some protein, and then fruit and nuts.
- Beans, rice, sweet potatoes, and potatoes are OK in moderation.
- Avoid processed junk, sugar, and liquid calories like soda, juice, and so on.
- Implement the “never two in a row rule.”
Party with Purpose
I love parties. I’ll gladly stay up, stay out, and party with the best of them whenever there’s a chance something epic could go down. Just ask Matt! (Actually, don’t ask Matt — he knows too much.)
Here’s something you already know: drinking alcohol isn’t exactly healthy for you. But then again, neither is staying up too late, not spending enough time in the sunlight, spending too much time in the sunlight, playing video games for too long, eating unhealthy foods, etc.
And yet we all do lots of these things; we have to make trade-offs while we live our lives and have some fun.
I believe drinking can be done occasionally, in moderation, and a healthy lifestyle can still be achieved. If you decide that you want to drink, good for you. If you decide that you don’t want to drink, that’s fine too. You know yourself best: Be smart.
So, rather than tell you to give up drinking, let’s find a way to fit in into your schedule so that it allows you to be happy WITHOUT making your waistline bulge and giving you a raging headache.
Here’s the Nomadic Matt Healthy Drinking Strategy:
- Wine and liquor (sipped slowly) without mixers are the “healthiest” options.
- Light beers and good beers are next best, in moderation (duh).
- Sugary mixed drinks or energy drink-and-alcohol combos (I see you, Thailand!) are terrible for you. Sugar is literally the devil.
- Drink water between each drink. It works like a charm, I promise.
Now, calories from drinks can really add up, as can the crappy food you consume when you’re drunk… so try to party with purpose. Wine, beer, liquor. Know yourself, and be smart about it.
You can also have some fun with it if you’re crazy like me. In Croatia during Yacht Week last year, I came up with a rule that I had to do 10 squats and 10 push-ups every morning for each drink consumed the night before. What started out as a joke among my boatmates suddenly became an accountability tactic. They GLADLY helped me count my beverages and then count my push-ups the next morning on the deck of the yacht.
Be Active, and Have Fun
Theodore Roosevelt, an adventurer in his own right, said it best: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Instead of trying to be perfect, we can be “good enough” while we’re traveling. There are often once-in-a-lifetime experiences that require you to go off your food or exercise routine.
Exercise doesn’t need to consume your life either. It can be as simple as making an effort to sign up for , opting to ride a bike through a city and getting lost on purpose, hiking on small trips to prepare yourself for bigger trips.
You can also mix in some activities that don’t FEEL like exercise — but are:
- Tango lessons in Argentina
- Capoeira training in Brazil
- Muay Thai training in Thailand
- Hiking anywhere and everywhere
Regardless of your level of fitness, there are fun activities native to the countries you’re visiting that can make for a great way to meet new people, train in an activity that is new to you, and get your heart racing! I like to think of them as missions or quests to complete in addition to just seeing the sights, but that’s just the nerd in me.
The Nomadic Matt Strategy of Healthy Awesome Traveling:
- Make exercise part of who you are. Walk more. Say yes to hikes.
- Strength-train at least once per week. Follow the playground workout!
- Eat real food. Don’t just go for cheap calories all the time.
- Never eat two bad meals in a row.
- Party with purpose! Drink water, too. Sugar is bad.
- Do the best you can. Every bit counts!
Remember, you don’t need to be “all or nothing” — you just need to be good enough. And every decision helps! Thanks again for reading, and I hope you take one piece of advice from today and use it to help you on your next trip!
Steve Kamb is the author of Level Up Your Life, now available in bookstores nationwide. When he’s not traveling the world or partying with Matt, he runs NerdFitness.com, a worldwide community of average Joes and Jills helping each other live better lives.
Looking for a quick, simple workout that you can whip through in about 20 minutes? We’ll do you one better: How about a five-minute workout?
Yes, it’s possible—and it’ll pay major dividends, helping you burn calories and chisel away body fat in about the shortest amount of time we can imagine for a single workout.
Start by warming up with high knees, a deceptively difficult cardio blast made even more challenging by the fact that the rest periods regress with each set. Run in place, driving with your legs and pumping your arms. Each knee should rise above hip level. Rest 20 seconds after the first set, then 15, then 10.
Then it’s on to two circuits that alternate training for the upper and lower body, allowing one area to recover while the other works. Finally, you’ll finish with burpees—possibly the most exhausting body-weight exercise—then jumping jacks, which is your cooldown. Perform the exercises for time rather than reps—this ensures that you can adjust the pace to your own fitness level. (For example, if you can’t do many pushups, we won’t ask you to do, say, 10. Just do as many as you can in 20 seconds.) Try to keep track of how many reps you get on each move so you can track your progress.
Each exercise is demonstrated on the following slides.
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