Should you exercise on holiday?

Should you exercise on holiday?

When we organise a holiday, it’s usually because we’re dying for a break, so exercise or diet might be the last thing on your mind. It’s like asking how you’re planning to save money whilst you’re on a beach in Bali ordering your next margarita! So, should you be making time for movement while you’re away?

In this article we’ll talk about your holiday mindset, why exercise can make a difference and how you might fit movement in while you’re away.

“…but I’m on holiday!”

It’s easy to treat a holiday like a cheat day and forget about those habits you usually stick to.

  • Where at home you might have packed your own lunch to save money, on holiday you’re eating out for every meal
  • Where at home you might only drink over the weekend, on holiday you’re sharing a bottle of wine every night
  • Where at home your alarm may cue you for an early gym class, on holidays it’s all late nights and brunches

This isn’t an article to shame the joy out of your holiday – balance is important., and restricting or expecting too much of ourselves increases the risk of failure. What we can do is enjoy ourselves without creating a sedentary, calorie or financial pit to crawl out from.

There are two key points to think about:

1. We don’t have to return from our holiday back at square one, or worse-off than when we left. If we do, we return to our ‘normal life’ feeling as though we must work even harder.

Reversibility: “when training stops the adaptations made are lost”
This generally occurs at a similar rate to which the fitness gain occurred. It can however be stopped by including maintenance exercise of only 1-2 sessions a week.

2. When it comes to exercise and diet, the impact on our mental health can play a role in enjoying our holiday. Underestimating this can cause the black dog of depression, anxiety or simple irritability to disrupt what is an otherwise fantastic getaway.

Determine your goals

If you haven’t already, now’s a good time to ask yourself “Why do I exercise?”. Knowing your why can help you perform more effectively with more focus, motivation, and less doubt.

You’ve got a long-term goal (over 3 months):

If you’re training for a competition or a long-term personal goal, think about how you can incorporate movement that’s in-line with your training while you’re away. Doing so just twice a week can be enough to maintain your level of fitness, meaning that when you return you’ve not gone backwards.

You HAVEN’T got a goal:

This is the case for a lot of people, so I find that a better question might be “What does movement do for you?”. To explore this, why not read “Five reasons to exercise right now” or “The annual weigh-in with Doctor Do More”. Movement can do so much for us without being complicated, just 10 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity can impact our short-term mood and sleep.

Whether it’s your mental health, self-confidence, more regular bowels, reduced body aches, better sleep, or something more personal to you – there’s no wrong answer.

You’re tired of your routine, in need of a break:

A holiday is commonly a break from chasing goals. Why not use it as a time to mix it up and do something different. Time away from your regular routine gives you a chance to explore movement you may not have done previously. Maybe you were built to be a rock climber, or a cyclist, maybe you enjoy long hikes more than you knew or dancing is exactly what you’ve been missing.

Less exercise, more movement

When it comes to exercising on holiday, it’s important not to overcomplicate it and here’s why:

  • There may be limited equipment
  • You’ll likely want to focus on holiday activities over exercise (unless you’re on an exercise-focused holiday!)
  • It’s healthy to have a break from a rigid focus on training

With this in mind, think less ‘exercise’ and more ‘movement’

Movement can be an incredible way to explore your local area and meet new people or connect with the ones you’re with.

  • Why not try a cycling tour on your city break?
  • One morning or afternoon, dip your toe with a surf lesson whilst you’re on a beach break.
  • If you focus is on rejuvenation, why not try some more rehabilitating movements like yoga or pilates?
  • In search of excitement? Try something adventurous like a white-water rafting, coasteering, mountaineering or caving.


This is your holiday and you deserve it!

Acknowledging your long-term goals can reduce guilt over this short-term break or change in pace.

You can incorporate movement into your trip to maintain your mental and physical health.

Exercising twice a week is enough to prevent reversibility or ‘detraining’

Think less ‘exercise’ and more ‘movement’. If you try something new you might even enjoy it!


The information and opinions expressed in this article are those of Dr Ash Bowden not the advice of a local health district or governing body. Information has been collected from reputable sources at the time of writing. Always seek the guidance of your doctor with any questions regarding your own health or a medical condition

By Dr Ash Bowden – For more information on keeping active visit  

Facebook: Dr Ash Bowden | Instagram: @doctordomore

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