Vacations and Exercise

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Now that we’re well into spring, a lot of people are excited to spend more time outside. For those who exercise on a regular basis, this can be one of the best times of year to take the routine outdoors or even on the road. As students head out for school breaks and families head out for vacations, it made me wonder about how our behaviors change when we go on vacation. What does it say about us when we decide to exercise on vacation? Do people who enjoy exercise look forward to a vacation break or to taking their program to a new location?

A quick survey around the office produced a variety of responses: 

“I’d say so, a bike ride or rock climbing now. It’s always a good way to experience a new place.”

“Can't say I do, the only exercise I usually get is lifting my drink.”

“I usually do. Not in the gym or anything but I would hike, golf 9 holes, and play some tennis.”

“Vacation is precious time and working out uses up too much of it.”


rock climbing

What we choose to do on vacation of course has to do with the activities from which we derive our pleasure but also how we manage stress. Vacation is often seen as a stress management measure; a welcome break from our jobs and routines. So if we typically relieve stress through exercise, this might mean that we will seek that on our vacations as well. If, however, exercise is a chore, it seems less likely that a person would seek to do that on their vacation, even in a beautiful setting. 

People who love to rock climb, trail run, mountain bike, wind surf, or generally participate in outdoor sports, may see their vacation time as an opportunity to do what they love in a new or popular location. It might be a time to conquer a milestone challenge or be a part of a club of people in that sport who have been to that place. But for others, those who see exercise as a chore, adding it into their itinerary may be seen as a time waster on an otherwise pleasurable trip.

relaxing on the beach

So much of what we choose to do in our downtime has to do with our perceptions of ourselves and our hobbies in our regular lives. Of course, there is no right answer. One choice is not better than the other, and a person may enjoy vacations where they lay on a beach as well as those where they challenge themselves. We are all somewhere on that scale. One study shows that obsessive workers do manage to relax on vacation but generally go right back to their previous stress levels when returning home. The wellness industry has also spun up a number of wellness-centered retreats and vacation options. With so few vacation days to spend a year, how we decide to spend them must say something about us. The next time I have the opportunity to lay on a beach and I see a runner go by, I’ll probably wonder if they’re on vacation too, and if they’re really loving their vacation workout, right before I drift into a nap.

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