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January 1, 2016

How to hang on to post-vacation bliss

Staying active on your getaway can help you feel more relaxed and boost your mood—even after you’ve returned home.

A dream vacation used to look something like this: lazy days spent parked on a lounge chair, a guacamole-dunked chip in one hand and a margarita in the other. The only exercise was paddling over to the swim-up bar for another round. But more and more people are bringing their healthy lifestyles with them on holiday. Perhaps these fitness-focused travelers are intuiting what research has proven—that working out while on vacation does more than just cancel out the calories: It also makes you more relaxed, boosts your mood, and instills a better outlook even after you’ve returned home. Here’s how to stay fit during your getaway so you won’t need a vacation after your vacation.

Guarantee a Great Trip

People who engaged in physical activity during a trip reported having lower levels of tension and higher levels of energy than those who were less physically active, a recent Dutch study found. Not only does exercise lead to a better vacation, but vacation can also lead to better exercise—especially if you’re outside. Outdoor activity has a 50 percent greater benefit on mental health than hitting the gym. If any natural environment has these benefits, imagine the extra impact offered by an awe-inspiring mountain range or a beautiful blue expanse of Caribbean water. When you’re focused on breathtaking surroundings, you forget about unpleasant stuff (like how tired your hamstrings feel), allowing you to get more out of your workout and slash stress levels.

Bring Home the Good Vibes

When people exercise in a new environment, they have more fun in the moment, but they also improve the way they feel about the activity going forward, says Gloria Petruzzelli, Psy.D., a sports psychologist and triathlete. Jogging through the Luxembourg Gardens can get you excited about cruising around your own neighborhood. “New sights renew your love of a routine that might have been feeling stale,” Petruzzelli says.

Exercising while you’re away can also prevent you from bringing home one all-too-common souvenir: extra pounds. Of course it’s easy to fall into the “indulge now, pay later” philosophy about travel, but getting sweaty during vacation will help you feel more motivated back at home because you’re not starting from a setback situation.

What’s more, learning a new sport or type of workout on your trip—like scuba diving in Belize or skiing in Aspen—can build mental strength. “New challenges help you see yourself differently,” Petruzzelli says. “The confidence you gain from moving out of your comfort zone extends into your home life, making you feel empowered at work and in your relationships.”

Have Fun on the Run

Let these options inspire you to get out of your lounge chair:

Ditch the tour bus. Walking, jogging, or biking around a city can make you feel as though you’re seeing things as a local, not a tourist. Check online or download an app to map your route through the area.

Ask at the hotel. If the hotel gym isn’t your thing, many places now have fitness concierges to get you into local classes, studios or guided runs or rides.

Go on a race-cation. A destination bike or running race can “scratch two itches—you do the race and then spend the rest of your getaway relaxing,” says Petruzzelli, whose honeymoon included an Ironman event. “Those days at the end are like a reward—you’ve earned the right to have a few more beers.” Plus, you may be having those beers with new friends, considering the camaraderie among athletes and the party atmosphere at big race events. Who knows, the run of a lifetime might coincide with the trip of a lifetime. Seeing the world never looked—or felt—so good.

Used with permission. © Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.