Greetings from… your next vacation! You’ll relax, take tons of touristy pics, fall off the workout wagon. Um, yeah, about that last bit: a getaway is actually the best time to rediscover fitness. That’s the beauty of the four itineraries we’ve mapped out. They’re loaded with physical benefits, but they don’t scream “active travel’s da best!” We promise you’ll come home fitter, more energized, and with a raft of exercise inspiration. Try capturing that on a postcard.
Scaling mountains? Challenging, exhilarating, the stuff of bucket lists—for some women. For others, we offer this: Go climb a tree! Not being snarky. Your clutch workout partner just might be a big old sap. Take Primland Resort in Virginia, which partners with the Blue Ridge Tree Climbing company to offer guests 2.5-hour guided expeditions up 100-foot oaks within the Blue Ridge mountains. It’s more than just a workout: “Hoisting your body weight up a piece of nature helps you realize your actual strength, which so many of us underestimate at the gym,” says exercise physiologist Phil Watts, Ph.D., a professor at Northern Michigan University. Because you’re laser-focused on negotiating the tree’s trunk and limbs, you can’t obsess about how much it’s taxing your muscles. (That’s all you can think about during a biceps curl, right?) Plus, climbing is second nature: Throw back to when you were a fearless little scamp tackling jungle gyms and monkey bars. (For more tips on how to build muscle, pick up Lift to Get Lean by Holly Perkins.)
Looking for a more subtle climb? Seek out terrain with any kind of height or rocky scale—say, a day hike loaded with boulders or off-path detours that’ll have you jumping over logs or side-stepping huge rocks. All of this is so important because, as adults, we tend to walk a straighter line. Even most of our exercise staples (running, biking, squats, lunges) have us moving in defined, one-directional paths. Any type of climbing helps free us up and lean us out. When you move on a wider variety of angles, you can activate more and smaller muscles—the ones that are crucial to total-body fitness but get missed in many standard exercises, says Watts.
Test The Water
The reasons to love water workouts are as deep as the ocean itself: Research shows they improve heart health, circulation, strength, flexibility, and endurance. Even more studies claim they’ll calm everything from back pain to anxiety. And that’s all while toning every body part with next to no impact on your joints. Stand-up paddleboarding (a.k.a. SUP), surfing, and kayaking hog the love, but we’ve got a soft spot for the underdog: snorkeling.
Yep, the word alone is hard to take seriously. But gliding around in a mask and fins is pretty boss. “A snorkel eliminates having to hold your breath and come up for air, so you can swim for a longer time,” says exercise physiology expert Gina Battaglia, Ph.D. “You get a cardio workout that feels super easy but works all your muscles.” While there are no definitive stats (yet), many pro swimmers train with a snorkel to increase their lung capacity. That’s a perk that can help you perform better in any activity—say, you’re a runner looking to break from pounding the pavement but still want to keep your cardio on point.
Among sea turtles and calm waters aplenty, Caneel Bay Resort in St. John is home to some of the best snorkeling in the world—so much so that they lend you the gear upon check-in. We asked the resort why. Their response? Submerging yourself in a new environment stimulates all the senses.
Take A Hike
Wanna hear something NEAT? (More on the all-caps in a sec.) Experts are touting, more loudly than ever, the benefits of walking and how much it plays a role in your overall health and fitness. No, for real, stick with us on this one. They call it “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” (there’s the NEAT acronym), which is basically anything that burns calories outsideof working out.
Though we’ve been conditioned to equate fitness with huffing, puffing, and getting sweaty, research shows that upping your daily NEAT totals is key to increased energy and a slimmer waistline. Regular walking at a speed of at least three miles per hour reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, treats depression, and reverses age-related bone loss. Throw on a weighty backpack or add an incline (stairs, hills, ramps) and you’ll boost the cal-burning, metabolism-humming benefits by up to 12 and 70 percent, respectively. Oh, and one study suggests that even if you move at a leisurely pace, logging 10,000 steps per day may be equivalent to 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise—so, really, at this point, is there anything sadder than exercising in a dusty hotel gym?
You don’t need to head to the woods for this stuff. Many cities are making it easier to get around all day on foot by creating more walkable and bikeable paths and improving street safety. “A walkable city gets people out and connecting with each other,” says Eden Dabbs, spokesperson for Portland, Oregon’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. (Portland has won awards for its efforts.) “It also reduces pollution, traffic, and noise, and it’s a great way for visitors to hit all the coffee shops and boutiques they might miss whizzing by in a car.” While you can wander the many parks and downtown areas on your own, you can also sign up for one of Portland Walking Tour’s themed guided walks, or complete the famous 4T Trail, which involves a four-mile trail walk and train, tram, and trolley rides to see some of the city’s best views.
Odds are you’ve had this thought: Man, I’d love to learn how to snowboard. (Or play tennis. Or golf. Or surf.) But unless you’re living in a dream locale for that activity—and you’re #blessed with free time—good luck. That’s why there’s no better time than vacation to take up sport-specific lessons.
Source: women health