Exercises For Travellers (Part 2): Staying Strong And Healthy With No Equipment

Last week, we outlined how to maintain better posture and health while travelling.  This week, we’re addressing every active travellers’ dilemma: “How do I keep up my strength training while I’m on the road?”  The good news is that it can be done, even if you don’t have access to gym equipment when travelling.

Body weight resistance exercises

Prisoner Squats

With prolonged sitting, the muscles of our posterior chain (the glutes and hamstrings) often become weak and/or elongated.  With the correct technique, body weight squats are useful for keeping these important locomotor and postural muscles active.

  • Start with your feet hip width apart, or slightly wider.  If possible, perform the squats in front of a mirror, so that you can check that your hips, knees, and ankles stay aligned as you squat up and down.
  • Only go to the depth that you can squat under control and without pain or serious discomfort.  If you find your knees buckling in or your hips dropping out of alignment, reduce the depth of your squat to a half squat or quarter squat.  Quarter depth squats are better than no squats at all!

Scapular Wall Slides

The traveller’s hunch results in tightness through the pectoral muscles, and poor muscle activity in the muscles of the posterior shoulder and middle back.  Scapular wall slides are a simple but powerful exercise for returning balance and stability to your shoulder movement when travelling.

  • Try to keep your upper traps relaxed throughout the movement, by keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears.
  • Inhale as your arms slide up the wall and your chest cavity expands.  Exhale as your arms slide down the wall, with your elbows tucking in towards your sides and your rib cage compressing your lungs.

Arm/Leg Extensions (“Dead Bugs”)

The dead bug exercise is great for improving lower abdominal and pelvic floor strength, which is vital for improving your lumbar spine and pelvic stability.  Perform this exercise  with focused attention on your technique, and you will reap the rewards with improved spinal stability.

  • Keep your focus centralised on stabilising your spine.  Think of drawing your belly button in towards your spine, breathing out forcefully as you do so at the start of each set.  Hold this contraction while breathing throughout the exercise.
  • Start small – begin with extending just your legs, one at a time.  When you can comfortably keep your lower back in contact with the floor while extending your legs throughout multiple sets, progress the exercise to include alternating arm extensions.
  • Breathe out as you extend your limb(s) out and away from your body.  As your limbs extend away from your torso, the load on your spine increases, which means that the core musculature has to work harder to keep the spine stable.  Exhaling forcefully will help you to maintain contact between your lumbar spine and the ground.  Forced expiration serves pulmonary, physiological, and behavioural purposes, bracing the spine when it is under tension (Human Kinetics).

Incidental activity

A major factor in staying fit whilst travelling is maximising incidental activity.  Think about whether you can walk instead of driving, catching a cab, or taking public transport.  Consider taking the stairs, even if it’s just for a few flights!

And a handy trick that I learnt from my own travels – pack light!  Packing light means you’re more likely to carry your luggage wherever you go, so it’s a sneaky way to incorporate some “resistance training” into your travelling days.  Stay active and mobile, ditch the roller luggage, and travel in good health!

Related links

Here are a few relevant links you may find useful when you plan your next holiday or business trip, so you can maintain your health and fitness on the road:

Qantas | Your Health Inflight – Inflight Workout

MedicineNet.com | Travel and Fitness

Everyday Health | Exercising While You’re Travelling

Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine | Exercises for Air Travel

US Navy Fitness | Fitness, Sports and Deployed Services Support – Travel Exercises