If you’re travelling for the long haul, health and fitness might sometimes cross your mind as a mild concern. It’s not easy to stay healthy: budget meals usually comprise some form of quick-prepare noodles, and I have been known to consider a packet of biscuits an acceptable dinner.

From the endless snacking on long bus journeys, to the frequent nights spent in bars (well, you’ve got to be sociable sometimes!), long-term travellers might struggle to maintain a reasonable physique while they’re on the road.

But there is hope!

And the great thing is, most of the suggested exercises below don’t even require any extra effort – they’re all part and parcel of the travel experience.

Read on to find out how you, too, can maintain an excellent fitness regime even when travelling…


Squats are the king of workout moves, engaging several different muscle groups in one simple movement.

The great thing is that as a traveller, you’ll be getting plenty of practice at this. Tone up that butt on the go, while you figure out how to use squat toilets most effectively. You’ll have a perfect posterior by the time you get home, no doubt.



Taibessi market

For the budget traveller, core workouts are frequent, as it’s a key part of long sweaty bus rides. While the most comfortable thing to do might be just to do your best to remain inert and not think about how sweaty you are getting, sometimes it’s good to change it up and move forward to unstick your t-shirt from your seat. Now, engage those core muscles as you career round that mountainous hairpin bend!

Better still, pick the seat which is actually just a cushion on the floor or a plank wedged into the aisle – that way you’ll give yourself a serious ab workout as the bus whips round corners and you try your best not to collapse into the laps of your neighbours.

If it’s Asia you’re travelling round, chances are you will at one time or another find yourself on the back of a scooter. Here’s another great workout opportunity: engage those biceps and triceps as you cling on for dear life, and clench those abs to prevent yourself from leaning over too alarmingly.



Hiking workout

I, for one, am a big fan of cardio while travelling.

For me this usually takes the form of wandering aimlessly round each new destination, getting hopelessly lost, and then spending several hours trying to find my way back to the hostel. Don’t worry, you’ll get your 10,000 steps in! (Or, y’know, I suppose you could just try hiking).

If it’s high intensity cardio that you’re looking for, why not try going to a place where rabies is a known problem? You will find plenty of sprinting opportunities if you venture too near a dog or monkey that’s looking at you a bit funny.

Or as an alternative, train yourself to be as disorganised as possible. This way you will be forced to engage in high intensity cardio as you run for buses, trains and planes.

Better still, add some weight to your workout – an overstuffed backpack will be perfect for this.


Endurance events

Street food

If short bursts of energy aren’t really your thing, maybe you should try eating at a questionable street food stall. Then you can really test your endurance, as you spend the next 48 hours walking frequently from your bed to the toilet, with very limited respite.


Weight training

Weight training

Weight training is easy when you’re a backpacker. You’re carrying around your whole life on your back for one thing. And that ain’t an easy load, because you’re probably carrying too much crap with you.

Plus, you’re probably too cheap to get a taxi, so that’s a whole heap of weighted walking that you’ll be undertaking.

And if that isn’t enough for you, I bet there will be plenty of opportunity to lug your luggage up several flights of stairs – there will be loads of broken lifts around. And if you don’t want to pay for a porter to assist you, you can certainly get a workout from hefting your bag on and off your shoulders, and in and out of various vehicles.



Joking aside, travel fitness has at times passed through my brain as a concern (as I drink my sixth Bintang, usually), and there are definitely ways to stop the extra pounds from forming if you so wish.

I would recommend using some kind of step counter app if you can get accessto one, as this is an easy way of keeping track of your activity. The newer iPhones have this as part of their health app, you just have to switch it on. And then it becomes a fun game, seeing how many steps you can walk in the day (and how many equivalent storeys you’ve walked up).

You can also get various free and paid workout apps – ones I’ve heard of or used include Kayla Itsines’ Sweat app, Freeletics, and the 7-minute workout.

Other than that, follow all the usual advice. Walk, don’t drive, get outdoors as much as you can, and for god’s sake don’t get into the habit of drinking every day. It’s a hard one to break.


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The Long-term Traveller's Guide to Health and Fitness