The eternal question. Should you work out on vacation, or should you take a break? Your doctor will always advise occasional breaks from exercise, to give your body a break. But research shows this may affect your long term fitness goals. If you don’t work out on vacation, you may find yourself having to work twice as hard when you get home.
How will it affect your weight?
Extensive research has shown that holiday periods are not great for our bodies. The vast majority of people put on weight during these periods, which can take up to five months to shift. Studies in other areas, for example with business travelers, show more significant effects. Those who travel regularly can see long-term health effects from this kind of lifestyle.
This is due to a generally higher calorie intake and a less active routine. Eating out when you might normally cook at home, or taking a taxi when you would usually walk, for example. In general you’ll come back from vacation heavier, and less healthier, than when you left.
How will it affect your fitness?
According to research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology a decrease in endurance capacity takes place during a period of inactivity. Over the course of the four week period subjects were studied, a decline was noted. This means that the time it takes to reach exhaustion is significantly reduced.
Complimentary research published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows similar results. There was noticeable detraining in muscles within two to three weeks of non-exercise. This was linked to reduced capillary density, effectively limiting oxygen flow to your muscles. Essentially, if you don’t work out on vacation your fitness will start to go downhill fairly quickly.
How will it impact your strength?
For those with a rigorous weight training regime, the two studies also showed a decline. Encouragingly for weight lifters, long-standing strength performance showed no noticeable decline after four weeks. However, there was a different story for recently acquired strength.
This decreased significantly over the course of the study. Perhaps most alarmingly, muscle fiber cross-sectional area declines rapidly during periods of non exercise. This means that though you may maintain muscle strength, you will lose muscle size. Therefore, to keep up your recent gains and avoid losing size, you’ll probably need more than one work out on vacation.
How will it impact your metabolism?
Your metabolism is what processes the energy you’re putting into your body. Effectively, the higher your metabolic rate, the less fat you’ll put on. A study from the University of Liverpool tested the effects of two weeks of reduced activity on the human body, similar to a vacation experience. Participants reduced their step count to below 2,000 per day and avoided working out.
The results showed higher body fat and lower cardio-respiratory fitness, as already noted. However, they also noted ‘metabolic derangements’, whereupon the body’s ability to process energy was reduced. Participants would therefore put on weight more easily after the two week period. Moreover, some participants found it difficult to reverse the effects of the inactive period.
How can I work out on vacation?
The upshot of this research is that if you want to stay fit, you should find time to work out on vacation. There are a range of solutions available, from hotel gyms to workouts you can do in your hotel room. You can also access local gyms through TrainAway, a global database of over 130,000 gyms that also gives you the option of buying one off day passes. Ultimately, the easiest way to ensure you don’t have an uphill struggle when you get back from vacation, is to keep up your routine when away. Having the option to work out on vacation through TrainAway will undoubtedly help with this.