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Healthier Vacations

Make exercise part of your trip plans

By Matt McMillen | 05.25.2010
Originally Published March 2008
Woman on a bike

Heading out for vacation soon, or are you already there, lounging on the beach? While vacation may mean a few welcome weeks away from work, it doesn’t mean you should take time off from your workout. Instead, make exercise a part of your vacation.

“It’s a great idea for patients to have an exercise routine and, as much as possible, to continue it on their vacation,” says Sherry Herman-Hilker, PT, a physical therapist in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“Don’t get stuck on the excuse that you can only exercise at the gym or on a treadmill at home,” Herman-Hilker says. “You can find creative ways to build exercise into your ­vacation.”

Plan Ahead

Wherever you are going—the Grand Canyon, California, Corsica, China—you probably have a list of sites you want to see. Add to that list the names and addresses of the hemophilia treatment centers in the area. Herman-Hilker suggests carrying a travel letter with you that explains your diagnosis, as well as the proper interventions if problems arise. Taking these steps, she says, is critical for any person with a bleeding disorder.

Herman-Hilker often recommends that people pack easily transportable exercise equipment in their luggage, such as elastic resistance bands or small dumbbells. Another essential item to pack is factor product. If you need it at home before you exercise, you will also need it when you are away.

Herman-Hilker strongly advises that you talk about your travel plans with the physical therapist who helped you devise your exercise routine. Together you can determine which are the best, safest and most practical ways for you to continue exercising while away from home.

“People with bleeding disorders can range from those who can do just about anything to others who have little range of motion,” says Herman-Hilker. “It is so important that any recommendations you follow have been made for you specifically.”

[Steps for Living: Maintaining a Healthy Body]

While You Are Away

Many hotels have exercise facilities, making it easy to work in your workout while staying there. Herman-Hilker advises her patients to do their best to replicate their home exercise routine.

“Don’t start anything brand new,” she says. “Stick with what is ­familiar.”

That means using the stationary bike, rowing machine or whatever equipment has been working for you. Otherwise, you may put yourself at greater risk of a bleed by using a machine that strains a particularly sensitive joint or muscle.

Try to pick a hotel that offers a swimming pool and pack a swimsuit. Swimming is a low-impact exercise that puts minimal stress on joints, says Herman-Hilker.

If you are staying at a hotel that lacks a gym or a pool, there are other ways to get exercise.

“Try to make exercise relevant to your travel plans,” Herman-Hilker advises. “See sites that you can walk to. Park farther from them than you have to. Go for walks on the beach. And take the stairs rather than the elevator whenever possible.”

Finally, no matter what you do, don’t forget to keep a water bottle beside you.

“When traveling, you need to make sure you stay properly hydrated,” she says. “Travelers tend to be less vigilant about that sort of thing.”

Welcome Home

What happens if, despite your best intentions and careful planning, you leave your exercise routine at home and take a few weeks off? Aside from feeling a tad bit guilty, you might also notice that you are a little stiff when you return. That’s normal. But it’s also a sign that you should not resume your exercise regimen right where you left off. Instead, you need to take it easy for a few days, until your joints are once again able to meet the demands your workout puts on them.

“Start your workouts gradually, and be cautious about your joints,” Herman-Hilker advises. “Your muscles and joints need to be eased back into their old routine.”

[Steps for Living: Traveling When You Have a Bleeding Disorder]