Men's health

Take action for better holiday health!

Jetting away on an overseas holiday sounds pretty exciting and it can be.

However whether you return relaxed and feeling vibrant or looking and feeling more like a chewed up jube depends on the daily lifestyle choices that you make and how long you are away for.

An active approach to travel has huge health benefits and is gaining popularity. Although may people like to socialize a lot or just blob out by a pool with a book and wine, others (including older people) are seeking more action. Biking, swimming, paddle boarding, hiking are just some of the activities being signed up for at holiday destinations.

If you plan your holiday well then you can have a good mix of the things that interest you and still stay in peak condition.

Health tips for active travel

Here are a few tips to help you maintain your health and fitness

Avoid travel sickness

See your doctor, dentist and podiatrist (if necessary) for check ups before you go and ensure you have good healthy insurance.If you need immunizations remember to allow plenty of time to have these done.
Also stock up on any medications, sunscreen, insect repellents and hand sanitizer. Use only bottled water to drink and clean teeth to avoid waterborne illness, bacteria and parasites. If staying in back packers, communal quarters or under tropical conditions keep an eye out for fleas, bed bugs and ticks as these can spoil holiday plans.

Build your immunity

Maintaining a good intake of 2-3 pieces of fresh fruits (you can peel) and 5 or more servings of cooked vegetables/day is a good way to maintain your intake of anti-oxidants and dietary fibre to build your immunity.

However if you are travelling to countries that have heavy air pollution problems for more than 2-3 weeks and access to fresh fruit and vegetables is limited then it is advisable to talk with your doctor about taking a multi vitamin and mineral supplement while you are away.

Maintain gut health and regularity

Insufficient access to bran, whole grain breads and cereals and fresh fruit and vegetables can limit the intake of dietary fibre necessary for good bowel health. Fluids are also part of this equation and need to be taken regularly.

Most western style hotels and cruises do supply bran and muesli, fruit etc for breakfast. However as a back up it does pay to take an unopened pack of bran cereal in your luggage and a spare small plastic bag so that on arrival you can take your own cereal to hotel breakfasts if necessary.

As bran helps to feed the healthy gut bacteria that build immunity and also helps to stabilize blood sugars and reduce fat absorption this simple measure can do wonders for maintaining your weight, cholesterol and bowel health while you travel.

Maintain your energy levels

It’s easy to think that you can get by with a big cooked breakfast , a cake and coffee for lunch and substantial main meal at night but this can lead to picking between meals, flagging energy and unnecessary weight gain.

If you are able to flag the bacon, sausages and black pudding at breakfast in favour of one poached egg with mushrooms or tomato with toast, whole grain cereal, fruit and yoghurt. Have a salmon/tuna sandwich or wrap with fruit for lunch and small serving of meat with plenty of vegetables at dinner then you will maintain your energy and may reduce your waistline while you are away.

Keep up your hydration and strength.

If you would prefer not to take a drink bottle with you each day then you need to learn to double drink by having a couple of glasses of water whenever you stop for tea and coffee breaks.

Also milk can be scarce when you travel so make a real effort to have plenty of low-fat milk with cereal at breakfast and a latte or two throughout the day so that you maintain good bone density and muscle strength as you go.

Can you go alcohol free?

Call me brave discussing it but how much weight you gain will be directly proportional to how much alcohol you consume while you travel. If you are drinking everyday then check out low alcohol alternatives and for every alcoholic drink you have drink water.

If you don’t normally have alcohol midday then don’t start now. Pace yourself and consider using your holiday as a chance to detox. I promise that you will feel amazing when you get back to work if you do.


You go on holiday to have fun but flight delays, trying to navigate around foreign cities, coping with car breakdowns, parking hassles and the crowds of other tourists can all be quite stressful. So getting plenty of sleep, planning your stops, getting help with navigation, programing your GPS the night before and making good use of public transport are just some of the ways you can stay on top/or ahead of the problems.

It’s the little things that make a difference

It’s easy to gain weight when there are so many new foods to try. So keep an eye on your meal size. If travelling with a spouse or good friend you may find sharing meals or snacks helps when servings look large.

Ask to have gravies and sauces served separately if part of a meal and quiz the staff before you order to check if vegetables come with the meal or need to be ordered separately.

Asking for chips to be replaced with baked or mashed potato greatly reduces your fat intake and if in the UK expect that sandwich come with crisps and often a tired salad garnish in tea rooms. So look for cafes that give you more choice in the form of sandwiches, rolls and wraps.

Work on the exercise

While sight-seeing can mean plenty of walking it may be short on toning exercise. So if you haven’t signed up for an action packed holiday it is still possible to increase you activity by checking out hotel gyms and swimming pools, or hiring a bike or paddle board for a few hours.

There are also compact pieces of exercise equipment you can take on holiday, such as Dura bands®, TRX® and FitDeck exercise playing cards®, to challenge you. So plan for these things when you are packing your bag to ensure that you take some fitness gear, clothing, shoes and togs with you and remember to use them.

For those who need no prompting when it comes to fitness it can be fun to check the cities you visit for local fun runs, bike rides or outdoor activities that you can join into and this can be a great way to meet new people too.

Enjoy the local food and customs

The wonderful thing about travel is learning about local foods, how they are grown, prepared and cooked. So take time to visit local markets, supermarkets and food halls to see the wonderful foods available and learn about the customs and traditions dear to the people in the countries that you visit.

If you travel regularly for work or pleasure and are concerned about how this is affecting your health then do contact us today.

For more articles by Lea on similar topics:

Energy boost for business travel
Healthy tips for travellers
Driving for a living? 10 tips for weight control
Walk more sit less


Weiermair, K. Mathier, C. The Tourism and Leisure Industry- Shaping the future. Psychology Press. The Haworth Hospitality Press Inc. New York-London- Oxford.

Penn J.M, Penn H.J, Potter M, Wuyang H. Bed bugs and hotels. American Entomologist 2017, 63 (2) 79.

Saunders L, Green J, Petticrew M, Steinbach R, Roberts H, Ruiz J. What are the health benefits of active travel. A systematic review of trials and cohort studies. PloS one, 2013:8 (8). e69912.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


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