How to exercise on your tropical vacation

Make the most of your holiday with these nine fun fitness-inspired ideas

Getty Images

No one ever loses weight on a cruise ship.

I tried to once; my wife was on a professional development course each morning and I spent many of those hours running laps around the ship and working out in the gym. But dinner each night was a gluttonous feast not seen since the days of the Roman Empire, which more than wiped out my exercise efforts.

I’m not sorry. The food was awesome.

This article isn’t so much about how to lose weight on vacation, because that doesn’t sound like the greatest vacation to me. Still, there is much to be said for mitigating the buffet and open bar plus sustaining your fitness by choosing a winter getaway that allows for some serious sweating.

If you’re planning on escaping the Canadian winter then, well, I don’t blame you, but I would propose that there is more fun to be had than spending your days lying by a pool turning your skin into a leather jacket while consuming an endless stream of 550-calorie margaritas.

If you’ve got a tropical getaway planned while the rest of us are plugging our cars in and shoveling our sidewalks, then use these nine tips to keep you active, while having fun and making the most of your vacation:

1. Play!
Whether you have children or not, you’ll come home feeling more relaxed from a little play time. Get out of your beach chair and regularly dive into the waves, splash about, chase kids up and down the beach, toss a Frisbee or a Waboba ball, wrestle children in the pool, or just build a mega sand castle. Try never to let a chance to move pass you by and you’ll have the time of your life.

2. Run
Are you a runner? You should be. If you’ve got a few months before it’s time to dust off the passport then you have time to become one, and running is one of the most flexible, do-anywhere activities around. If you’re not a runner yet read this article about how to start running. Before you leave you can go online and find out what the running options are for your destination, but this is also something that hotel concierges are familiar with and should be able to help. If you’re on a cruise ship, most have tracks that allow you to lap the ship. I advise running early in the morning to avoid the heat, and don’t forget to pack your running gear.

2. Walk
What can you learn about a place if you never leave the resort? Go exploring on foot and see some of the countryside (although depending where you are you may wish to find out just how safe that countryside is in advance).

3. Use the gym
If you’re not into lifting weights, this is a great time to start – it’s important for increasing bone density. Cruise ships and resorts usually have gyms. When I went on vacation last year I bought only one souvenir for myself and that was a shirt that said “Powerhouse Gym Maui.”

4. Take a fitness class
Many resorts and cruises will offer fitness classes to help you stay fit, and doing them in an exotic environment can be a great place to meet people.

5. Take a bike tour
This can be great way to burn calories and see the sites because you can cover a lot of ground on a bike and see things you’ll never experience poolside.

6. Hike something
The hills are alive with the sound of people grunting and sweating. Whether it’s a Hawaiian volcano, a Jamaican waterfall, or Machu Picchu, you can create the most amazing memories by climbing to the top of something.

7. Snorkel with a vengeance

One way to snorkel is to get a flotation device and casually laze around and point at the pretty fish. Another way is to swim like you’re on fire, cover lots of territory and discover the interesting marine life.

8. Paddle something
Skip the booze cruise and get closer to the water in a kayak or a paddle boat and you’ll earn those poolside margaritas for when you’re back on land.

9. Do something that scares you
Surfing comes to mind. That would scare me.

Cramming in lots of fun activities makes for not just a healthier, but a more fun and fulfilling vacation. Just watch out for the heat, stay hydrated and protected from the sun.

Your adventure awaits.

James S. Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, AB. Visit or email him at