Stay Fit on Vacation with 5 Simple Exercises

These equipment-free moves can help you stay active anytime, anywhere.

Woman stretching

by NEA Member Benefits

A vacation can be a refreshing break from your school regimen, but it doesn’t need to break your fitness goals.

It can be easy to “fall off the wagon” and drop your fitness routine when you have time off, especially if you’ve just started an exercise program, says Richard Cotton, National Director of Certification and Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Depending on your starting fitness level, you probably won’t lose too much by missing a week or so of exercise during your vacation, says Linda Melone, CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), a certified personal trainer and fitness coach specializing in women over 50, but if you go longer than that without exercising, you’ll quickly lose your cardiovascular fitness first, and then muscle strength.

However, it is possible to stay active and fit—anytime, anywhere, and with no equipment. To keep your exercise routine alive during your time away from the classroom, try these five simple strength-building moves that can work your whole body. Read about them below, or see them in this infographic. Try to do them three times a week, allowing at least one day off between sessions. 

1. Walk and wave

Start walking in place, pumping your arms as if you’re actually walking. Keep walking in place during this entire exercise. After 60 seconds, bring your arms up and out to your sides, with palms down and arms parallel to the floor, and make small forward arm circles for 30 seconds. Now flip your palms up and rotate your arms in the opposite direction for 30 seconds. Next, bring your straight arms forward until you clap your hands, and then do the same clapping motion behind you. Continue clapping, front then back, for another 30 seconds. Rest a minute.

Repeat the sequence 2 to 3 times.

2. Squats

Stand with your feet just outside your hips, toes pointed slightly out, arms at your sides. Keeping your chest up, bend your knees and push your bottom back as if you were going to sit in a chair behind you. Squat as far as you comfortably can, keeping your weight in your heels, and stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause, then return to the original position.

Repeat 12 to 15 times per set, for 1 to 3 sets.

If you only did one thing for your lower body, choose squats, says Kelly James-Enger, an American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified personal trainer since 2007, and coauthor (with Ellie Krieger) of Small Changes, Big Results. They work all the major muscle groups in your lower body and burn lots of calories.

3. Push-ups

Lie face-down with your hands shoulder-distance apart and engage your abs (abdominal muscles) to help you push your body up with your weight supported on your toes and hands. Keep your core engaged as you bend your elbows to 90 degrees to lower your body, then push it back up again. If that’s too challenging, try a modified push-up, keeping your knees on the floor, suggests James-Enger.

You can even do a push-up against a wall.

Repeat 12 to 15 times per set, for 1 to 3 sets.

“Push-ups can be done by someone of any age,” says Cotton. “It all depends on where your hand placement is.”

4. Wall push-up kicks

Stand about two feet away from a wall or counter top. Place your hands on the wall at chest height and lean in, as if you were doing a push-up. Keeping your leg straight, move your right leg up and down behind you while squeezing your glutes at the top of the motion.

Do 15 reps, stop, and then do 12 push-ups against the wall. Repeat with your left leg and do 12 more wall push-ups. Rest a minute.

Repeat 2 to 3 times.

5. Lunges

Stand with your feet under your hips. Step forward with your right foot as you lower your left knee toward the ground until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Step back with your right foot to return to your original position and repeat, this time stepping forward with your left foot.

When you bend your knee, don’t let your front knee go past your toe.

Repeat 24 to 30 times (12-15 each leg) per set, for 1 to 3 sets.

Alternating left and right leg lunges strengthens your glutes, quads, calves and hamstrings, James-Enger says.

Staying fit is easier than you think!

Exercise consistently, whether you work out for 30 minutes or break it up into shorter intervals scattered through the day. “You can do a lot in a few minutes,” says Cotton.

James-Enger recommends exercising in the morning. Doing something physical when you first get up reminds you that you’re making maintaining your health, strength and fitness is a priority, she says, so you’ll make better food and activity choices throughout the day.

“These simple moves can be done anywhere and work [to strengthen] both the upper and lower body,” says Melone. “Do enough of them and they’ll quickly become cardiovascular, too.”