Plan an Active Vacation: Don’t Let Travel Trip Up Your Knees
A vacation is all about getting relaxed and refreshed. But if you’re sidetracked from exercise while away, you could return home feeling worse than before you left.
A 2008 report found strong evidence that regular exercise reduces knee pain and improves physical function in people with osteoarthritis of the knee (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews). Yet it’s easy to lose sight of those benefits when you’re busy sightseeing. Even if you’re a dedicated exerciser at home, you may be tempted to slack off while out of town.
Fortunately, travel doesn’t have to trip up your exercise routine. With a little planning, you can stay active on vacation — and you won’t have to sacrifice your precious R&R time.
The best time to start thinking about your knees is before your vacation even starts. While you’re still traveling to your destination, get up and walk around as often as possible. You’ll not only be working in some activity, but also helping avoid any stiffness that could slow you down once you arrive at your destination.
A knee with osteoarthritis is particularly prone to stiffness when held in one position for too long. Keep moving as much as you can, which helps lubricate and nourish the joint surface and minimize stiffness. If you’re traveling by car, take a break to stretch your legs every hour or so. If you’re traveling by plane, walk in the airport before boarding and up the aisle of the plane when the seatbelt light is turned off.
Once you reach your destination, do at least some of your sightseeing by foot or pedal power. You’ll see more and spend less on gas or cab fare. Walking and cycling are excellent ways to exercise your legs. Just be sure not to overdo it. If you plan an active morning, schedule a more restful afternoon, or vice versa.
Exercising your options
If there’s a pool where you’ll be staying, swimming or water exercises are especially good for your knees because they offer low-impact exercise. Even if you’re not a frequent swimmer at home, this is an opportunity to try something new that’s also good for your knees. If there’s a fitness center at your hotel, you can use a treadmill, elliptical machine or stationary bike to get your legs moving and your heart pumping.
What if the weather isn’t cooperating outside, and you don’t have access to indoor fitness facilities? No problem. There are still ways to keep moving:
- Walk up and down the hotel hallway. Then take the stairs to the next floor and repeat.
- Stretch with gentle yoga or tai chi moves. Many don’t require much space, so you can do them in your hotel room. In addition to reducing knee stiffness and pain, yoga and tai chi are great for relieving the stress that often goes along with travel.
- Stay strong with resistance bands. These stretchy bands, easily slipped into your suitcase, can be used for whole-body strength training. Strong leg muscles, in particular, help support your knees and reduce the risk of injury.
- Follow a fitness video. If you’ve packed your laptop, we have online video demonstrations of simple stretching and strengthening exercises.
Whatever you do, have fun. Remember: You’re on vacation!
PLEASE NOTE: This article is presented for informational purposes only and is not meant to take the place of the advice of your doctor. By providing you with this information, Genzyme Corporation is not endorsing its content. You should consult with your doctor before starting any new health regimen.
Adapted from Arthritis Today®, the health magazine published by the Arthritis Foundation®. The views presented herein are solely those of Arthritis Today and their publisher the Arthritis Foundation. Genzyme Corporation does not have any input in, or editorial control over Arthritis Today and is not responsible for its content. Arthritis Today is a registered trademark of the Arthritis Foundation.
“Exercise for Osteoarthritis of the Knee.” M. Fransen and S. McConnell. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2008, iss. 4, art. no. CD004376.