Exercising may be the last thing on your study abroad bucket-list, if not completely absent from it. Maybe you’re an athlete at your university, or that you even enjoy exercising on your own, or maybe the only type of marathons you participate in are sponsored by Netflix and comprise two of your favorite TV series and a movie.
Either way, you have to admit that wherever you are in the world—and whether you may enjoy it or not—exercising has unmatched physical and mental health benefits.
Sure, I’d like to believe that European gelato also possesses the same benefits, but one day between spoonfuls of the creamy deliciousness I realized that maybe joining a gym here in Salamanca wouldn’t be such a bad idea. In fact, besides making productive use of my free time, it has provided structure and the comfort of routine to my weekly schedule here. Of course, there are many other ways you can take advantage of the positive effects of staying fit abroad…
1. Free Exercise
This is the easiest, most accessible, convenient and cost-less way to workout. By running around your city and using body weight to perform simple exercises such as crunches, push ups, squats, planks, and so-on you can maintain your weight, tone muscle, and de-stress all for free. My recommendations would be to look for parks and running trails in your host city, and to remember to bring athletic sneakers from home or purchase an inexpensive pair abroad.
Take note that, especially in European cities, everything is relatively close together and walking is a very viable means of transportation.
And on ISA excursions you will walk…a lot. Those athletic shoes, even if you fear that you’ll stick out as a tourist wearing them, will be a valuable asset.
Another conventional way of staying in shape abroad would be to sign-up for a gym membership. Upon finding out that my host university has a gym only a minute from my residencia, I knew that this would be a good investment for access to machines, free weights, and classes.
Here in Salamanca, gym memberships and fees vary from gym to gym. For my university gym, I had to sign up for an hour and a half for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays every week, and paid a fee of 60 euros for the semester (January – May). This was the most economical and basic gym I found. Private gyms here have a similar sign-up process, in which you pay for the amount of days a week you want to use the facilities—some including classes, others having to pay extra. Explore your options and ask around. My residencia offered a discount to a local gym as well.
3. Outdoor Adventures
For those who loathe traditional and routine exercising and want to reap the benefits of the natural terrain of their host country, there are always ways to workout with Mother Nature. Live near the coast? Take up surfing. Live in the mountains? Hike. Is your host city anywhere else in the world? Walk, ride a bike, practice yoga on top of a roof. Okay, well, make sure the roof is a flat one. As you can see, there are alternatives to conventional exercises and some that are bound to create experiences and memories while abroad.
This is probably one of the most dreaded, but necessary, components of staying in shape, especially while you’re abroad and are being exposed to exciting and delicious new foods. I am definitely not recommending that you don’t visit local pastelerías, or pass on delicious freshly baked bread, or skip the cheeses and creamy pastas. But, think of it this way: How much you eat and how much you exercise are two directly related variables. The more you eat, the more you should exercise to maintain weight and vice versa. Also, what you’re eating is essential. Gelato every day will have a greater impact on your weight than fresh fruits and vegetables from the street market. Be conscious, but don’t miss out on local cuisine.
Staying in shape abroad should be a consideration, especially if you’re accustomed to working out back at home. It can provide de-stressing powers, comfort of a routine, new experiences and can ease your transition in your host country. For some, this isn’t as much as a priority, and that’s okay.
Wherever you are, remember that there will always be a way to stay in shape abroad that fits your lifestyle.
Tired of Netflix marathons and ready to get out and explore the world? Yeah, we know. Here you go.