10 fitness tips for expats

Exercise is a fantastic way to improve your physical and mental health, and to help you meet new people and explore your host country. But keeping up a fitness routine can be really tricky for internationals, who tend to travel a lot for work, pleasure and home visits. Earlier this year, Expat Assure asked me to share some tips on staying fit and healthy while abroad. Below is a snapshot of our interview (find the original Expat Assure article here).

1. First, find your feet

With so much to think about after a big move, the beginning can be the most stressful period. Thanks to accommodation, legal documents, bills and work admin to deal with, you simply might not have the time or energy to work out and eat healthily at first, say Agness and Cez, best friends who run fitness travel blogs Fit Travelling and eTramping. It’s OK not to expect too much of yourself while you first get your bearings, they assure us. Give yourself time to figure out what’s best for your situation and to establish a healthy routine.

2. Establish your routine

Moving country inevitably brings a big change in your normal routines. Take advantage of the transition: this could be the perfect opportunity to turn over a new leaf and implement great new fitness habits! “The key here is to be regular in your fitness and to create a daily routine that will help you become your personal best,” says Expat Nest founder, Vivian Chiona. Think of ways to exercise that bring you joy. Do you enjoy spending time with your dog, or love chatting with friends? Incorporate these elements into your routine!

3. Get social

Fitness groups or team sports, whether organised or informal, are a fun way to meet like-minded people in a new place, while also improving your health, says Vivian. Consider joining dance classes or (re)start a hobby. Looking for some hiking buddies, yoga classes or a kick-around? Meetup.com is a free and easy way to find sociable get-togethers based on your interests and passions. 

4. Fitness for free

You don’t need a gym to stay fit, say Agness and Cez. There are countless ways to keep fit outside of a traditional gym. For example, think about starting a bodyweight training routine or find your nearest outdoor gym or callisthenics workout spot – these have been installed in parks, inner cities, green spaces and beaches across the globe and offer a free way to exercise 24/7.

5. Earn your rewards

If you live in a city with tempting restaurants and nightlife around every corner, it can be extra tough to stick to a healthy routine. Omar Al Duri, a personal trainer, football coach and nutritionist in the United Arab Emirates, advises using foodie treats as rewards – map out your week ahead so that you can earn the treat, whether it’s a special outing or something you’re really craving or longing to try.

6. Take care of you

Self-care is vital through stressful periods, says Vivian. “Try to make your daily activity choices carefully, as they can have a great impact on the way you feel physically and emotionally.” It’s also important to keep up a good sleep routine and healthy nutritional habits – and you may like to practise meditation, or do a breathing exercise after your workout session.

7. Join in

Participate in Parkrun, free weekly 5km runs in unique locations all over the world. Because the runs are organised by local volunteers, you’ll feel part of the community in no time, and get to know people while you exercise. After registering once, you can run in any Parkrun event across the world, making it perfect for frequent travellers. The platform allows you to track all your runs and reach certain milestones, as well as improve on your personal best every time you run. The app or website also allows you to see your position compared to other runners, your exact time and other data.

8. Explore feet first

“Physical health can boost mental well-being and vice versa: when you achieve an improvement in physical health, this has a positive influence on your mental well-being too,” says Vivian. Maybe you’re surrounded by interesting landscapes, beautiful spaces or great walks which you haven’t yet discovered… A hike in the fresh air can boost your mood and give you a good workout, as well as giving you an opportunity to explore your expat country. Walking is accessible and versatile – you can tailor your hikes, strolls or power-walks to exactly the level or time that suits you, and monitor your progress.

9. Pedal push

Getting around by bicycle is a healthier alternative to the daily commute, and is fast becoming recognised by local authorities as an active and cost-effective method of inner-city travel. More and more government-funded bike-sharing schemes are popping up in cities globally – chances are that if you live in a big city, there’ll be an efficient scheme for renting bikes near you.

10. Talk about it

If you’re battling to motivate yourself and feel like you need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to seek help. “When you keep your mind in a good shape, then you will also feel the need to improve your physical state,” says Vivian. “There may be challenges in accessing support, for example language barriers, cultural differences and lack of specialised mental health services for internationals, but see what options are being offered in your local community and online. Of course nowadays, with online counselling, these barriers are easily overcome – that’s why we love what we do at Expat Nest and can help people all over the globe. In counselling, we help clients learn how to manage their emotions. We offer them a safe place to express their thoughts and feelings so they find solutions that are right for them so they can move forward.”

If this sounds like something for you, don’’t hesitate to book your free 15-minute introductory call. Because no matter where you are in the world, there is always someone you can talk to…


Got any fitness tips you’d like to share with other expats? What activities have you discovered in your host country? Join the conversation below!

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