Lose weight on holidays: Nine trips to make you fitter and healthier

Here's how not to lose weight when you travel. Go to Switzerland and exist purely on a diet of fried potatoes and melted cheese. Eat rosti, raclette and fondue every day. Top yourself up, occasionally, with chocolate. And drink a lot of beer.

And then head south to Rome, where you can ditch the potatoes and cheese and replace them with pasta. All of the pasta. Oh and bakery treats, and pizza, and maybe some wine instead of beer.

That's one delicious holiday, but it's certainly not going to result in loose-fitting clothing. It's also the exact trip that I've just come home from, which is what got me thinking about holidays that are actually good for you, holidays that will have you coming home fitter and healthier than when you left.

Hint: they don't involve rosti and raclette.

Trek the Salkantay in Peru

<i>The Salkantay, Peru.</i>

The Salkantay, Peru. Photo: Alamy

The Salkantay Trek is the perfect alternative to the busy Inca Trail, a five-day journey that takes hikers through the spectacular Peruvian Andes and finishes up at Machu Picchu, but avoids the bulk of the crowds. It's also a great way to get fit. This is five days of high-altitude trekking we're talking about, as you wander up to 4600 metres above sea level, which is bound to whip you into shape – in fact, even the training you should do for a journey like this will get the heart pumping.

Head to a detox retreat in Thailand

<i>Kamalaya, Koh Samui</i>

Kamalaya, Koh Samui

I should start by admitting that this is definitely not my idea of a good time. However, if you're feeling like the excesses of Western life are getting a little out of control, it might be time to spend a week or two at a place like Kamalaya in Koh Samui, a detox retreat where guests undertake structured rejuvenation programs that include such delights as colon hydrotherapy and infrared saunas. Best of luck with that.

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to Thailand


Do a digital detox in Mongolia

If colon hydrotherapy sounds a little extreme, you could always try simply detoxing from technology. It won't make you fitter, but ditching your phone and camera and laptop and anything else with a screen for a few weeks will definitely benefit your mental well-being. Intrepid Travel runs a few "Digital Detox" itineraries, including a 15-day trip to see the Naadam Festival in Mongolia. No need to consciously detach from the digital world when you're living in traditional felt gers and driving 4WDs through the middle of nowhere.

See: What Mongolia can teach you about photography

Go skiing in Japan

Hakuba ski resort in Japan.

Hakuba ski resort in Japan.

There's potential for a ski trip anywhere to result in improved health and fitness. However, as I've ably demonstrated in Switzerland recently (and, in the past, in the US and Canada), if you go snowboarding for a few hours and then smash a huge bowl of melted cheese and bread, you're probably not going to lose too many pounds. However, Japan has you covered. The snow here is amazing, the lift tickets are cheap, and the on-mountain food is relatively healthy. Steer clear of the katsu curries every day and you'll be fine.

Hit the trail running

Maybe hiking just isn't enough for you. Maybe walking from place to place doesn't raise the heartrate sufficiently. Maybe it's all just too pedestrian. The answer? Trail running holidays. Yes, these are a thing. There are several specialist companies that are now running – ahem – niche trips for those fitness freaks who want to take their exercise regimens somewhere beautiful and interesting around the world. Stay fit, explore, and meet like-minded people. Sounds like a pretty good idea.

Relax in Okinawa

Five times as many Okinawans live to be 100 as their compatriots in the rest of Japan – and even your average Japanese person lives a long time. Okinawans' longevity is often put down to their vegetable-and-seafood-heavy diet, so why not get over there and soak up some of the goodness for yourself? These sunny isles provide the perfect opportunity to get a little vitamin D on the beach, before feasting on healthy, delicious food in the restaurants.

See also: Why the people of Okinawa live longer than anyone else

Get on your bike in south-east Asia


Photo: ALAMY

I once cycled from Hanoi to Luang Prabang in monsoonal humidity and heat, and I'd never felt fitter afterwards. I also swore I would never do a trip like that again, because it wasn't much fun. The thing is though, you don't have to slog it out in the heat through the "Lao Alps" to see south-east Asia by bike, and to get fitter while doing it. Plenty of tour companies offer much gentler itineraries, at much better times of year, in the likes of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Give one a shot.

See also: Paradise earned - cycling from Koh Samui to Krabi

Go to a yoga retreat in India

Dedicated yoginis are probably way ahead of me here, but yoga holidays are a thing – a fact I find kind of surprising, but hey, whatever bakes your crumpets. Though there are yoga retreats offered everywhere from Bali to Byron, it makes sense to go to India, to the source, for an experience that's physical, spiritual and cultural. There are retreats in India that cater to every yoga-related desire, from traditional, no-frills outfits to those with detox juices and fast wifi.

Walk the Camino de Santiago


Photo: Shutterstock

If walking 800 kilometres doesn't help you keep the waistline in check, nothing will. The Camino de Santiago, a traditional pilgrims route through northern Spain to the city of Santiago del Compostela, is becoming increasingly popular with non-secular tourists simply looking for a way to slow their travel down, to take in a beautiful part of the world at walking pace.

Have you been on a healthy holiday? Where did you go? Or do you prefer out-and-out gluttony when you're away from home?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: Instagram.com/bengroundwater

​See also: The secret to avoiding weight gain on holidays

See also: The 20 rules of eating in a foreign country