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Fitting It In: Staying Fit and Healthy in Stockholm

Locations in this article:  Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm WaterIn giving tips for staying in shape on the road, I thought it might be a good idea to share my personal experience a few weeks ago when I went to Sweden.

I travel for work fairly regularly, so it was nice to travel for fun!

I try to stay in shape whether I travel for work or pleasure, although the time commitment necessary to stay active is obviously easier to fit in when I know I don’t have to be at a conference or meeting for several hours each day.

Although I teach workshops in health clubs, and worked in gyms for 17 years, I usually don’t go to a fitness center to work out when in other cities, although I do observe what kind of facilities are available and like to check out the personal training scene in various cities, as that is what I do in New York.

I also go to health clubs if the weather is really bad, and I get antsy not being able to walk around enough. Instead, I try to plan my travels to include lots of walking to see the sites, and I always bring my running clothes in case I feel the need for more exercise.

Some considerations when you travel:

What is the weather forecast for the area?

If you can plan ahead with the appropriate clothes, it’s easier to get outside and move. If you see that it might be cloudy or rainy, bring a raincoat or compact umbrella so you will be ready to walk at least part of the day.

What kind of area or terrain are you going to experience?

ShoesIf you are going to be hiking in the woods, you need an additional pair of shoes besides the ones you use when just walking around the city. The older cities in Europe have many cobblestone streets, which are great for the small muscles in and around your feet and ankles. You could plan a short walk with shoes that offer less support, which makes your body work harder and feels like a mini-massage on the bottom of your feet!

What kind of transportation should you plan for?

If you are going to be in a city with mass transit available, you have more options to stay active. You could plan longer walking excursions for the day, knowing that you can take the metro back if you are tired. You could also plan your entire day by alternating walking and mass transit options.

If you travel with people who might not want to walk as much as you, it is easier to plan a destination later in the day when you have metro or bus stations you can use as a meeting place. Consider bus tours that are available in many cities. Plan ahead so you can hop off and on with plenty of walking in between riding times.

What is the food going to be like?

There are some places that are not known for healthy or great food, and that can help you plan how far outside of your normal eating habits you might be tempted to veer and can plan ahead to make some better choices.

Regarding these questions, here is what I anticipated for my trip to Stockholm, Sweden:

The weather was forecast to be a little cool during the day, but no rain or severe weather predicted. So I brought plenty of layers to be able to walk without getting too hot. I did have to buy a scarf, as the breeze off the lake and the Baltic Sea was sometimes pretty strong across my neck.

We were staying in Stockholm city center where walking was very easy. There are several islands surrounding the metropolitan area, which made day trips very feasible. These locations were all connected by bridges and underground metros. I brought two pairs of shoes that are very comfortable when walking for hours, and I alternated them. It feels good to change shoes if you can, so your feet get a little different cushioning and support during each day.

Breads BreakfastEating while traveling is similar to eating at home, in the sense that you need to plan ahead to avoid getting caught in a situation where you make a choice that is not optimal. We had a traditional European breakfast in the hotel each morning (hard or soft-boiled eggs, cheeses, breads, cold cuts, fruit) which made it easier to walk around for several hours each morning without being too tempted by the sweets in the cafes.

Sweden is known for fish dishes, and other wonderful traditional choices like meat dishes, and mashed potatoes.

I figured I would walk enough to indulge in some of the sweets and pastries too!

Twice during the week, I purposely ate less at breakfast to plan for one of those experiences-to sit at a café and enjoy a cup of coffee with a Danish pastry. Just like at home, if I planned to meet someone at the end of the day for dinner and drinks, I planned to eat a little less during the day to anticipate the extra calories.

We spent the first full day getting our bearings in the streets around the hotel, and loved how the different neighborhoods are connected by bridges with ships and boats all over the place. We walked through the old town, and saw some beautiful architecture and tiny little streets that entice you to simply walk through them to see what is at the other side!

Stockholm MetroThe second day we decided to try the metro (Radhuset station pictured at right), with our destination being the corporate site that his conference would be at the next day. After getting to this neighborhood to the west of city center, we realized that we could walk back.

A direct route would have been about 2-3 miles, but we turned it into an afternoon of meandering down small streets with cafes, stores and restaurants. Most places had a reasonably priced lunch menu that consisted of meat or fish, salad and potatoes, coffee and dessert.

I planned the most activity for the next two days when I was on my own. I started out with my guide book and did several of the self-guided walking tours. One was through the neighborhood south of city center.

Since I figured I would be walking most of the day, I decided to take the metro through the old town we visited the first day, and start my walking in an area that was new for me. The self-guided walking tours were a great way to start, giving me some historical sites to view, and as I got more familiar with my surroundings, I just started zig-zagging as much as I wanted, exploring the culture and feel of this beautiful city.

One day I planned several shorter trips, including a boat tour as well as walking. I went to the Olympic stadium, where the games were held in 1912. Then I took a boat trip called “Under the Bridges,” where we went around the city and surrounding neighborhoods. Stockholm is surrounded by water and it was a great way to learn about the city, see the beautiful architecture, and give my legs a needed break!

I have to add that we promised ourselves to walk the four flights of stairs in the hotel instead of taking the elevator. I succeeded most times, although the lift came in handy at end of the days when I walked for quite a few hours!

When I get back from a trip, I always ask myself the same questions.

How did I do regarding exercise and eating habits? What could I have done better? Was it worth it?

The bottom line advice is this: No matter where you are, you still need to stay in touch with what your goals are. Anticipate your surroundings and you can maintain your exercise/activity program anywhere!

By Annette Lang for Annette Lang is a fitness expert and a frequent contributor to Visit Annette’s Web site at

For more ideas on how to stay healthy while on vacation, check out the Health & Fitness section.

Previously by Annette Lang:

Exercise Travel Gadgets

Working Out: Band on the Run

Hotel Gyms & Working (Out) Around Them

Traveling Pain in the Neck… or Shoulders… or Back

Basic Fitness for Travelers on the Road