Travel News

Make Travel Exercise Fun Again With These Gadgets

Man JoggingWhat are your excuses when it comes to avoiding exercise? No time, no energy, and no motivation?

When you think about it, all those excuses usually boil down to one thing: For many of us, exercise is No Fun.

Well, we’re bringing the fun back into exercise with portable travel gadgets that get your blood flowing, your muscles working and your fun-o-meter set to High.

Hoopnotic TravelHoop

Turns out, hula hoops aren’t just for kids anymore. They’ve made their way onto the fitness scene and making exercise fun again. And now they’re even portable!

Being able to keep a hula hoop around your midsection without it falling to the floor requires neuromuscular coordination—your nervous system has to spontaneously communicate with your muscles in order to coordinate the action. It is great for activating your core muscles, making you more aware of them which can translate to better posture during the rest of your day. At the end of a long travel day it is wonderful for relaxation and just plain fun to use.

Travel hoop hoopnoticaThis product comes in segments about 18 inches long, and you easily snap one piece into the next. It requires a hard object like a coin to press into the release tabs to disassemble it, but it’s easy enough to do. You can buy a strap to carry it over your shoulder or put the pieces into your suitcase.

If you are into the idea of burning as many calories as possible, this might not be your first choice, but you will feel good, activate your core muscles, and if you haven’t worked out consistently for awhile, you will feel the burn.

Hoopnotic also provides instructional DVDs where you can pick up the little-known art of “hoopdance.” You may have seen it on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, where contestants engaged in the workout as part of their rigorous routines.

The hoop is also a great addition to a full body workout done in your hotel room. Finally, just imagine going to the happy hour after your meeting or conference and getting others excited about trying this in a friendly competition! Networking anyone?

The Travel Hoop is available for $39.95 and beginning instructional DVDs are $19.95.

Ropeless Jump Rope
A jump rope without the rope? Genius. And it makes a lot of sense for those would-be jumpers who were born with two left feet and end up in a tangled mess.

Jumping is one of the best examples of a weight-bearing exercise, which means you moving against gravity and the ground beneath you. This is crucial for bone density and working against osteoporosis. It’s also a challenging cardiovascular activity, burning a relatively high number of calories in a short period of time. Using various jumping patterns helps with coordination and agility.

So how does a ropeless jump rope work?

JumpSnapTwo battery-powered handles have balls at the end that spin and “snap,” creating the illusion that you’re jumping with a rope. You can program in your height and weight and the LCD display will give you information including the number of calories you burn and other data.

This product is perfect for traveling as it takes up little room. This is also a good choice if you are trying to get better at the true act of rope jumping but need to improve your own coordination, and then adding the actual rope at a later time.

A kit costs $49.95 and includes the JumpSnap, three 2.5 ounce weights for each handle, a beginner and an intermediate workout DVD, and a travel bag.

Inflatable Exercise Ball
You’re probably familiar with the giant exercise balls that have taken the fitness industry by storm. One of the big reasons behind this trend isn’t just that they help improve your balance, coordination, strength, and stability … they’re just plain fun!

Exercise balls (also known as a Swiss ball, balance ball or fitness ball), of varying sizes create an unstable surface on which you have to really work your core muscles to keep your balance. You can use the surface for push-ups, sit-ups, squats, leg-lifts, and bridges.
The trick is to tighten your deep core/abdominal muscles by exhaling and feeling how your navel gets pulled in slightly. Maintain that feeling as you do the exercises.

Abs WorkoutWhen using this ball, make sure you start with smaller ranges of motion (when doing a push up, keep most of your leg on the ball first, then progress to less of your legs on the ball to make it more difficult). Lean against the ball while standing up against the wall and do a single leg squat and you will how difficult it is to maintain your balance, so start with a mini squat, not bending your knee very much, and then progress to a deeper range of motion.

Some even swear by using the exercise ball as your office chair to improve your spine alignment, since each time you move to do something at your desk, your body will immediately feel the need to adjust in order to maintain your stability and not fall off your chair. This will help your body get better at reacting to different positions in your everyday life.

When you’re done with the workout, sit your butt on the ball, grab on and start bouncing around your hotel room! Guaranteed it’ll make you sweat and laughter is one of the best exercises out there.

Balls can range from $10 to $100 based on size and quality. You may also want to invest in a small hand pump for easy inflating.

Back-A-Traction Mini
This one may not exactly bring you back to your childhood, but rest assured that you’ll have to stop the kids from clambering all over it.

This handy gadget is a portable inversion table from Mastercare, the Swedish Back Care System. Inversion techniques have been around for a long time, and basically it means getting your body into a position where your lower body is above your upper body. (You may be familiar with yogic inversion positions such as bridges and wheels.)

Back-a-traction miniIn life, gravity is constantly pulling your body down, and the effects have been well-documented. The vertebrae of the spine compress together, which can contribute to tightness or tension. Now, imagine how this is exacerbated by muscle imbalances—some muscles working harder than they should, others not working enough—from repetitive daily postures and activities.

Traveling makes this even worse because you can spend a lot of time sitting down … the most hated position for your body!

Sitting for long periods of time can reduce circulation and blood flow from your lower body back to your heart, and can lead to ankle swelling and a general feeling of lethargy, making exercise all the more daunting a task.

Considering that the spine is the center of your core and upon which all of the body’s muscles rely on to transmit force and stability, it is not unreasonable that we feel the way we do at the end of a long day.

When you lie on this inversion table, you secure your feet and thereby get a traction effect, where the two ends of your body feel like they are gently being pulled apart. By creating space between the vertebrae of the spine, you instantly feel increased circulation and blood flow, with overall relaxation.

The size of this product prohibits it from packing it in your suitcase or checking it as luggage, but it fits nicely into a car trunk. And after a long day on the road, it can be extremely relaxing. The mini-version starts out at about 4 ft. x 2ft. x 10in.

One word of advice: Respect the instructions!

You are putting yourself in a potentially precarious position which is also contraindicated for those with certain medical conditions. The product comes with suggested stretches as well as the basic relaxation position. Inversion is one of the positions that are lacking in traditional fitness and exercise programs, and one that is necessary after a full day of fighting against gravity! Available from Relax the Back for $399.

By Annette Lang for Annette Lang is the author of Morning Strength Workouts. For more information about Annette, visit her Web site at

Read more about staying fit and healthy on the road with our Travel Health & Fitness category.

Previously by Annette Lang:

Workout Options for the Hotel Pool

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