Sports & Fitness

Keeping fit while living the expat lifestyle

Exercise is a great way to help you meet new people if you’ve just moved to another country. It’s beneficial for both your health and wellbeing and will help keep those pesky homesickness blues at bay.

Keeping fit

By Carol Moore

Updated 29-2-2024

As an expat, your schedule and routine can completely change; it can be hard to find the time for exercising. You live in an unfamiliar environment, may have to speak a different language, and all too often, are simply living too much of the good life! Here are some tips for keeping fit while living the expat life.

Take your time to settle in

You’ve moved to an exciting new country and got the job of your dreams; now it’s time to do some exercise to keep that weight from creeping on. If you’re looking for love or are back on the dating scene, you’ll want to look your best. You’ll need to take care of the important stuff first like arranging where to live, paying the bills, and working out where things are. But when you’ve found your feet, try not to procrastinate and make excuses when it comes to your health.

It can be challenging to maintain and keep a healthy lifestyle for expats who often travel for work and enjoy trying out their new country’s cuisine. Start slow and be kind to yourself when looking at when, where, and how you’ll exercise.

Keeping fit for free

Expats might think they need to join a fancy gym or paying a hefty subscription to a health club. Not the case! There are countless ways to keep fit for free (or at least in a way that is budget-conscious), saving you a ton of money in the end. Find a park or outdoor recreational area and try one of the many fitness apps that help you design and implement your own training plan. Buy a bike and have a cycle around your new neighborhood to check out your new city.

Friends walking in a park

If you’ve moved to a city, there are running clubs you can join where it’s easy to meet others. If it’s team sports you’re into, look into the local expat football, volleyball, hockey, or other free sports meetup groups.

Expand your social circle

Moving to another country alone is a brave move, but one that gives you a chance to make new friends. If you find this daunting, look at keeping fit and trying new activities to improve your social life. Consider joining a dance class where you get in shape and enjoy a giggle along the way.

Either way, getting involved with fitness groups is a great way to meet like-minded people while improving your health. And who knows; perhaps you’ll think of a sport or fitness activity no one else has yet arranged and can start your own group!

Establish and maintain an exercise routine

Once you’ve moved to your new country, it’s good to understand local attitudes towards health and fitness. Is it safe to exercise at night alone? Or is it better to only do your exercise outside in the daylight hours? Fortunately, whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, there’s something to suit everyone in the fitness world.

Man cycling at a gym

Your daily schedule may change when you move to a different country. Be flexible in adapting to a new fitness routine. Look online for special offers outside of the usual gym hours with great discounts. Take advantage of the opportunity to try out new sports and activities. Once you’ve figured out what floats your fitness boat, keep to it regularly so it becomes a healthy habit. In time, you’ll find that instead of dreading your exercise, you’ll actually look forward to it.

Get a good health insurance policy

Health insurance policies for expats vary from country to country; do plenty of research and find the right one for you. If you already have a fitness routine and are in good health, then you may not have to rely too heavily on having an expensive policy. It’s worth checking the fine print of your new health insurance policy, just to see if any pre-existing or current conditions are covered and what treatments and therapies are available.

If you’re starting your fitness regime from scratch, get a full medical check where your overall health condition is assessed. Once you’ve got that sorted, rest easy, quit worrying, and focus on your fitness.

Practice healthy eating (and drinking)

Of course, it’s one thing to get your kicks from the gym, but if you’re stuffing your face with high-calorie foods, it will have a negative effect on your fitness and health. Depending on where you move to depends on if your new cuisine is edging towards the healthier, or more calorific. If it’s the latter, use some restraint when it comes to those delicious pastries and desserts you try.

Woman eating salad

You can follow the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the time you eat healthily and in moderation; 20% of the time, you can indulge in naughtier foods. Don’t forget that alcohol is high in calories, so be mindful of how many after-work drinks you partake in and switch to water instead.

Get plenty of sleep

We all get the drill about getting a good eight hours of sleep per night to feel fresh and fruity the next day, but for expats, this can be difficult. There’s a new country to discover, frequent traveling, making friends, and settling in; all of these take time. If you’re serious about keeping your health at its optimum, it’s imperative that you establish a regular sleep pattern to give you enough energy to carry out your exercise.

Sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system, which in turn leads to vulnerability to sickness. If you feel stressed at the end of the day, look at relaxation or meditation techniques to help you unwind and get a good night’s sleep. There are countless free apps that will leave you feeling ready to take on the world (and the gym!) the next day.