No matter who you are or where you're from, a trip to Walt Disney World is definitely a treat. Whether you're visiting as a day guest or planning a two-week-long vacation, there's no doubt that you're going to do everything you can to make the most out of your stay. That being said, it's likely that fitness, exercise, and eating right will all inevitably take a back seat to the many attractions, experiences, and tastes that Walt Disney World has to offer.
Well, I'm here to tell you that this doesn't have to be the case! Yes, there IS a way for you to maintain a level of fitness while simultaneously enjoying your trip! Now don't get me wrong, some sacrifice may be required and some of the suggestions I'm about to propose may not be what you'd expect to do while on vacation, but here are 5 ways that you can incorporate fitness into your Walt Disney World experience:
1) Hit the Gym
Let’s start with the obvious. When you hear someone say that they want to get “fit,” what’s the first thought that usually comes to mind? “Go to the gym!” Fortunately, almost all of the Resorts at Walt Disney World offer a fitness center that as a hotel guest, you can utilize during your stay. Not staying on Disney property? Chances are the hotel or resort you are staying in will have some sort of a gym or fitness center as well. Now I wouldn’t walk in and expect to see something that resembles a Gold’s Gym satellite location, but you'll definitely find an assortment of cardio equipment, machines, and free weights that will allow you to work up a sweat and get in a good workout.
Also, be sure to check your resort’s itinerary for the week, as many offer added amenities such as morning yoga classes that you can take advantage of at no additional cost! Just keep in mind that space is usually VERY limited (capped at about 20 people).
2) Walk this Way!
Whether you realize it or not, one day spent at the Walt Disney World Resort goes a long way when it comes to hitting your steps goal. A day in the parks naturally equates to a long day on your feet, but really think about the amount of walking you’re doing. You leave your hotel in the morning, walk to the bus stop, walk from the bus stop to the front entrance, walk (or run) to Flight of Passage to get in line, walk through the entire queue line, decide you need to use the restroom after the ride and have to walk over there... You can see where this is going and how by the end of the day, all of those steps add up!
Despite all of the natural or unintentional walking you’ll inevitably do, there are ways to enhance your exercise for the day and get in those precious extra steps as well. While the Friendship Boats offer a serene passage from Epcot to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (or vice-versa), there is an equally-scenic walkway that connects the two theme parks. This path takes you from Epcot’s International Gateway, through Disney’s Boardwalk, past the main pool, and along the same waterway that the Friendship Boats utilize. (For an added challenge, head towards the Yacht & Beach Club instead.) You won’t get to relax like you would on a boat or bus, but you’ll tack on an additional 1-1.25 miles to your daily total!
Start your journey from Epcot by taking a nice, relaxing stroll along the Boardwalk...
and about a mile later, you'll find yourself at the front gate of Disney's Hollywood Studios!
Another great way to see the world on foot, is to do just that! The promenade around Epcot’s World Showcase spans about 1.25 miles and by the time you’re done exploring, you may feel like you’ve literally walked across the world! Pretend that you’re back in high school gym class and “take a lap,” while soaking in all that each pavilion has to offer. (Remember, those steps you take to walk inside Mexico and reach the barstool at La Cava del Tequila still count.) Plus, you’ll really feel you’ve earned that drink or dessert after walking across 6 countries to get it!
You'll likely never see it this empty, but World Showcase is a great place to explore on foot!
For you more-determined readers, just about every resort has a dedicated walking/jogging/running trail that you can take advantage of. These range from .6 miles in length to 2.5 miles, and are fairly easy to navigate with signs posted along the path for easy location and progress tracking. And don’t forget about Disney Springs with its scenic views, abundance of shops to explore, and no other way to do it all than by foot!
Whether you’re an avid walker or not, I recommend checking to see if your smartphone offers some sort of health or step-tracking app to help keep track of your progress. I’d even consider investing in some sort of physical tracker such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit, as this could really assist in achieving your goals!
3) Treat Yourself!
This one might hurt a little as it’s likely you’re already spending a pretty penny just to be in Walt Disney World, but at the end of the day, you are on vacation. Live a little!
Walt Disney World is home to 4 world-class golf courses (and some pretty adorable mini-golf courses) that you can spend a few hours at. Even in the most Magical Place on Earth, golf is taken very seriously as these courses are professionally run and carefully maintained. Whether you’re an amateur golfer or one step away from the PGA Tour, you’ll have no issue finding a suitable course to play. Just make sure you book your tee time well in advance, as these courses tend to fill up pretty quickly. Also for an added challenge, forego renting the golf cart and instead walk the entire 9 or 18 holes!
If golf isn’t your thing, many of the resorts have on-site tennis courts that you can reserve on a first-come, first-"serve" basis. Disney Vacation Club members can even check out equipment such as rackets and balls free of charge! All other guests pay a nominal fee, or will need to provide their own. Some of the resorts offer bike rentals as well, including the popular 2-, 4-, or 6-person surrey bikes that can be found at 6 different resorts across Walt Disney World.
Maybe you’re tired of being active all day and need something that's a little slower in pace. Walt Disney World is home to 11 incredibly luxurious spas where you’re able to wind down and have some quality “me-time.” Go get that massage, facial, or body treatment, but be prepared to spend a little as these are definitely high-end spas. And please don’t forget to tip!
But hey, who said fitness can’t involve being pampered and taking time to recharge every once in a while? Again, you ARE on vacation!
4) Sacrifice (where you can...)
This one might hurt a little, as we live in an era where a visit to Walt Disney World is no longer just about riding the attractions and meeting your favorite characters. Of course, I’m talking about the INSANE amount of food and beverage offerings that you’re able to sample (or completely indulge in) during your visit! Long-gone are the days where a visit to a theme park only meant burgers, hot dogs, popcorn and sodas. A trip to Disney World now resembles nothing short of a world culinary experience, so much so that we’re now faced with the welcomed challenge of planning trips around literal food festivals.
It doesn’t take a registered dietitian to tell you that all of the eating you’ll likely be doing during your visit (and the types of food that you’ll likely be eating) are probably not the best for your health. Well I’m here to tell you that one, it’s going to be okay (more on that later), and two, there are ways to lessen the blow by making some sacrifices.
One of the healthier menu items you can opt for: Grilled Salmon with vegetable rice and green beans and carrots from Columbia Harbor House.
While these probably aren’t the first foods that come to mind when you think of "Disney" and "vacation," there are plenty of healthy and lighter options for you to choose from across the parks and resorts. Most, if not all, of the quick service restaurants will allow you to swap out those French fries for a healthier option such as green beans or apple slices. These locations (as well as the full-service restaurants) usually offer a salad or two on the menu, but be careful as these generally perceived “healthy meals” can sometimes be deceiving with some of the ingredients. Definitely check to see what goes into these dishes, as some of those toppings and dressings are worse offenders to your health than some of those traditional theme park foods.
Thankfully, Disney has seemingly caught-on to the general population’s shift toward a healthier lifestyle, as many of the newly opened/opening dining locations have health at the forefront. Look no further than Satu'li Canteen and its whole grain bowls (which I HIGHLY recommend).
One of the healthiest (and tastiest) quick service meals on Disney property! Wood-Grilled Chicken with a brown rice base from Satu'li Canteen.
Now what if you don’t want to cut out your favorite foods? What if you've traveled thousands of miles to get to Walt Disney World and even if it’s the last thing you do, you’re going to devour that bread pudding from O’hana after no less than 2 skewers of steak?
What you could do is prioritize your desires and determine what’s really important to you and your taste buds. If you know you’ll be dining at O’hana in the evening, maybe your afternoon consists of an early light lunch (think salads with light/no dressing or a grilled chicken sandwich, sparing some of the heavier toppings and condiments), followed by a lengthy stroll to/through the parks. Not only will this create some room for those extra calories at dinner, but the walk will also make you feel like you’ve earned that meal you’ve been looking forward to! Look, it’s more than likely that if you’re going to eat a heavy table service meal, you had to book it well in advance (up to 180 days) and will have had enough time to plan your day and the rest of your meals. Sacrifice the snacking or heavier breakfast/lunch so you're able to really enjoy that dinner (or vice-versa)!
There is one alternative to this strategy, but only if money really isn’t a factor. Food at Walt Disney World can be expensive and if you’re paying for a meal, you'll absolutely want to get your money’s worth. But if money isn’t an issue, then a solution to the problem outlined above could be to eat more. Seriously! Now you should still try to make some of those sacrifices mentioned earlier, but if you eat regularly throughout the day, you’ll be less inclined to eat more later in the day when your body is preparing itself to shut down and therefore burning less calories. Again, you probably won’t be getting your full money’s worth if you’re watching your portions at a table service meal (plus the cost of those meals and snacks during the day will start to add-up), but it could prevent you from over-eating by maintaining a level of satiation throughout the day.
You hate me right now, don’t you? I had a feeling you might. Which brings us to number 5.
I can see the look on your face. Yes, you! Did you really think you would be hidden by that screen? I can see your confusion as you just read this entire article about how to incorporate fitness into your vacation, and now I’m telling you to basically forget everything you just ingested (pun intended). Well here’s the thing, and it’s been a recurring theme throughout this article: You are on vacation!
If you don’t want to take time away from the parks to go to the gym, don’t. If you really want to wash down your Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake with an ice cream cone from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, do it and don’t look back! One "cheat day” that consists of minimal to no exercise and poor dieting isn’t going to throw you off-course. Two days... Not going to hurt you either. Three days... Guess what? You’ll be fine! In reality, your body needs these days in order to reset physically AND mentally. If you're reading this, you probably commit a lot of time trying to keep fit and stick to a plan at home, so now that you're able to spend some money and take that trip, enjoy yourself! A few days of eating poorly and cutting back on exercise aren’t going to derail you or cause you to gain weight — it’s practicing this type of lifestyle over a long period of time that will.
Remember, you're on vacation. If you want that Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake from Liberty Tree Tavern... Go for it!
Nobody knows you better than you. At the end of the day, do what makes YOU happy!
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