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Ever see the movie Zombieland?  It’s an apocalyptic comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Emma Stone.  Jesse plays a character nicknamed Columbus, and offers great survival tips throughout the movie in case you ever find yourself in a zombie apocalypse.  His first rule of survival?  Keep up your cardio so that you’ll be able to outrun a zombie.

Not only is this great advice in case a zombie is after you, but it’s great vacation advice as well.

Let’s face it, many Americans are not in exemplary shape.  In 2014, the Lancet Medical Journal released a report concerning obesity worldwide.  Guess what?  The United States has the largest number of obese and overweight people in the world.  This means that we have a tenth of the world’s obese population, although we make up just 5% of the world’s population:  “70.9 percent of men and 61.9 percent of women are overweight or obese, compared to 38 percent of men and 36.9 percent of women worldwide.”*

If you fall into the categories of the, let’s say, not-so-slim or exercise-is-a-dirty-word, let me warn you — you’ll want to get into some sort of exercise routine before you take a vacation to a foreign country.

The United States is a relatively young nation that has had the benefit of modern amenities at its disposal since its founding.  In America, most public, indoor spaces are cool in the summers and warm in the winters.  Tourists don’t have to walk far because public and private transportation are easy to secure.  And Americans are so ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compliant that it’s difficult to find a large, public building that doesn’t have an elevator; historic, multi-level sites included.  Not so, overseas.

Air-conditioning in historic structures are generally the exception rather than the rule in foreign nations, with even more modern buildings not being necessarily air-conditioned.  In addition, the idea of being transported everywhere can seem strange to other people when you’re visiting their country.  People in many other nations are generally quite fit and don’t mind walking, biking, or taking the stairs.  If anyone is huffing and puffing, and trying to keep up on tour, it’s likely the Americans.

Before your trip, start out by researching the terrain of the places you will be visiting.  Will you be in a mostly-flat city, like London?  Or will you be climbing hills often, like on the Amalfi Coast?  This is invaluable research because it will shape the exercise that you need to do.

After you research the terrain, plan an exercise regime accordingly.  If the terrain is mostly flat, focus on building stamina with walking.  If hills are in your future, you might have to throw in some reps on a stair or step machine, or start taking the steps at work.

Beginning at least one month before a vacation that you know will involve a good deal of walking, start building up your walking endurance.  If you can, try to walk at least a mile per day at least two weeks before your trip.  You’ll likely be walking at least two times as much as that in one day, especially if you like to be out and about all day and only use your hotel room for sleep.

Throw in the stairs for good measure during your exercise routine.  Trust me, when it’s you and two elderly gentleman who are the only ones requesting the elevator at La Scala in Milan, you look bad.  Or, when you recklessly wind your way down to the beach in Positano only to realize that the speck waaaay up the cliff is the business near where your tour bus is parked, you will cuss.  You will cuss and you will ask the Lord to forgive you.  You will even have the nerve to pray that He prevents you from having a heart attack as you slowly make your way up the cliff back to the bus.  Once you reach the bus, you will be grateful and you will promise to never, ever, ever go on vacation again unless you are in shape.  Until the next time that you do.

Do yourself and your eternal soul a favor and simply force yourself to increase your capacity for walking long distances and taking the stairs before your next trip.

*Quote taken from the June 3, 2014 article Are We As Fat As We Think? from the Everyday Health website.  http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/are-we-fat-think/