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6 ways to keep healthy abroad

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Eat locally available fruits and veggies to stay healthy abroad, Now Health International recommends. Photo: Getty

While getting an international health insurance policy is much simpler than it used to be, thanks to companies such as Now Health International that focus on overseas workers and students, not getting sick in the first place is still the best possible outcome.

Moving abroad exposes you to a wide range of health risks. Many of these come from your body not being used to the new environments it finds itself in. Other risks stem from the lack of local knowledge.

Here are six ways you can easily mitigate most of those health risks.

1.) Learn which locally available foods are good for you

When you move abroad to work or study, you will likely find that your regular eating habits will be disrupted, either due to the types of food available, or simply because your living conditions force you to eat one thing or another. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you deal with the situation.

You might be surprised at the variety of fruits and vegetables that are available in other countries that are almost unheard of in your home country. Similarly, you may find that it may be impossible, or extremely prohibitive to get the types of healthy foods you used to enjoy back at home.

In any case, try to come up with a plan for eating healthy, based on your present circumstances. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but at the very least you should actively seek to get your intake of fruits and veggies whenever the opportunity presents itself.

2.) Join a group that compels you to stay active

Not everyone can count on their own willpower alone to reach their fitness goals. That’s pretty much why those Hollywood celebs with smoking bods tend to require a retinue of fitness trainers and nutritionists and the run-of-the-mill average Joe often has a tough time staying in shape.

While you may not be able to afford to have a full-time fitness coach on standby at your beck and call, chances are, you have access to the next best thing. Being part of a fitness group allows you to conserve the precious willpower necessary to meet your fitness goals while allowing you the benefit of a support group that you can interact with.

It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to join a cheesy Zumba or yoga class either. Biking and hiking clubs can be found all over the world, and every major city has social clubs built around some form of physical activity.

The activity that you partake in need not be strenuous either. Being part of a band or musical group can be a surprisingly physical activity that gives you a fair amount of exercise. Even being part of a culture or historical enthusiast group will often require a good deal of walking, which is a great activity in and of itself.

3.) Avoid the temptation to just stay in during your days off

Many of those working and studying abroad often find themselves tired at the end of the week, not just because of work, but because they feel mentally overloaded at being in unfamiliar surroundings. This is especially true for those who are still in their adjustment period. However, staying in too long and too often during the weekends can lead to a vicious cycle that results in lethargy and a lack of physical activity, which is generally not a good idea for keeping fit and healthy.

Having a bucket list of activities that take you out of the house during the weekends can be a great way to not just allow you to maintain the right levels of exercise, but also help you make the most out of your time abroad.

4.) Get enough sleep

The lack of sleep puts you at a higher risk for diabetes, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia, and a host of other serious ailments. Not being able to catch enough sleep also puts you at risk for depression and makes you more susceptible to workplace accidents.

While you might be able to do the occasional all-nighter with no ill effect, staying up all night regularly can lead to accumulated sleep debt, impairing your health and work performance over time. This makes it critical to get your required 7-9 hours of quality shut-eye every single day, not just during the weekends.

5.) Don’t overindulge in alcohol and other recreational drugs

While a few drinks every now and then is a great way to unwind and bond with others, many expats and foreign students may overdo it and find themselves in all sorts of trouble because of it.  It’s best to avoid alcohol and other legal recreational drugs outside of the context of bonding with friends and coworkers and to keep things in moderation.

6.) Walk or bike to school if you can

When possible it’s best to try going to work by bike or on foot. This can make it easier for you to reach your recommended 30 minutes to an hour’s worth of activity a day. If needing to drive is unavoidable, instead try to commute and walk part of the way at least three times a week. The specific intensity is not as important as the ability to do these consistently. 

By making this kind of basic exercise a part of your routine, it becomes simpler for you to reach your basic fitness requirements without trying too hard.

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