Expat life opens the doors to countless new adventures and new opportunities to explore. In the process of moving to your host country, it’s easy to neglect your health and simply focus on living in the moment.
It can take time to learn about local foods and get your kitchen set up to cook healthier meals, and settling for quicker, unhealthy meals is a natural short-term response. That being said, neglecting your health can quickly interfere with your ability to live life to the fullest in your host country.
Here are our 7 secrets to staying healthy while living abroad.
1. Travel By Bike
One of our favorite ways to stay healthy while living abroad is to adopt the European standard of using bikes as your primary means of transportation. Commuting distances may prevent you from regularly biking to work, but traveling by bike to your office or town center serves as an excellent source of exercise, and can give you an added appreciation for your new surroundings.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Adjusting to a new country can take a toll on your body if not properly hydrated. Changes in altitude or temperature can significantly change the amount of water that your body needs to be at its best, so listen to your body’s cues and drink water whenever you feel thirsty.
Opinions differ on how much water you should be drinking every day but eight 8-ounce glasses (2 liters) is usually recommended. This is typically referred to as the 8×8 rule.
3. Bring Appropriate Medications
With the stress of moving on your mind, it can be easy to forget about medications. This is your reminder not to make this mistake. Your host country will likely have effective medications of their own, but finding the right medication in your host country can cause headaches, especially with any potential language barriers. We recommend bringing enough medication to last you several months in case finding a replacement medication takes longer than expected.
It’s also important to keep in mind that your current health insurance plan is unlikely to cover you during your time abroad. Learn more about international health insurance so you can find the health insurance provider that is best for you.
Also see our packing list for moving abroad
4. Practice Portion Control
Moving to a new country opens the doors to completely new cuisine. Unfortunately, the desire to try all of the local dishes can quickly add a few inches to your waistline if not monitored.
The best way to have your cake and eat it too is to practice portion control. Whether eating out or cooking for yourself, there are various portion control tricks such as putting your food on a smaller plate or asking for salad dressing on the side, that can help you to watch your figure while experiencing the local cuisine.
5. Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep may seem an unnecessary luxury to many expats, especially as you settle into a new job and explore your host country. However, sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system, and leave you vulnerable to local sicknesses that your immune system is not accustomed to.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night in order to stay healthy, and recommends sticking to a consistent sleep schedule in order to get the best quality sleep.
6. Get Vaccinated for Local Diseases
Before moving abroad, be sure to read up on your host country to learn about common diseases or recent outbreaks to ensure that you receive proper vaccines and medications for such diseases.
If you do start experiencing the symptoms of any common diseases, use our healthcare provider lookup resource to find the closest hospital as soon as possible.
7. Find an Exercise Buddy
Setting aside time every day to exercise isn’t easy, but finding a friend to hold you accountable can make consistent exercise much easier.
Ask around to see if any friends are interested in starting to run or lift weights with you – just be careful about who you start exercising with. Persuading a friend to start running with you may be a great idea, but starting to run with a marathon runner could lead to a lot of frustration.