Healthy Habits at Walt Disney World

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Photo Credit - Savannah Sanders
Hollywood Studios Walking Path

Getting and staying healthy is a popular resolution this time of year. But what can be a struggle at home may seem nearly impossible or just not at all fun when you’re on the road.

Healthy habits at Walt Disney World?! That’s crazy talk.

When I go on vacations, I love to indulge myself. It’s all part of the experience! However, on my last trip, I tried to make an honest effort to keep up the healthy lifestyle I strive to live at home.

I spoke with a primary care physician at the Mayo Clinic, who gave me an insight into the do’s and don’ts for maintaining personal health and wellness. Here were his recommendations:

  1. Exercise at least 20 minutes, five days a week
  2. Drink plenty of water
  3. Limit red meat
  4. Gobble up those fruits and vegetables
  5. Eat less ‘white’ food – bread, pasta, potatoes, white flour
  6. Drink in moderation – enjoy one glass of red wine a day

Based on his guidelines, I made a list of things I (and you too, if you wish!) can do to keep up my health and overall wellness while vacationing at Walt Disney World.

Go swimming: Think of all the resort pools on Disney property! A mid-day swim would be a great way to cool off and burn some calories. Should I still have energy at the end of day, the pools are often open until 9:00 p.m. or later. Check out Erin Foster’s articles to get to know the pool at your Disney resort!

Or try a water park: Who says you can’t have fun while working out? I went to Typhoon Lagoon years ago, and thinking of all the stairs make my legs ache! If you’re one for thrill rides, this is a great way to push yourself. Walking up all those flights mean an adrenaline rushing waterside experience for you, like that of Humunga Kowabunga. A great way to work the arm muscles is to fight off the waves in the Surf Pool. Hmm…I make have to make another trip to Typhoon Lagoon soon!

Use a pedometer: Do you know how much walking you can do at Disney World? I mean, one time around the World Showcase is 1.2 miles alone! Getting the recommended 20 minutes a day, five days a week of exercise is nothing when spending a week at Disney World. I often feel like I need a vacation from my Disney vacation because of all the walking I do. Let’s clip on our pedometers or other step tracking device and get those feet moving!

Rent bicycles: I haven’t done this yet, but would really like to. If I wanted to involve the whole family, I could even rent a surrey bike! Below are a list of resorts where bicycles can be rented:

  • Old Key West
  • Fort Wilderness
  • BoardWalk Inn
  • Yacht & Beach Club
  • Port Orleans
  • Saratoga Springs
  • Caribbean Beach
Photo by Craig Duncan
Photo by Craig Duncan

Hydrate: For me, early mornings at the parks mean a mid-day coffee date with myself. However, I always try my best to drink as much water as possible. I bring a filtered water bottle (I have one by Brita) so anytime I see a water fountain, I can fill up. I know Cast Members working Quick Service will give me free ice water (should I ask), so there’s no excuse if I forget the bottle. With all that walking and time in the sun, it’s so important to get those ounces of H2O in my system.

Enjoy a stroll on the resort walking trails: What a relaxing and enjoyable way to get a little ‘me time’ in before or after a day in a busy park. Check out Savannah Sanders great article on the different walking paths on property.

When given the option, walk: I’m someone who would much rather exercise outside than indoors. To avoid gym time while on vacation, I walk (instead of using Disney transportation) whenever possible. Since I stayed at the BoardWalk Inn on my last visit, I used the walking trails to get to the two parks close by. The trail to Epcot is short and sweet (about five minutes) while the one to Hollywood Studios is a little longer (about 15 minutes). Because we’re timely that way, you can read all about this in today’s article on where you can get by foot and how long it takes from Erin Foster.

Rent a canoe: Give those arms a workout and partner up for a paddling adventure! This can be done at the campsites at Fort Wilderness. I know there was once an option to rent pedal boats on Disney property, but could not find information for this on the Disney website. Anyone know if you can still do this?

Participate in a RunDisney Event: This one is on my bucket list. The way I see it, is if I can run more than 5 miles (heck, even 2 miles!) at one time, then I’ve EARNED a trip to Walt Disney World. My goal is to one day run the Disney Princess Half Marathon. Who wants to start training with me?

The 80/20 Food Rule: I love food, and I especially love trying new restaurants whilst at Disney World. This past trip, I really tried to stick to the 80/20 rule – 80% healthy food, 20% whatever I wanted. Taking the food guidelines above into consideration, here is a sample of what I ate on my last Disney vacation.

Breakfast: Continental Breakfast at the Boardwalk Inn – fruit parfait and a cup of coffee

Snack: Banana

Lunch: ABC Commissary in Hollywood Studios – couscous quinoa & arugula salad with chicken

Snack: Small bag of pretzels

Dinner: Coral Reef Restaurant in Epcot – Grilled chicken breast with marinated grilled vegetables and black rice

Dessert: Seashore Sweets along the BoardWalk – 1 scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream

Use the exercise facilities: I know, I know…this is not an ideal way to enjoy a Disney vacation. I’m just sayin’, if it’s raining and I need to burn off some extra energy, I’ll use the exercise room. Otherwise, i’d much rather explore outside.

The Florida sun is great for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder: In Minnesota, I know several people that deal with this, so I thought it was important to include it. The doctor I spoke with said this is something that affects a good amount of people during the Winter months, and that getting out of the cold and into a sunny environment can do wonders for those with S.A.D.

Drink around the World: Okay, so maybe the Doc didn’t exactly put it like this. However, he DID say that having a glass of red wine a day may prevent heart disease because of the antioxidants it contains. Either way, alcohol in moderation is the way to go.

Go on a walking tour: I’m going on a five hour walking tour of the Magic Kingdom (Keys to the Kingdom for those wondering) on my next trip and could not be more excited. With all the interesting things i’ll be learning, this will hardly feel like exercise!

How many of these things have you done? Do you have any ideas to put on my list? Let me know in the comments!

Angela Dahlgren

Angela is cohost of the TouringPlans Podcast and regular contributor to the TouringPlans YouTube channel. When she's not talking about the happiest place on earth, she spends her time entertaining her own little Minnie and Mickey Mouse. You can find her on twitter @AngelaDahlgren or via email - angela@touringplans.com

10 thoughts on “Healthy Habits at Walt Disney World

  • February 4, 2015 at 11:19 am
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    RunDisney events are a great incentive! I signed up for my first last year and it was the Tower of Terror 10 miler in October. I had to keep up with my training because I knew all that money would be wasted otherwise. It was a great experience and now I’m hooked 🙂

    Reply
    • February 4, 2015 at 10:27 pm
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      Chaitali,

      That’s a really good mindset to have. I am NOT a runner by nature, so knowing that a trip to Disney was in my future would definitely be incentive to keep training.

      Thanks for reading!

      Angela

      Reply
  • February 4, 2015 at 11:39 am
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    One easy way to add a few extra steps every day is, if you’re driving your own car, walk from the parking lot to the park (or the TTC for MK). Many times, you may even beat the tram!

    Reply
  • February 4, 2015 at 11:55 am
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    Planning a WDW trip is great motivation to get healthier! We like to do light breakfast in the room & bring our own snacks. You’ll eat healthier & save money. I try to include lean protein for breakfast & snacks; it keeps kids & adults full (and happy) longer.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2015 at 10:28 pm
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      Aleksa,

      What kind of lean protein and other snacks do you eat in your room? I could use some more ideas!

      I appreciate the comment. 🙂

      Angela

      Reply
  • February 4, 2015 at 11:56 am
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    Here’s something you may not have thought of:
    Go to a buffet!

    Hear me out…
    When we’re at Disney World, we’re constantly eating at table service restaurants. We’re getting an appetizer, a main and a dessert. I won’t lie, when I’m at a nice restaurant, I’m more likely to get an “exciting” appetizer, like a fried seafood item or a charcuterie board, rather than a salad. Mains don’t often come with many vegetables either!

    On our first trip after trying to become more healthy, we went to Biergarten, and were surprised by how many lighter options there were!
    In fact, there are significantly more healthy options than most table service restaurants. They had tons of great salads, and because of the nature of a buffet, we didn’t have to commit to having an entire plate of one thing!
    As long as you’re careful with what you select, and you don’t overeat, you can have a surprisingly light, healthy meal at places like Biergarten, Crystal Palace or Chef Mickey’s.

    Now, we make sure to visit at least one buffet per visit, and make sure that the entire first plate is filled with salads.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2015 at 10:29 pm
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      Aydin,

      I shared this comment with my family tonight and we all think it’s brilliant. What a perfect way to portion out your plate and custom choose your own healthy meal.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Angela

      Reply
  • February 4, 2015 at 2:16 pm
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    I like the 80/20 food rule. Eating lots of healthy stuff also gives you more energy and makes you feel better- which helps get you through all the walking.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2015 at 10:31 pm
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      Sarah,

      I love that rule. Depriving myself of junk food only makes me want it more! Why not have just a little?

      Thanks for the comment!

      Angela

      Reply
  • February 6, 2015 at 8:40 am
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    Ummmm, Really? Go to Disney and then exercise *more* than just the miles (for us probably 7-10 miles a day) we walk already? Now that’s just crazy talk! 🙂

    Reply

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