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Avoid jet lag: Getting a workout at the airport

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
Saturday, 2 Nov 2013 | 1:00 PM ET
The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport gym.
Source: The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport
The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport gym.

It's far too easy to become a slug when you're on the road. But staying active offers business travelers an edge: the benefits of working out while traveling include stress reduction and an increased ability to combat jet lag.

Travelers passing through Canada's largest airport, Toronto Pearson International, now have an extra advantage: an airport health club.

(Read more: NY-area airports lag in passenger amenities)

GoodLife Fitness, which has over 300 locations across Canada, has opened a branch in the Terminal 1 Arrivals area (presecurity), offering a 10,000-square-foot workout area, changing rooms with showers, towel service and luggage storage. No workout clothing? No excuse: Workout clothing and sneakers are available for rent. A daily pass is CND $15, or US $14.58. Hours: 4:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

"From personal experience I know what a tremendous difference it makes to my travel experience when I workout before I get on the plane, as well as my productivity and alertness when I land," GoodLife founder and CEO David "Patch" Patchell-Evans said in a statement. "We want to make it easier for all travelers, coming in and out of Toronto Pearson, to be able to experience the same great benefits as I have."

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Toronto Pearson may currently be the only airport in North America to have an in-terminal fitness club open to the public, but it's not the first to give it a try. In the late 1990s, North America's first airport fitness center opened at Pittsburgh International Airport (it closed not long after 9/11), and for several years there was a 24-hour fitness club at Las Vegas International Airport.

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While certainly convenient, on-site fitness clubs aren't the only way to get a workout at the airport. Here are some options for working off calories in other North American airports.

  1. Accessible from the domestic terminals and popular with pilots and flight attendants as well as travelers, the 8,000-square-foot fitness center at the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport has an indoor lap pool, sauna, steam room and full-service locker room. Work-out gear is available for purchase. Daily pass: $20; hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends.
  2. The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport, connected to the airport's McNamara Terminal, offers guest passes to the fitness club, a pool and locker room for $15. Open 24 hours (pool closes at 11 p.m.)
  3. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has an enclosed yoga room in Terminal 2 and, at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, a privacy screen set up in front of a window on a walkway between Terminals B and D creates a yoga "studio" with a view. Burlington International Airport in Vermont also has set aside space for yoga and stretching as well. Loaner mats are available.
  4. The 12.5 mile scenic BWI Trail completely encircles Baltimore-Washington International Airport and has a walking /biking path that includes a link to an aircraft observation park with picnic tables and a playground. "BWI has a longstanding reputation as the 'Easy Come, Easy Go' airport," said airport spokesman Jonathan Dean. "The BWI trail resources are an important example of our commitment to a convenient, excellent experience for our customers."
  5. Calorie burning mileage is marked on paths inside Indianapolis International Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and others. "By having designated walking paths at the airport, travelers can keep their blood flowing before sitting on a plane for a few hours," said Dan Krajnovich, then-chairman of the American Heart Association's Indianapolis Metropolitan Board of Directors when IND set up its paths in April 2012. A tool on the American Heart Association website will help you find these paths and others in many other airports.
  6. The Grand Hyatt DFW, connected to the international terminal at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, offers day passes to its fitness center and to the heated outdoor pool on the rooftop overlooking a runway, for $30. Locker room facilities include steam saunas; nonguests may use the facilities until 8 p.m.
  7. At Vancouver International Airport, travelers may purchase a day pass to the health club at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport for CND $18 (US $17.50). Club features include a children's wading pool, a mechanized three-lane lap pool that allows swimmers to adjust their own current, saunas and work-out equipment. Hours: daily 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  8. Of course, even if there are no marked walking paths, health clubs or yoga studios at an airport, there's still an easy—and free—way to work off calories: Take the stairs instead of the escalators, avoid the moving walkways and track your mileage with a clip-on pedometer or an app on your smartphone. Just try to set your path to avoid the airport candy shops—and the bars.

—By Harriet Baskas, special to CNBC. She is the author of seven books, including "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You," and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas.

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