Experience of an expat: Staying fit in Vietnam

Having been living with her family in Vietnam for several years, Mrs. Stephanie Mills knows the life in this country almost as well as any other Vietnamese. Please enjoy the series of articles about her experience living in our S-shaped nation! Today, the topic is about staying fit in Vietnam.

Staying fit in Vietnam

Is staying fit important to Vietnamese?

Fitness is a huge thing here in Vietnam and is not popular only with youngsters! I was shocked the first time I went out at about 6 am and found the park jam-packed with people walking, dancing, and using wooden swords ( fake ones – not real ! ) to work with martial arts.

There are two main ways to stay fit in Vietnam – a freeway or with a facility. Vietnam is probably one of the freest fitness geared countries in the world. You will find on many street corners a series of free mental fitness machines. These range from simple machines that you simply stand next to and move with your hands to sit up machines and machines which you stand on and rock. You will be probably spotting these in most of the parks of Vietnam.

Although in the West it would be a rather embarrassing thing to stand on the street corner doing exercises, in Vietnam, you will not get a second glance. It is fine to use these machines whilst wearing your normal clothes. So if you come across some whilst out going to the shops then you can pop your bag down and have a quick five-minute exercise session. Alternatively, it is fine to get geared up in your exercise kit and use the equipment.

There are two main times for exercise where you will find all exercise areas and parks super busy – early in the morning (about 6 am) and early evening (around 6 pm) Although it may seem a little dangerous to be going out so early in the morning you will be surprised to see the number of people up and about and it is as safe this time in the morning as it is at midday.

If going on a machine is not really your thing then it is also fine to walk/jog – there are parks spread throughout Vietnam and these all have wide walking paths. The parks all have clean public toilets and often they have water fountains.

You will spot many groups out at the two key fitness times in the parks (6 am and 6 pm) – from aerobics and keep fit to dance. The majority of these groups are free and open to all so often it is simple to simply ask to join in (or use a bit of sign language if no English is spoken) and you can simply tag along at the back.

Gyms are always available with different ranges of price

If you prefer something more structured for staying fit or feel that outdoor exercise in the heat is not for you then there is a huge choice of gyms in Vietnam. Most apartment blocks have a gym – this may be free as part of the rent or a separate subscription. These are typical of a good standard and consist of a weight area, some exercise machines that focus on different muscle sets, running, cycling, or stepping machines, and a floor exercise area. Different gyms have different vibes. However, they do seem to be open to all and are not typically full of the intimidating male weight lifting types, which is quite a thing in gyms in the West.

Many apartments also have a pool, an ideal choice for staying fit in Vietnam. These can be outdoor (as Vietnam is a hot country – even in the North in Hanoi it is possible to use the outdoor pool from about April or May through to November) or indoor (known in Vietnam as a four seasons pool) Although bikinis are acceptable on beaches, they are unusual at a swimming pool so if unsure better to wear a swimming costume.

Tips for staying fit in Vietnam

  • If you do not live in an apartment then there is a huge choice of public exercise alternatives. The biggest gym chain is California – you can find these throughout the country and offer a huge range of facilities from pools to a variety of classes to kickboxing and personal trainers. It is important to note that there is not a set fee for California – instead, you have to do quite a lot of bargaining and negotiating to get a good deal. Ask around to find what the current standard rate is and see what sort of deal you can achieve. California typically offers a three-day free membership so you can test the range of facilities available.
  • If you prefer a smaller gym then you will find multiple choices – some for Vietnamese speakers only and others target the ex-pat community.
  • Different people are looking for different things so take the time to go for a free trial and feel how it is for you – a gym should not feel intimidating but instead welcoming so if you find it is not the place for you then simply join somewhere else – there is more than enough choice!
  • If you are looking for a specific sport then you will find it is probably available in Vietnam – some sports are more common such as kickboxing, taekwondo. and boxing, however, you will find that sports such as archery and horse riding are also available.
  • Ask your colleagues for places they know as personal recommendations are always the best, with a simple Google search typically bringing up a range of options that you can explore.

There are plenty of options for staying fit in Vietnam – from a free walk in the park to a set exercise class – so get your training gear on and start your exercise!


To have good luck is a skill Not knowing how to seize opportunities is also a form of incompetence.

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To have good luck is a skill Not knowing how to seize opportunities is also a form of incompetence.