Guest Post: Health and Fitness (or lack thereof!) in Cambodia

May 18, 2009

This is ‘Sagan’s Dad’ with another Guest Post.

As many of you know, I am living in Cambodia and working with the United Nations for one year. When I left Canada I brought along a few misconceptions with me. In this post I will share them with you and the reality I have experienced here over the past six months that shattered those misconceptions.

#1. The Doctor in Canada who gave me my various shots and inoculations for Hepatitis etc. noted that the U.N. recommended that I get a needle for Japanese Encephalitis, an extremely serious disease. He told me that that the side effects from that type of shot can be as bad as the disease and said that unless I was going to spend a lot of time around pig sty’s; where the disease is usually contracted there was no serious concern. I declined to get the shot.

After I arrived in Cambodia I found out that I would be spending a large percentage of the time in rural villages speaking to the locals and discovered that routinely, the families have pigs that they keep in sty’s behind their stilt houses. So, I am in close proximity to pigs quite often! So far, no Japanese Encephalitis….

#2. Reading about Cambodia while in Canada I came to the general conclusion that eating vegetables here would be quite healthy as they were probably organic, all fresh from the farm etc.

After arriving in Cambodia I found the vegetables fresh and delicious. I also learned that farmers use all sorts of insecticides on their gardens as well. As there are few if any enforced regulations that I know of here about insecticides I often wonder how poisoned the produce is that I am eating. My colleagues and I have had stomach pain from time to time that we attribute to eating raw vegetables that are not properly washed. Consequently I eat little raw vegetables and that is something I really miss about home.

#3. Thinking about what life would be like in Cambodia, I figured that being on my own for a year with a lot of free time on my hands I would be able to get into outstanding physical condition. Before departing Canada I was doing a lot of running and looking forward to continuing that fitness regimen.

After arriving in Cambodia I found I was not at all prepared for the stifling heat and even after six months, I have not properly acclimatized myself to it. My work day starts when I wake up about 05:30a.m. and leave for work at 07:00a.m. I usually get home about 06:00 p.m. There are no fitness facilities at work. The sun goes down at about 06:00 p.m. so running outside is not practical in the evenings. Working out is impossible when I am traveling in the rural areas, and I am usually out there at least half the time. I know some people get up and go for a run at 4:30 a.m., when the sun is coming up and the air is relatively cool, but I have not yet had the self discipline to get up at that hour yet!

There is not much I can do about some of my shattered misconceptions, but there are some solutions to the Fitness problem. With a little self-discipline I should be able to do some early morning runs. I have also started the 100 push-up and 100 burpee challenge that Sagan has written about on this blog. That is a start!

Shattered misconceptions are an aspect of travel that cannot be avoided. It is impossible to make judgment calls beforehand to know what to expect when we are not familiar at all with the area we are visiting. It seems to me that one has to consciously make a commitment to be more adaptable and flexible in all points of view and activity. After all, you are no longer ‘at home’; you are at someone else’s home. There are always ways to fit health into our lifestyle; it just means that our lifestyle sometimes needs a little bit of creative tweaking.


  1. Oh yes, you will find that produce is more toxic in the third world, because the chemical companies offload all the stuff that’s banned back home on the poor and expendable.

    I can empathize with not being able to work out in the tropics – I can’t stand the heat either!

  2. Traveling, like the U-haul moving motto, is an adventure!!

    I have too many stories from my travels, but I’m glad you and your special daughter have had this time together! I did a 3 week trip to South Africa, just my dad and I, and the memories are irreplaceable!

    Enjoyed your contribution!

  3. Adaptable and flexible! Great advice for many situations.
    Thanks for sharing your story!

  4. Great guest post! Very interesting how things ended up being so different than what you had expected. But it sounds like you are “rolling with the punches” really well!

  5. Great guest post! I really like the conclusion about being ‘adaptable and flexible’. Enjoy the rest of your time there!

  6. Thanks for taking the time to guest post Mr. Sagan’s Dad! I come from a place very similar to Cambodia and I can relate to all these misconceptions! Working out in the hot/humid environment, where it’s not always safe after dark, is a challenge!

  7. I love this guest post! I want my dad to do one for me. I would have thought that the produce would be organic too, but I guess not! Very cool to hear about your misconceptions.

  8. Thanks for the guest post (for the millionth time) :). You’re completely correct Sagan’s dad. Traveling is all about flexibility and versatility even when it comes to healthy living habits. Best of luck finding your own new balance!

  9. Thanks, Sagan’s dad, for this guest post. The sun goes down at 6 pm? Crap – I bet you’re really missing Canada about now! 🙂 Of course, I live quite a bit further north than Winnipeg, but it doesn’t get dark until about 11:00 pm now. (Just had to point that out…. hehehehehe)

    On the other hand, it’s only about +3C, and there’s snow in the forecast for tonight (at least here in northern Alberta)! Makes “hot and humid” sound not so bad, eh?
    Hope you can find a balance for the rest of your stay there and get some exercise.

  10. Thanks for the interesting post. I can’t imagine running in that heat, even at 4.30am.

  11. the thought of a 4.30 am jog sounds fabulous as something to do once or twice…. the quiet, the freshness, the energy you’d have all morning… on the other hand, 4.30!! Maybe just once, then.

  12. Thanks Sagan’s Dad for an informative post! Hope you stay healthy!

  13. sounds like you’re doing the best you can, it’s tough to know what you will encounter!

  14. […] to all guest posters (Maggie, Liz, and my dad) for your contributions here at Living Healthy in the Real World! Regular posting will resume next […]

  15. I too live in Phnom Penh.. and I have to agree with everything you said!

  16. The Elegant Bathtubs

    This is elegant bathtubs for everyone who wants to have a great time with it, according to furniture shop in Phnom Penh
    construction materials said.

    One more thing this bathtub is such a large and comfortable for the pleasure of a relaxing and regenerating bath.

    In addition it made from a single block of white K-plan such as compact, smooth, resistant materials, which is pleasant to the touch, quick and easy to clean.

    Moreover you can enjoy with the pleasant massage that comes from water in the coziest environment that nature could create.
    Indeed the grey version is made from a single block of grey K-plan and a color as much as elegant and trendy as it is unusual for a bathtub.

  17. Apple Arms Latest Smart Devices with NFC Tech but for Payment Method Only

    (Web design in Cambodia, digital marketing agency) – While Android has introduced Near Field Communications (NFC) technology for a few generations of its smart devices already, Apple has just begun to encrypt this high-end toolkit for their latest hit products iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch.
    This news was declared during last week’s Apple event when the firm introduced Apple Pay – a new method for mobile payment service that uses NFC with the combination of Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
    However, according to the inside report, NFC will be inaccessible outside of the Apple Pay since it will be locked and that this matter will last at least a year.
    The firm still does not announce whether this restricted usage will be altered after the stated duration.

  18. The Luxurious and Comfortable Place for Livin

    This house has been created to be a luxurious place for living, because produce the comfortable feeling of wellbeing, as construction in Cambodia construction materials
    One more thing, the main purpose of this design is to offers the good feeling to the owners, because it is the main point of life in the house.
    Anyway, this Caruth Boulevard Residence has been designed by the Dallas-based architect, Tom Reisenbichler.
    On the other hand, its neighborhood house combines luxury with green design to offers the special views and comfortable atmosphere for the owners.
    “Integrated tightly into the large iconic trees on the site, this house uses traditional home proportions to blend with the neighborhood.
    The horizontal lines of the design tie the home to the land, while the roof and balcony reach into the trees making them integral to the home”, as architects said.

  19. The Spacious and Bright House

    Welcome to spacious and bright house has been created to meet the owners’ needs, leading to furniture shop in Cambodia construction materials stated.
    Indeed, the home’s floor plan allows for the house to be completely closed off when not in use and it is opened towards the mountains on one side and a succession of patios on the other.
    As the architects told about the roof, “The roof, which protects from the elements, but at the same time, serves as a tool to relate directly to the surroundings.
    The roof, clean and horizontal, frames the landscape and protects from sun and rain, while it dilutes the limits between the inside and the outside, between the natural and the man-made”.
    The work of architects, “The social areas appear as a unique space, open towards the mountains on one side and to the entrance patio on the other.
    The character of this space is defined, simultaneously, by a second patio, framed by a void in the roof”.

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