Regardless of class, amenities, leg room or movie selection, flights – especially the long-haul variety – have the potential to be brutal on our bodies.
Being forced to sit for any length of time is tough, but being cramped in a pressurized box hurling through the atmosphere for hours on end can feel downright.
Lack of patience and comfort aside, long flights can also pose health risks, threatening blood clots associated with sitting for long periods.
Fight back with these 5 stretches that should be done before, after and during a long flight, you will be glad you did.
Prevention is the best solution for combating discomfort, cramps and serious health issues that can occur during a flight. Keep your body in pre-flight balance with some key stretches that can be done before your flight — anytime, anywhere.
Show your calves and hamstrings some love by elongating those muscles before settling in for the long haul. This classic yoga pose not only feels great, but it targets a vulnerable place in your legs that becomes susceptible to blood clots during extended periods of sitting.
To do: Place your hands on the ground and spread your fingers wide. Press into your hands and lift your hips up to the ceiling while keeping your feet on the ground. Try to make your legs as straight as possible. Shift your weight between legs by bending and straightening one leg at a time. Try to press your heels as close to the ground as possible as you peddle each leg.
This is a great full-body stretch that helps work out all the cracks and cricks before traveling.
To do: Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Hinge forward keeping your back flat as you reach for your toes. When your hands touch the ground, start walking yourself out into a plank position. From plank, let your hips dip down, press into your hands and look up (also known as upward dog for all you yogis out there). Then press back into downward dog and start walking your hands back up to your feet and stand up.
In-flight stretches are a little trickier to pull off. With seat neighbors and a major lack of space, there’s a lot working against you. But we’ve found a few sneaky moves you can bust out right at your seat that will have your body silently thanking you.
This is a concentrated move for stretching the hips and hip adductors that works wonders when you’re crammed into an economy-sized seat.
To do: While seated, cross the right ankle over the left knee. Most of us will feel an instantaneous stretch with this move alone. Create a deeper stretch by leaning forward and placing your forearms on your crossed leg. While you’re at it, show your foot some love by pointing and flexing your raised foot and spreading your toes. Then, switch legs.
Back discomfort is a common problem on long-haul flights. Even if you don’t suffer from chronic back-pain, you’ll likely feel stiff and immobile after hours on the plane. If you already deal with any sort of back discomfort in daily life, a long flight is pretty much your worst nightmare. This simple seated twist helps improve circulation in your lower back and relieves tightness.
To do: Keep feet firmly planted on the ground as you move your left hand to the outside of your right knee. Using the resistance in your left hand, twist to the right. Look back over your right shoulder. Come back to center and repeat on the other side by taking your right hand to the outside of your left knee and twisting to the left.
Relieving your cramped body post-flight can take many different forms. We know you do not have time to drop into a full yoga routine after you disembark, so if you have only got time for 1 pose while you’re waiting for your luggage, make sure it’s a full body stretch that hits as many target spots as possible.
LUNGE AND ARM REACH
This move opens up your whole body and gets everything from your fingers to your toes in on the action.
To do: Start standing and take a step backward with your right leg. Drop into a lunge (make sure your right knee is not wavering over your right toes). Raise both arms up, relax your shoulders by dropping them away from your ears and sink lower into your stretch. Step up to standing and repeat on the other leg.
Enjoy your flight
By Fiona Morky
About Fiona: Fiona is an island-life loving Dive Master, English teacher, animal-lover, nature-enthusiast and full-time travel writer. On the road for 7 years, she’s lived, worked, and traveled through over two dozen countries. When she’s not SCUBA diving she is writing about her adventures in hopes of inspiring others.
Paul Ebeling, Editor