Why is Exercise Important During Air Travel?
Most people who fly regularly, such as people who travel for business, know the dreaded feeling of being uncomfortably trapped in their seat. Good news, in this post you will learn how to exercise on a plane so that not only do you protect your health, but also your mental sanity.
But first, why exactly is it so important to our health to exercises on a plane? Primarily because exercise prevents the risk of deep vein thrombosis, a very real threat to your health that can occur when you fly.
Deep Vein Thrombosis is a blood clot or clots that form in deep veins, usually within the leg. Typically, deep vain thrombosis occurs when you have a medical condition that effects the way your blood clots. But deep vein thrombosis can also occur when you stay still too long in one position, such as when you are confined to your seat on an airplane. The most dangerous part of deep vain thrombosis is when the blood clot dislodges it can travel up to your lungs and get stuck, causing blood flow to be blocked. You should be especially cautious if you are prone to any pre-existing conditions that may make you more prone to get getting a clot.
You have an increased risk of blood clots if any of the following applies to you:
- Recently been injured or had surgery
- Birth control pills
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Being overweight/ obese
- Heart disease
- Being older than 60
- Bowel diseases ex. Chrons disease, ulcerative colitis
- Family history of deep vein thrombosis
Exercising in the Airport Before Your Flight
It is almost comical that most people who are about to fly, where they are required to sit for an extended period of time, use their time in the airport before their flight sitting down. Because most airlines make you get to the airport 2+ hours before your flight leaves, typically you end up with a lot of time on your hands after you get past security. One of the best ways to use that time is to stay active. Staying active doesn’t necessarily mean doing walking lunges up and down the terminal, but instead means staying active by standing, doing some light stretches, and walking around the terminal or perusing some of the shops, if there are any. Even if you need to do business before your flight, stand up while on the phone or reading emails. The main goal of your pre flight time period is to stay active.
Which brings us to another point. When the flight crew start boarding your plane, if you do not need to get on first, such as if you have small children, a medical condition, or need to get something in the overhead compartments, don’t fight to be the first passenger to get on the plane. Depending on your flight, you are probably going to be sitting for the next few hours at least, so chill out and don’t worry about being the first one to sit down on the plane, use those extra 10-15 minutes to relax and do a few stretches while everyone else is running over each other to get on first.
Exercising in Your Seat
Once you are finally stuck in your seat, it doesn’t usually take long before your backside is asleep. Although it may not seem possible, there are a few different movements you can do in your seat (without elbowing you fellow passengers in the face) that can get your blood pumping and your circulation going.
- Drawing the alphabet– This move is done one leg at a time. Pick one foot up so it is slightly off the ground, point your toes and and pretend to draw each letter of the alphabet in the air using your toes. Then repeat with your other leg.
- Neck rolls– For this movement move your head in circular motions, then repeat going in the opposite direction.
- Backside clenching– Clench your glutes, hold the clench for 10 seconds. Repeat as often as needed. This exercise is great to wake up your backside when it has gone numb!
- Marching legs– Plant your feet on the floor, lift one leg up and down and then move your other leg up and down, just like you are doing a march (admittedly this exercise only works if your knees don’t touch the seat in front of you).
The Back of the Plane is Your Best Friend
One of the best places to get some breathing room is at the back of the plane or in the middle of the plane near the galleys. If it is not too busy try some of these exercises:
- Quad stretches- Grab something to hold on to, then grab one of your ankles and pull it towards the small of your back so that you are stretching the front of your leg (your quadricep), hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with your opposite leg.
- Calf raises- Shift your weight onto your toes and push up so your are on your tip toes, hold for 2 seconds, lower you feet flat back on the ground and repeat.
- Touch your toes– Simply bend down and touch your toes (or try and touch them). Hold the position for at least 10 seconds.
- Torso twists– Twist your torso from side to side, while tucking your arms into your sides.
Exercising in the Lavatory
Since the lavatory is the only place that you truly have 100% privacy on a plane, it naturally is the only place to do any exercises that might be considered a little more risqué.
- Squats over the toilet– One of the best exercises to do in the lavatory to wake up your lower body is by doing squats. You want to face away from the toilet like you are about to sit down, squat down like you are about to sit but before you actually sit on the toilet you are going to stand back up. Repeat as many times as needed before you feel like you have your blood pumping (depending on the number of people in line for the lavatory behind you of course!).
- The Rocky– A great way to wake up your upper body is to throw a few air punches while looking at the mirror, pretend to be a boxer or action hero (imagination is required here!).
The Aisle is Your Runway
When all else fails, and you find no matter how many stretches or squats you do you still feel jittery, walk the aisles. Granted, this can be difficult since they are so narrow or filled with people and food carts. One of the best ways to walk the aisle is to walk to the bathroom that is furthest away from you, so if you are in the back, use the furthest forward bathroom you can, and if you are sitting in the front use the bathrooms in the back of the plane.
Too many people feel embarrassed about doing exercises and stretches on a plane, but that shouldn’t be the case. Your health is worth it, so don’t feel self conscious and stretch those legs!
Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think of these solutions for exercising on a plane. If you enjoyed this article feel free to share with your friends/ family via social media!
Mayoclinic.org. (2016). Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) Risk factors – Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/deep-vein-thrombosis/basics/risk-factors/con-20031922 [Accessed 14 Mar. 2016].
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