Whether you’re six or 60, it’s never comfortable being stuck on an airplane for a long flight. Between the stress of flying and being crammed into an uncomfortable seat for hours, your body can quickly become stiff and sore.
While they may not beat having a plush first-class seat, several simple airplane stretches and exercises can help savvy travelers reach their destination ache-free while also helping keep circulation issues, like deep vein thrombosis, caused by flying at bay.
There are plenty of small stretches and movements you can do while seated throughout a flight.
Neck rolls – Release tension from your neck by slowly twisting your neck from side to side and moving it up and down in a “yes” then a “no” movement. After a few of these trying bring your right ear down toward your right shoulder to stretch the left side of your neck then repeat on the other side. Finally, drop your chin down toward your chest and gently roll it from side to side.
Seated twist – Grab on to your seat’s armrest with both hands and gently pull to twist your torso to one side helping stretch and relax the spine. Complete on the other side.
Angle stretches – Start with both feet flat on the floor then flex your ankles stretching your toes upward then bringing them back down. From there, roll through your feet, lifting your heels up with your toes still on the ground. Repeat these movements several times to get the blood moving in your legs.
Ankle circles – Additionally, lift one foot slight off the ground and gently roll your ankle in a circle changing directions every couple of rolls. Repeat on the other side.
Leg extensions – If you’re in an aisle seat, try lifting your foot up extending at the knee to stretch out stiff legs and really get the blood circulating. Do a couple of these movements on each side.
Though everyone knows they should stand up and walk around during a long flight, that’s often easier said than done. Make sure to try some of the seated stretches, but when you’re able to stand up, take advantage of this time with these exercises.
Quadriceps stretch – Rest your left hand on the wall or back of a seat for balance and use your right hand to reach back and grab your right ankle, bending your right foot up so your knee is pointing down. Hold this for several breaths before gently releasing your foot to the ground and repeating on the other side. This stretch will help release tension in your quadriceps (front thigh) and hip flexors after sitting still for a long time.
Calf raises – Stand with your feet a couple inches apart and raise your heels so you’re standing on your tip toes, hold for a couple seconds then lower back down feeling the stretch in your calves and waking up your legs.
Lateral stretch – Standing with your left arm down, stretch your right arm straight up then softly start to bend to the left side stretching your arm over your head to feel a lengthening stretch in your right side. Come back up to center, release your right arm and repeat on the other side.
After the flight
Once you reach your final destination, take a few moments to relax into these two restorative stretches that will help melt stress away.
Child’s pose – This common yoga pose is a great way to stretch your hips, back, shoulders and chest while also having a grounding, calming effect. Kneel down on your knees and slowly stretch your upper body forward toward the ground, reaching your arms in front of you until your forehead touches the ground. Stay here for a couple minutes before sitting back up.
Legs up against the wall – This position may feel a little awkward at first, but you’ll soon notice that after a couple minutes your legs will feel lighter and less lethargic. Sitting on the ground next to a wall, lay down on your back as you slide your legs together straight up the wall. Stay here for at least three minutes letting your stress drain away. When you’re ready to get out of the pose, slowly swing your legs down to one side and rest there for a couple breaths before sitting up.