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Around the World: Keeping Fit at 30,000 Feet!

Jennifer Merin on

Before all New Year’s resolve fades away, make a pact with yourself to be a healthier traveler during 2020. Adopt an inflight routine that will minimize the discomfort and adverse physical effects of flying.

Whether you take to the skies to get to a much anticipated vacation destination or flight is a required and routine component of your professional commitments, air travel is taxing on your body.

The most common complaint from travelers may be jet lag, a disrupted sleep cycle isn’t the only change your body experiences when you fly. Far from it.

Sitting on an airplane for an hour or longer without moving about, can cause swollen feet, backache, muscle tension or a feeling of excessive fatigue during the flight

You may not feel it immediately, but the changes in air pressure, breathing recycled air, the constant vibrations and inflight noise will affect you adversely.

And, after you land, that feeling of exhaustion can stick with you for days -- even if you haven’t left your home time zone.

Gleeful anticipation of reuniting with family and friends and/or revisiting a favorite place or discovering a new one can mask or distract you from the ill effects of travel, and if you’re in good health overall you may recover quickly from them -- but they do occur, and there are some simple steps you can take to minimize them. The effort is minimal. The results can be enormously rewarding.

The key is to set an exercise routine for yourself to follow while you’re aloft, whether your flight is a puddle hopper from your home state to one that’s adjacent on the map, or a major long haul adventure that’s taking you half way around the globe.

Actually, if you’re on a long haul nonstop flight, you might want to complete your cycle of exercises several times -- at, say, two or three hour intervals -- just to keep your muscles stimulated and prevent cramping, and to keep your body functioning as efficiently as it does on the ground.

We’re not talking about strenuous exercise. It’s actually best to avoid doing anything heavily aerobic or anything that tests endurance. And, you don’t need weights or gadgets that would fill up your carryon and be an extra burden.

Strolling up and down the aisle (when the seat belt sign is off!) is a good idea, but we’re certainly not suggesting that you jog -- which would probably alarm your fellow passengers and, given the cramped configuration of most aircraft, would most likely be impossible anyway.

But the major part of the routine consists of easy exercises that you can do in your seat and, if you do them properly, you won’t even disturb your seatmates.

First of all, it’s important to wear clothes that are comfortable and loose enough so that they don’t restrict your movements. They should also be warm enough to protect you from airplane chill, now that the airlines no long provide passengers with the use of blankets.

When you get on board, loosen your belt, necktie and collar. When you sit down, untie or take off your shoes. Avoid crossing your legs because it impedes circulation.

Here are several essential exercises that can and should be done in your seat:

Start with your legs. From below the knee, move your feet up and down, alternating legs, to help circulation. Be careful not to kick the back of the passenger seat in front of yours.

Stretch your legs out as straight as possible. Contract thigh and calf muscles, then release.

Leaving the balls of your feet on the floor, rotate your ankles in one direction, and then in the opposite direction.

To avoid swollen hands, stretch your arms straight in front of you and move them up and down.

Rotate your wrists in one direction, then in the opposite direction. Do this with clenched fists, then with open hands.

Stretch your arms straight up in the air and try to touch the ceiling with your palms. Then shake out your hands.

Shrug your shoulders as tightly as you can, then release them. Repeat several times, then rotate your shoulders in a forward direction. Then rotate them in a backward direction.

Let your head drop forward and then, keeping your face forward, rotate your head so that it’s leaning over your right shoulder. Hold for several minutes, and repeat to the left shoulder.

Look from side to side while nodding your head up and down.

Now that you’re warmed up, swing into these more energetic exercises:

Jogging at 30,000 feet in your seat: Imagine yourself on the ground, and rhythmically raise and lover alternate heels while you swing your arms in opposition, as you do when you really jog. Repeat for five to ten minutes.

Row, row, row your seat: Imagine that you’re in a row boat or using a rowing machine, and reach forward to grasp your invisible oars Then while setting your feet up on their heels and slowly lowering your toes, pull your arms to your chest and lean back. Do a set of fifteen to twenty, or more repetitions.

The in-flight jig: Raise you left knee as high as possible and swing your right elbow over to touch it. Then reverse to raise your right knee and swing your left elbow to touch it. Alternating sides, repeat fifteen times.

In-flight skiing: Imagine you’re on a snow covered slope, doing a downhill run. Put your feet up on their toes and swing both knees together to the left as you twist your shoulders and arms to the tight, then reverse directions and repeat twelve times.

Some airlines feature inflight exercise videos and/or suggest a series of exercises in their onboard magazines. Follow these, too, for suggestions of additional exercises that you can add to your personal routine.

Make your travel safer and healthier during 2020 and beyond, and you’ll get even more joy from it.


Copyright 2020 Jennifer Merin


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