4 Exercises for Staying Loose, Limber, and Comfortable on Your Next Flight


Upgrade your next flight from cramped to comfy by taking a few minutes to perform these simple exercises.

1. Flex Those Muscles

Isometric tightening of your muscles is the simplest way to exercise during a flight. Focus on a muscle or group of muscles—say, your stomach. Sit up straight, and take a deep breath. As you exhale, tighten your muscles and hold for a count of 10. Release and breathe in. Repeat five to 10 times. Do this every 20 minutes or so, choosing a different muscle or set of muscles each time.

2. Keep Your Legs Moving

To exercise your legs, sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Keeping knees bent, raise one leg a few inches. Rotate your ankle around five times, lower your leg, and switch to the other leg. Repeat five times with each leg. Then, keeping your knees bent, raise one leg, pulling your knee up to your chest. Lower your leg and repeat on the other side. Go back and forth between legs 10 times. To relax tension in your shoulders, pull them up toward your ears and hold for 10 seconds while breathing in. Breathe out and release. Repeat five times.

3. Stretch a Little

Stretching keeps blood flowing and muscles limber. If you can get up, hold onto the back of your seat or a wall for balance. Place one leg behind you with the toes 12 inches from your front heel. Shift weight to the back leg and slightly bend the knee, then slowly lean forward over the front foot to stretch. Switch legs and repeat this calf stretch. If you can’t leave your seat, you can still stretch in place. Put your hands on your hips and twist your shoulders and your torso from side to side (being careful not to bump your seatmate). Next, slowly straighten your arms and pull your shoulder blades together until you feel a stretch. Hold for a count of 10.

4. Prevent Back Pain Before Setting Foot on the Plane

If you suffer from back pain, there are a few precautions you can take while still on the ground. Don’t lock your knees while you’re standing in all those lines; this causes bad posture and puts pressure on the lower back. Bend your knees slightly, and keep your pelvis tucked in. Utilize luggage carts for big checked bags and don’t overload yourself with heavy or unwieldy carry-ons—you’ll be dragging and hoisting them a lot. If you experience sharp, stabbing back pain or spasms en route, ice is the best stopgap remedy; massaging the feet may also help, as reflexologists say that the instep has correlations to the spine, and working your thumbs up and down the area may ease some back pain.

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