20 stretches to do before, during and after a long flight


How do you survive a long flight?

Sitting immobile for hours at a time is bad for our health. We’ve all felt muscle pain, swelling and tenderness on long-haul flights. The science confirms that long-flights have negative implications for our health. The World Health Organization found that remaining seated and immobile for four hours whether on a plane, train, bus or car leads to decreased blood circulation, potentially causing blood clots also known as venous thromboembolism (VTE). The risk doubles after travel lasting four hours or more. On a plane, dehydration and reduction of oxygen in a pressurized cabin further decrease blood circulation. And symptoms of decreased blood circulation are muscle stiffness, swelling and tenderness

How can you reduce muscle stiffness and swelling on long flights?

1. Move before, during and after a long flight or road trip
2. Hydrate: bring a reusable steel water bottle with you and fill it up regularly. As soon as your bottle is empty, fill it up again to make sure you’re never thirsty. Don’t minimize drinking water to minimize going to the bathroom. Whether you’re on a flight and don’t want to bother your middle or aisle seat neighbors or whether you’re on a road trip and don’t want to ask for too many bathroom breaks, you’re doing everyone a favor by forcing them to take a break, get up and move around. 
3. Wear loose clothes: avoid tight clothing to help reduce blood stagnation


How can you exercise on a long flight?

1. Stand up, stretch and move around to keep the blood flowing. You don’t need a lot of space and you don’t need any equipment. All you need is a little motivation! Don’t stay in the aisle next to your seat to stretch, there isn’t quite enough space, you might accidentally kick a seated passenger and you’ll obstruct traffic. Instead, go to a resting area and be mindful to make space for the flight attendants as they need to come and go. 

2. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after you stretch to avoid germs and getting sick on a plane. Aisle headrest and bathrooms are some of the dirtiest places on airplanes so make sure to take basic measures to minimize your risk of exposure to bacteria and virus. Here is a health guide with essential airplane hygiene tips.

3. Don’t worry about the looks you may get – they’re looks of envy to stretch too. If you’re really uncomfortable and can’t handle the spotlight, stretch when other passengers are sleeping.


How do you stretch for a long flight?

Let’s get to it! Here is a list of stretches and movements you can do before, on and after a long-haul flight to release tension and muscle stiffness along with a video I took with my GoPro camera on a 6 hours and 30 minutes flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

Remember, if you can do these stretches in the resting area of a long-haul flight, you can do them just about anywhere – you don’t need a lot of space or any equipment. 
The list shows the muscle group first and the name of the stretch second.
1. Ankles – Rolls
2. Shoulders – Rolls 
3. Glutes – Standing stretch
4. Hamstrings – Standing forward bend
5. Calf – Standing wall stretch
6. Quads – Standing stretch
7. Hips – Circles
8. Obliques & lats – Side bend stretch
9. Hip flexers – Plié
10. Groin, lower back, sacrum, hips – Deep squat or garland pose 
11. Adductors – Wide side lunge
12. Adductors – Butterfly
13. Hip flexors & glutes  – Double pigeon (ankles to knees)
14. Hip flexors – Lunge
15. Back – Low crescent lunge
16. Quads – Lunge stretch or half kneeling stretch
17. Hamstrings, calves, hips & lower back – Half front split with forward bend
18. Pelvic, hamstring, groin & hip flexors – Front splits
19. Chest, shoulders & abdomen – Standing back bend
20. Chest, shoulders & abdomen – Bridge
And finally handstand to invert and release tension! 
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