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Stretches and Exercises You Should Do Before, During, and After a Flight

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Stretches and Exercises You Should Do Before, During, and After a Flight

You can exercise anywhere, including when you’re thousands of feet up in the air, in a small and enclosed space with a few hundred other people. They should actually follow your example. In addition to staying hydrated, which will help you feel better when you land by keeping energy levels up, doing a few simple stretches will get your blood flowing, massage your muscles and internal organs, and relieve anxiety.

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Calf stretch

Calf muscle tightness is a very common problem among people, even if they don’t fly all of the time. Place your palms on a wall with one leg bent in front of you and your foot flat on the ground, while the trailing leg is straight and stretched away from the wall.

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Single pigeon stretch

This is an excellent pre-flight stretch. The pigeon pose is a very effective hip-opener that helps increase flexibility and the range of motion in the hip joints. The stretch also improves posture and alignment, which is crucial for your spine. Remaining in a seated position for hours at a time takes a huge toll on the back.

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Chest openers

Many of these exercises are backbends. They stretch your chest and activate the thoracic spine. These moves expand the chest and rib cage, making them more receptive and free. Sitting for lengthy periods of time makes the spine rounded, which causes back pain. It's important to counteract this posture with heart openers.

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Lunges

If you’re waiting in line for the bathroom or otherwise have plenty of aisle space on your plane or train, you can do lunges to stretch your hip flexors and lower back. Stretching these muscles is very important due to the long hours of inactivity. If you want to add some resistance, try using your laptop bag or briefcase as a weight.

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Single-leg stand

Try this one when the seatbelt sign is off. Standing on one leg engages the core and will create better balance, and it also stretches and strengthens your legs. Be sure to keep one foot firmly on the floor while your other foot is a few inches off the floor. If this is too challenging, try holding onto an aisle seat for stability. Hold for 20 seconds and do three reps on each side.

Toe raises

This is a good exercise for increasing circulation and shaping/strengthening calf muscles. As a bonus, if you can perform this exercise without holding onto anything, you will be engaging in a balance challenge, which is essential as we age to prevent falls.

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Cat pose

This is a great pose to relieve back pain. The cat cow movement stretches and loosens back muscles. It also moves energy stuck in the lower back and midsection. You have to modify the stretch on a plane. Sit on the edge of the seat; your feet should align with your hips. Breathe in, look up, and roll your shoulders arching upwards and outwards. Breathe out as you roll the spine in the original position.

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Neck extension/flexion

This stretch relieves jaw tension and allows the side of the neck, front of the deltoid and part of the chest muscle to open and lengthen. Slowly tilt your left ear toward the shoulder. Place the top of your right hand on the lower part of the back, and roll the right shoulder down and away from the ear. Place your left hand with slight pressure on the top of the head. Slightly lift the chin and keep the jaw open. Hold for five deep breaths, release, and repeat on the opposite side.

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Seated spinal twist

A lot of people think of hamstrings when it comes to stretching, but don’t forget to do spinal and shoulder exercises to increase flexibility. They can really help you out. The spinal twist is a good example. It keeps the hips neutral and it’s very accessible. You can go as far as you can. Anything that feels good and comfortable but is more than your usual range of motion is good. Do 10 reps, holding final twists for 30 seconds each.

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Ankle circles

Sitting for a long time can make your feet “fall asleep.” When you feel this happening, start moving them. Lift your feet off the floor and move them in a circle, leading with your toes. Move one foot in one direction and the other foot in the opposite, simultaneously.  Reverse circles. Rotate in each direction for 15 seconds.

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Standing extension

The most common cause for back pain that Chris Leib, a doctor of physical therapy at Movement Professional, sees is not varying body movements enough. “The body gets very imbalanced,” he adds. If you’re sitting all day, the muscles in the front get short and the muscles in the back get long. Stand up and bend your back backwards as often as possible. Another exercise is to sit in a chair, put your hand behind your head and open your elbows. “This is a great counter-balance movement,” he adds.

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Isometric shrug

It helps reduce neck fatigue, which a lot of passengers feel during and after a flight. Performing isometric exercises regularly will help with improving the overall flexibility of your joints.  Such exercises also help improve muscles after a surgery. They can be especially beneficial when it comes to ball-and-socket joints such as the knee, hip or shoulder, and can also help improve bone density, minimize arthritis and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

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Cow face arms

This is a common yoga stretch used to open the shoulder joints and strengthen the upper back muscles. While sitting up straight, reach your left arm behind you and try to touch the space between your shoulder blades. Next, reach your right arm up over your head and bend your elbow so that your hand lands somewhere near the nape of your neck. Without causing too much strain, try clasping your fingers together. This is an intense stretch, so don't worry if you can't quite reach yet. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch arms and repeat.

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Brisk walks

Take a walk after a flight. Mild cardio exercises can help with jet lag as well. They will help get your circadian rhythm back in order. Anything that gets your blood pumping again is a good idea. If it’s possible, go on brisk walks outside to get the benefit of the natural sunlight. It stimulates the produce of serotonin, the brains “happy” hormone, which improves the mood.

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Inchworm

This is a very helpful and effective move for when you get off the plane. It helps activate your core. Begin standing tall, feet about hip-width distance apart and legs straight. Bend over folding at your hips so that you can place your hands on the floor about a foot in front of you. Slowly lower your body towards the floor by walking your hands forward, eventually ending up in a high-plank position. From here, walk your feet towards your hands, keeping your legs as straight as possible. Repeat the sequence for three sets of 8 to 12 reps.

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Heel-to-butt stretch

You will feel so much better after you stretch you quads. Stand up, lift one foot off the floor and bend it, lifting it toward your butt. Pull your ankle in as close as you can and hold for 15-20 seconds. Release, switch feet and repeat.

Stretches and Exercises You Should Do Before, During, and After a Flight