Let’s be honest, most of us love to travel but don’t exactly enjoy flying. Why would you? Unless you’re riding in first class, it’s an uncomfortable, awkward, noisy experience that’s still expensive, despite these inconveniences.
Sitting for long periods can be hard on your body as well, which is why flying is often considered one of the least relaxing ways to travel. Between standing in lines for hours at a time at the airport, and then being crammed into tiny chairs with minimal legroom, there’s not a whole lot to get excited about. And that’s not even including the potential jet lag that you could experience.
But you shouldn’t let the necessary evils of air travel take away from your ability to Getaway Well on every trip you take. To help keep you energized and limber on your flight, we’d suggest trying to incorporate a bit of exercise into your journey.
We’re not kidding, as small as the area you’re working with maybe, there are always workout routines that you can do to improve your overall health and wellness – even if they’re only low-impact stretches.
Before we discuss some specific types of exercises to do on a plane, let’s talk about the benefits of ensuring you keep fitness in mind during your flight.
Stiffness is one of the biggest challenges that have to be overcome when you’re taking a flight, especially a long one. Keeping yourself moving is a good way to avoid stiffness setting in as much as possible during your flight.
When you’ve got a long journey to take after your flight, or a long walk through a large airport to reach your next form of transportation, the last thing that you want to have to deal with is achy, sore muscles that groan at you when you try to use them.
Unfortunately, for the same reasons that you often need to stretch in the morning and wake up, your body needs time to get started again once it’s been sitting idle for a while. Going from 0 to 100 all at once is a great way to injure yourself.
For instance, if you’ve got a connecting flight that you need to hurry to catch once you reach your destination, you’re not going to do yourself any favors coming off the first flight feeling groggy and stiff. Worse, you could even pull something trying to hurry to your next gate.
When you do exercises on a plane to limber your muscles up before getting off, you’ll be far more likely to make it to your gate on time, without hurting yourself in the process.
For a portion of your flight (possibly even most of it, depending on the weather), you may be confined to your seat, because the captain hasn’t turned off the seatbelt sign. Consider these options for exercising while traveling in a confined area.
Joints are some of the first things to stiffen up in our bodies because they’re so used to bending and stretching constantly as we move around during our normal lives.
Ankle rotations are a great option to start exercising while traveling on a plane since you can do it as soon as you’re sitting in your seat.
Lift each foot off the floor and stretch your ankle up, then down, then left, then right. Then begin rotating your ankle in the left direction for 5-10 circles. Change direction and repeat the same but to the right this time. That’s all there is to it.
Another joint that causes many of us issues is the ankles of our hands, which is to say our wrists.
We use our hands frequently throughout the day as we’re doing tasks and moving things around that we use, but sitting on the plane, there’s not a whole lot to do (other than maybe watch a movie on the back of the seat in front of you).
Start these rotations the same as the ankle exercises. Up, down, left, right stretches, and then begin rotations in the left direction for 5-10 circles. Repeat to the right, and your wrists will be good to go.
Another area of our body that becomes tight and sore the longer we’re forced to sit in the same position is our necks – especially in airplane seats, which may not be ergonomic.
You may not even think about how much you look around and move your neck during the day, but it’s quite a bit – even if you have a desk job. Sitting upright in your seat and staring at a screen for hours on end without being able to shift positions can make your neck quite stiff and sore.
For these neck rolls, gently lean your head all the way to the left, and then all the way to the right. Put your head down and try to touch your chin to your chest and then all the way back. Now begin rotating your head slowly in a clockwise direction for 5-10 circles. Change directions and repeat for 5-10 rotations.
Another muscle group that you may not realize you use as much as you do throughout the day is your shoulders, which give our arms much of their reach and flexibility.
It doesn’t take a lot to keep your shoulders limber through exercising while traveling since you can just lift your arms up and down, stretch your shoulders easily from your seat, or do these comfortable shoulder rotations.
Just lift your shoulders up and then drop them down. Then begin rolling your shoulders forwards in a circle 5-10 times, 5-10 times backward, and you’ll be feeling great!
Just like the connection between our wrists and our ankles, our fingers and toes have lots of small joints that can get quite stiff if left unused for quite some time.
This means (especially in older travelers), hands and feet can get really sore when we’re sitting and not using our arms or legs for a while. Thankfully, this is a relatively easy remedy.
For your hands, just curl and uncurl your fingers. Squeeze your hands tightly, and then relax. Pull your fingers up and push your fingers down from their fully extended positions. For your toes, try the same kind of movements, but maybe don’t take off your shoes and pull on your bare feet.
Since it’s difficult for us to work out lower core muscles while we’re sitting in the upright position, we can focus on stretching our chest and upper body instead.
This is not only good for your muscles, but it’s good for your respiratory health. When we’re stiff in the chest, it can feel like we have tightness in our pectoral muscles, which can (in extreme cases) make breathing less comfortable.
Just pull your shoulders as far inward as you can towards the center of your chest, and then back in the opposite direction, back towards the center of your back. This will help loosen up your pecs and help keep the muscles around your chest cavity from stiffening up.
Eventually, you’ll probably get the opportunity on your flight to get out of your seat and start moving around a bit more. This means you’ll have more access to movement, and can therefore add a few more exercises to do on a plane to your repertoire.
Now that you’re out of your seat, you’ll probably want to start by stretching out your calves and feet muscles, since they are the most challenging to actually work out while you’re sitting in a confined space.
Using this technique for exercising while traveling on a plane will get the blood flowing in your lower half, and could even help give you a burst of renewed energy after the potentially long wait for the seatbelt light to turn off.
Just stand on your tiptoes for 5-10 seconds at a time (or as long as you can comfortably balance), and repeat this movement 5-10 times.
You may want to confine this one to the bathroom of the plane, since obviously exercising while traveling with other people may be embarrassing for some.
While it may seem a little silly to be standing in the tiny bathroom of a plane doing fast feet, this is an extremely good way to get a bit of cardio in on a long flight. Your heart needs regular workouts to stay healthy. Fast feet are a great way to encourage strong cardiovascular health through exercising while traveling.
The actual movement is very simple. Just gently jog in place. Move your feet as fast as you can comfortably, up and down. Try to go in 20-30 second stints, depending on your comfort level.
Squats are possibly one of the most versatile core exercises to do on a plane since you can easily do them anywhere on the plane where there’s enough room to sit down. If you’re feeling a bit embarrassed, even the bathroom will work fine.
Engaging both our legs, as well as many of our core abdominal muscles, squats offer a high-impact exercise, with minimal space and no equipment required. Perfect for exercises to do on a plane.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, lift your arms to keep them in front of you at waist height, keep your back as straight as you can, and move down into a sitting position. Just be careful not to fall over, if you’re doing these in the aisle.
They may sound funny (and even feel a bit funny when you’re doing them), but butt clenches are a fantastic workout for our glutes and core muscles.
Sitting for long periods of time can be hard on our backs, hips, and even our butts. If you’ve been sitting for quite a while and your butt has begun to go numb, this solution is perfect for exercising while traveling.
Just stand upright and clench your butt cheeks tightly for 5-10 seconds at a time. Do this 5-10 times. Be sure to hydrate well first, because the last thing you want is a butt cramp 20,000 feet in the air.
This is about the most natural (and easiest) stretch that you can do, once you’re up and out of your seat for a bit.
Sometimes stretching doesn’t need to be complex or heavily focused on working for a specific muscle group. Occasionally, it can feel good to just stretch your body in a way that feels good to you.
Taking that into an account, just do some light stretching towards the ceiling of the cabin. Stretch your shoulders, back, and neck in a way that feels good after you’ve been sitting. You’ll feel a lot better when you sit back down again.
As much as you might wish that you can do this from your seat with your seatbelt on, it simply isn’t feasible to do as exercises on a plane while you’re buckled in.
The muscles in your back don’t like to remain immobile for long periods of time. Even when you’re sleeping at night, you’ll move around in bed based on the needs of your body (and by association your spine).
Plant your feet at shoulder width, put your hands on your hips, and slowly rotate your upper body as far to the left as it will comfortably turn, and then back all the way to the right. Repeat this 5-10 times.
This might be the only one of our exercises to do on a plane that you could have to do in the aisleway, for the sake of room. This exercise will work your core and stretch out your lower lumbar muscles.
Just stand with your feet shoulder-width apart (and check to make sure no one is behind you waiting to get by), and then bend down and touch your toes. Hold that position for 2-3 seconds, and then stand back up.
It’s best to try and time your breathing, so that you inhale as you stand, pause and hold your breath for a moment, and then exhale as you reach down to touch your toes again.
Another exercise that might be best for the bathroom, glute stretches can actually help work the muscles in your hips and core as well.
In the washroom, sit down on the toilet and slowly pull up one foot until you can rest your leg across the top of the knee of your other leg. Hold that position for 5-10 seconds, and then switch legs.
This is a great stretch to consider shortly before you know they’re going to ask you to put your seatbelt back on and prepare for landing.
Isometrics are less of a series of movements like other exercises to do on a plane, but instead, they’re contractions of specific muscle groups (butt clenches we mentioned earlier could be considered an isometric exercise).
These are a great suggestion if you’ve been standing in the aisle for a while, waiting in line with other passengers to get to the washroom, so that you can take 5 minutes and stretch in peace. Try using isometrics with your core, your biceps, or your hamstrings, while you’re standing there waiting.
Just contact those muscles as tightly as you can (comfortably), and hold it for 5-10 seconds. Release, cool down for 30 seconds, and repeat 5-10 times for each muscle group.
Depending on your flight, you don’t want a big, awkward carry-on bag that’s going to be a pain in the butt to lug around and add extra tension to your back and neck while you’re lugging it around between flights.
This 21L carry-on is big enough to hold all your non-checked necessities like your travel supplements and your spare sets of clothing, but small enough to remain comfortable.
Who says that your feet have to be uncomfortable during your flight? We certainly don’t. The shoes that you need to wear for support during all the walking between flights, may not be what you want to have on your feet during your flight.
With that in mind, you should consider packing a pair of these extremely cozy, portable travel slippers, which can easily fit in your 21L carry-on, alongside all your other travel needs.
Sitting on a flight can feel like a waste of time that takes forever (because we’re so eager to get to our destination), but it doesn’t have to be time wasted.
Exercising while traveling on a plane is a great way to kill some time in a way that’s health and wellness-focused, instead of focusing on simply passing the time.
After you’ve done your stretches and the exercises we suggested to do on a plane, you’ll be ready and raring to go when you reach your destination, and you’ll have already taken the first steps to ensure you’ll Getaway Well – no matter where your travel journeys may take you.