Staying Fit and Healthy on a Flight

I have a love-hate relationship with long-haul flying.

Of course, travel is wonderful – and getting anywhere beyond Europe requires a long-haul flight. At the same time, it is easy to end up stiff, groggy, and horribly unhealthy by the end of a trip to Asia or even across the pond.

Over the years, I have created a stretching routine – alongside some personal rules of thumb which make long-haul flights more bearable.

The stretches might seem like minor additions, I’ll be the first to admit they were a game-changer for me. While nobody loves a long-haul flight, these tips will take the edge off – so you can focus on the amazing times you’ll have when you reach your destination.

Stretches are covered first below, after that some other important tips for a healthy flight.

Small Stretches Make a Big Difference to Your Long-Haul Flight

Consistent small movements make a difference both during and after your long-haul flight.

You’ll feel more comfortable and relaxed while flying. When you land, you won’t feel stiff and unhealthy. The icing on the cake is that stretching reduces the incidents of bad health outcomes too.

Here is my little routine, which I do at least a few times during each flight.

  • Neck Stretches: This is a huge win for a small stretch and is easy to do without disturbing your fellow passengers. There are two steps. Firstly, the rolls. Roll your head in a loop from left to right then right to left, 10 times each. Next, turn as far as is comfortable to the right then left 10 more times.
  • Shoulder Rolls: You can relax your upper back by rolling your shoulders in a circle. It is easy to do both at the same time. I recommend 10 times forward, then 10 times backwards. Once you feel those back muscles relax, you’ll want to add some more.
  • Ankle and Toe Stretches: Simply rolling your ankles in circles, holding your feet off the ground one at a time has big benefits. I add a toe-wiggle as a flourish each time. You can roll in both directions on both feet, I recommend 10 times each way.
  • Stretch Your Calves: For this stretch, you point your toe firmly at the floor and lift your heel. You will feel the effect on your lower leg right away, repeat 10 to 15 times per leg to loosen up those calves. This one combines brilliantly with the ankle rolls for me.
  • Twisting: While you won’t get every muscle covered while seated, twists will reach some of your core. Put your hand behind your head, and twist as far as is comfortable in the opposite direction. Then repeat with the other hand.

This entire routine takes less than five minutes, and does wonders for that stiff, stuck feeling you get (especially in Economy).

Staying healthy long-haul

Comfort on a Plane: More Top Tips

I used to drink a little too much booze on long-haul flights. This was partly a way to pass the time, partly to get to sleep and partly due to being young and foolish.

Cutting this back to a glass of wine with food was a real boost. This ties in perfectly with another key element of comfortable flying – staying hydrated. That logic that you should avoid too much water to save having to go to skanky plane toilets is misplaced. Extra water does wonders for your health, making the flight more comfortable all round. Add to that that getting up from your seat and moving around (when safe to do, of course) has big benefits too.

Travel pillows like the BCozzy Pillow or TRTL pillow are another huge travel hack. You can avoid that snoozing until your head lolls forward and then waking up routine, and get at least a short snooze in. The stretches above will make you feel more relaxed, increasing the chances of getting some shuteye.

There are other accessories you can buy to make your travel more comfortable. They include compression socks, eye masks, noise cancelling headphones or simply earplugs.

Finally, nobody cares about that smart suit or designer dress. Ditch the formalwear and wear loose clothing and super-comfy shoes while you fly. You’ll reach your destination feeling relaxed and ready to enjoy your holiday!


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