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So, you’re leaving on a jet plane? Lucky you. But whether it’s a short hop across the country or a life-changing journey to parts unknown, all the idle sitting on an airplane can do a number on your body. Stiffness, dehydration and other health complications can develop, putting a damper on any trip. But there are easy ways to ensure a smooth landing at your final destination. Read on, adventure seeker.
The Science Behind Sitting Too Long
Let’s talk about something called deep vein thrombosis, otherwise known as blood clots that form deep inside your legs when a person spends a long period of time immobile. (*cough* Sitting on an airplane. *cough*) A World Health Organization study found that about 1 in 4,500 airline passengers will develop this kind of clot while traveling every year. It’s not a huge number, but definitely something to keep on your radar. While clots alone are not always life threatening, the potential for clots, even in perfectly healthy people, increases on flights more than four hours long. Factors like age, weight, height, physical health, hormones, fractures, recent surgeries and many other common ailments can also increase your chances of developing clots. So what can you do?
Passengers can help combat the formation of clots by getting stagnant blood moving as much as possible. It’s time to stretch. Yes — stretch. While full-blown jumping jacks in the aisle are probably frowned upon on any airplane, simple stretches can keep the blood flowing and you feeling good.
It’s Not a Stretch to Stretch
Start by setting your watch or phone timer to go off at regular intervals — it’s a good way to remind yourself to stop bingeing Handmaid’s Tale and get the blood flowing. Start with every 30 minutes. Here is a list of simple, seat-approved exercises to get you moving:
- Ankle circles: Without kicking the seat in front of you, raise each leg and rotate your foot in a circle both directions.
- Alternating knee lift: Gently bring each knee to your chest while extending the other leg as straight as you can manage. You’ll need your tray table up for this one!
- Neck roll: Relax your shoulders down, then drop your ear toward one shoulder and then to the other.
- Shoulder shrugs: Alternate between moving your shoulders up toward your ears, forward toward the seat in front of you and back, moving your shoulder blades together.
- Take a walk: Take the long way to the bathroom or, if there is only one way, walk very slowly and intentionally. Standing is good for blood flow.
- Forward fold: While you’re up, reach your hands toward the ceiling and then carefully bend forward, reaching your hands to the ground.
The Airline Staff Is on Board
Airlines are aware of the need to stretch, and some have even taken steps to provide passengers with innovative ways to get moving (as much as it is safely possible). Qantas Airlines has even created an in-flight exercise video passengers can do from their seat. Other airline staff members do their best to remind passengers to move around at regular intervals.
On your next flight, keep the adventure going by keeping the blood flowing — your body will thank you.