There is nothing quite like the feeling of boarding a flight bound for somewhere far far away. For me it’s always a mix of excitement, a little anxiety and a strange sense of relief. Holidays mean less responsibility, no work and more time than I know what to do with.
This somewhat euphoric feeling often comes crashing down when I sit down in my seat. Small, cramped, bolt upright and squashed between two guys twice my size. Yep, here comes that awful plane pain and stiffness we all read so much about!
I am a restless traveller. I like to get up and about regularly on long haul flights not only to stretch my legs but to loosen by back and maybe stop by the snack cart a few times.
The position of a plane seat is unnatural, sitting in general is actually pretty unnatural especially for our poor backs. Standing for us is neutral, so 14 hours squashed in an economy seat is the perfect recipe for aching muscles and stiff joints.
There are a few great easy exercises & stretches that you can do during a flight to try and help prevent that awful post travel soreness.
If you are graceful enough you can actually do these in your seat. Prepare for strange looks from your neighbouring passengers. Pick up one knee and hug it in towards your chest for 10 seconds, swap legs and do 5 each side.
Walk up and down the aisles, stretch out those legs, get the blood moving. Spend at least 5 minutes just walking back and forth. This is the easiest way to loosen the entire body before we move onto some specifics.
You may want to head to the back of the plane for these ones. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and raise up onto your toes, then slowly lower heels back to the ground. Do this 10 times, rest and do 3 sets (rounds).
Give yourself a little room here, it’s time to loosen your spine. Place your feet shoulder width apart, slowly bend forward as if to touch your toes. Feel your spine elongate and a comfortable stretch through your hamstrings. Pause for 2-3 seconds at the bottom before slowly unwinding back into the standing position. Place your hands on the back of your hips and arch backwards. Return to standing. Do 5 of these. (* if you have a history of back pain check with your therapist if these are safe for you before travelling.)
Spread your arms out wide, straighten your elbows and turn your palms upwards. Now, gently pull your arms backwards and open up the chest. Look up to the ceiling and take two deep breaths. Do 5 of these.
Aim to do these stretches at least 4-5 times throughout a long flight!
Emma Esslemont is a physiotherapist, personal trainer, wellbeing blogger.
She is a self-confessed fitness and food fanatic with a passion for living a healthy lifestyle and helping others to do so too.