Recently I got back from Japan after heading over there for a needling course and giving myself a little break. During the 10 hour flight I noticed no one really got up for a stretch. Everyone was glued to their TV screens and were all looking very worse for wear when the flight arrived at its destination. This got me thinking do people not realise how easy it is to prevent post flight soreness?
There are two things which need to followed to keep the body healthy during these long haul flights. Firstly stay hydrated and secondly move your body.
Once up in the air the humidity in the cabin is extremely low. This causes your body to dry out and dehydrate very rapidly. Not only is your body dehydrated but your eyes and nasal airways will also dry out making you much more susceptible to illness and there always seems to be one sick person sitting nearby coughing all over you. Staying hydrated not only helps keep fatigue at bay but minimises the chance of catching any bugs. I recommend having a saline nasal spray and eye drops as well drinking water throughout the flight.
To address mobility I will break this down into two sections, sitting and standing.
Squeezing the glutes – As discussed in a previous post the glutes tend to disengage during long periods of sitting. This exercise maintains muscle activation of the area and minimises chance of glute activation dysfunction post flight. I recommend 3 sets of 10 reps holding for 3 seconds every couple of hours.
Seated twists – Grab onto the armrests and twist your torso around. Dont be alarmed if you hear some cracks in the joints this is completely normal.
Ankle plantar flexion – Push the toes down into the ground as you lift your ankles off. This maintains blood flow to the lower leg and activates the calf muscles. It is also a great exercise for preventing deep vein thrombosis.
Stretching arms up overhead and leaning from side to side. This helps open up the lats and elongates the spine.
Not so much an exercise but a great tip for keeping the discs of the lumbar spine healthy is to place a pillow in the curve of your low back. This helps maintain the curve of the spine and minimises the spine slumping into prolonged flexion positions where it can compromise the health of the discs. Essential for people who have a history of low back pain.
For each of the following ideally do these every couple of hours for 3 sets of 20 seconds. I usually walk down to the bathroom or the area which you can walk between to get to either side of the plane.
Quadricep Stretch – Be sure to keep your bent knee in line with your other knee. Pull the foot to your bum firmly and stand up tall to elongate the spine and open the hips.
Hip flexor stretch – I have included 2 versions of this depending on your available space on the plane. First one will be to have the legs in a 90/90 position on the ground as shown. Keep the spine upright squeeze the glutes and gently drive the hips forward until you feel a pull in the front of the hip.
The second version is to have one foot up on a ledge. In this position not only will you get the hip flexor but will target some portions of the upper hamstring in the opposite leg.
Shoulder Stretch – pull your arm across the body and in toward your chest and hold.
Standing figure four glute stretch – This exercise is commonly done on the ground however this modification allows you to do it standing. Hold onto a ledge or balance yourself against the wall. Cross one foot onto the opposite knee and then slowly lower yourself down and hold.
Tricep stretch with lean – This stretch not only hits the triceps but adding a slight lean into it also mobilises the thoracic spine and lats.
Chest stretch – The final stretch is to grab your hands behind your back and push your arms back. While doing this try squeeze your shoulder blades together to minimise the internal rotation of the front of the shoulder.