10 Stretches For Long Flights | A Physiotherapists Guide

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Living in Australia, pretty much every flight is a long flight. Even going from the east coast to the west coast of the country is an epic journey, let alone visiting anywhere else in the world. We are truly down under,¶

So, especially for Australian residents, stretches for long flights will become incredibly valuable tools as preventative care. How do they work?

Why is it important to incorporate stretches for long flights?

First of all, it's important to talk about the dangers of not stretching properly during a long flight. In conversations about long-distance travelers, there's always a concern of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

Although it's a relatively rare condition, it's a big reason why we want to stretch before boarding a flight lasting any more than four hours. DVT is a condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually within the calf or thigh muscle. It results in pain, swelling, and tenderness and is pretty serious.

Moving around and doing stretches for long flights is your best way to combat blood clots and DVT - plus it feels really good to relieve that stiffness.

How do I stretch for a long flight?

Here we'll start with the stretches you can try before you even board your flight. You'll see that many of these stretches for long flights focus on your calves, hamstrings, and hips.

They're easy enough to do in your lounge room or hotel room before getting in the Uber to the airport.

Downward Dog Calf Stretch: Start on all fours (shoulders over wrists and hips over knees) then press up to downward dog with your hips toward the sky. Alternate bending one knee while you straighten the other, and switch back and forth giving your calves a deep stretch.

10 Stretches For Long Flights

Inchworm: Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Hinge at the hips and touch your toes in a forward fold. Walk your hands out and come to a plank. Then drop your hips and look up, stretching your lower back. Reverse the motion and come back to standing.

10 Stretches For Long Flights

Figure Four Stretch: Standing on your left foot, cross your right foot over your left knee, making the number four with your legs. Bend your left leg and drop your hips to feel the stretch on the outside of your right hip. Then, return to standing and repeat on the other side.

10 Stretches For Long Flights

Heel Raises: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and rise up onto the balls of your feet, squeezing the backs of your legs. Lower back down and repeat. Feel free to use a chair or the wall for balance.

10 Stretches For Long Flights

What stretches can I do during the flight?

Sit with your feet flat on the floor versus cross-legged. Crossing your legs or sitting in awkward positions can lead to even more cramps and ups your chances of blood clots. So, keep it simple.

Take a walk every one or two hours. This isn't the easiest to do since there's nowhere to really go on an aeroplane and you might annoy the person sitting on the aisle, but it's for a good cause. Walk to the lavatory even if you don't have to do your business.

Then, once in the lavatory, stretch what you can. Some people whip out some squats to get the blood flowing. Maybe you'll touch your toes to stretch out those hamstrings. Anything you can do to re-circulate the blood will be beneficial.

There are also things you can do at your seat to promote proper blood flow.

Ankle circles: Simply lift your leg and rotate your ankles clockwise and then anticlockwise. Repeat on each foot.

Foot Pumps: With your feet flat on the floor, lift your toes with your heels remaining in the ground. Then, as you return your toes to the floor, lift your heels. Alternate like this and repeat on the other side.

Knee Lift: In your sitting position, slowly and gently lift your knee, one at a time, to activate your upper leg.

Knee Hug: From your sitting position, bend over slightly to clasp one of your knees. Lift your knee to hug toward your chest. Repeat on the other side and continue, alternating.

Neck Roll: Keeping your shoulders down and relaxed, drop your right ear toward your right shoulder. Gently roll your neck from right to left with your chin coming across your chest. Repeat side to side.

Shoulder Roll: Circle your shoulders going forward, up toward your ears, and then back and down. Repeat and then reverse directions.

Seated Figure Four Stretch: While seated, place your right ankle on your left knee. Bend over and press down on your right knee to feel the stretch in your right hip. Release and repeat on the other side.

10 Stretches For Long Flights

Finally, it's so important to stay hydrated. Coconut water and other electrolyte-packed beverages will do wonders to help with blood flow. Also, avoid too much coffee or alcohol. Yes - that means saying no to the free wine available on long flights. It's not worth it.

Is it good to exercise before a long flight?

There's a lot of talk about stretches for long flights, but what about exercising before a long flight? You'd be right to ask the question because, in fact, you shouldn't do any strenuous exercise before boarding a plane.

In the days leading up to your flight, a 30 to 45-minute moderate exercise routine will be super beneficial. It'll get your circadian rhythm in order and will enhance your sleep in the lead up to traveling.

Yet, the reason you don't want to do a killer workout before a long flight is because your body won't be able to recover properly when you're in the same seated position for hours and hours on end.

The best thing you can do is taper off your workouts and don't do any crazy exercise within three days before you take off.

Need help coming up with stretches for long flights that are personalised for you? Set up an appointment with one of our experienced physio clinicians. We'll work with you to make sure you're avoiding blood clots and other precarious situations that can be caused by long flights. Everyones needs and bodies are different. Visit one of our Physio Inq clinic locations across Australia today. Even better? We can come to you with our mobile and home physiotherapy services.

Find your local Physio Inq clinic or home service here for your own personalised program for your next long flight here


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