How to Stay Fit and Healthy When Flying Long-Haul
So you are regularly on long haul flights followed by an hour or so in the car travelling to and from airports? Lucky you… However you will no doubt be suffering some negative effects. These can be caused by sitting for extended periods and having a poor diet while travelling – not to mention the disruption to your body clock.
Read on for some tips on keeping your body and mind sharp in flight!
First below you’ll find an explanation of some common health issues encountered while flying. After that a note on the importance of hydration and moderate eating. After that some simple exercises which can help to keep your blood flowing and muscles from getting tight!
Fitness and Flying: What Could Go Wrong?
Deep Vein Thrombosis – DVT
Frequent fliers are at risk to a whole host of health problems, perhaps the best known (yet still widely ignored) is Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT. What you might not know is that DVT kills thousands of people a year – yes – thousands. While most of these cases are not directly linked to flying, many are.
Long periods of immobility, cramped spaces and low air pressure are all contributing factors. So what can you do? First off consider those silly looking plane socks, but better yet get up and move around a little every 30 minutes or so. The next section of this article covers some creative solutions.
If you feel you have developed symptoms of DVT, then you need to consult a medical professional right away. These include aching (particularly around the lower calf, aching and redness – particularly behind the knee. This article on the NHS Website explains more.
The low air pressure on planes is similar to if you were high up in the mountains. Basically there is less oxygen, which puts more strain on your body to get the required amount into your bloodstream.
Just be aware of this, focus on your breathing. We are promoting some light exercise and activity here and there but you don’t want to smashing out a full blown workout with reduced oxygen levels.
Bacteria and Viruses
Having a good level of health, fitness and hydration are vital if you want a strong immune system. If you travel often a strong immune system might be more important than you think. Squashed onto a large airliner with hundreds of other people means there is bound to be plenty of sickness and who knows what else flying around. Filtration systems will remove a lot of these bugs, though if you are sat close to someone with a heavy cold or flu – it can be difficult to avoid exposure.
Packing a surgical mask can be a good back-up in case that passenger in the next aisle starts to cough and splutter. Keeping yourself fit and healthy all year round will help you fight off any potential nasties you might catch whilst traveling.
H2O H2O H2O – Hydration the Key to Flight Fitness
Drink plenty of water before, during and after your flight. Being properly hydrated has so many benefits, we all know this, yet many still don’t drink anywhere near enough. In a nutshell, being dehydrated makes everything worse – including having your immune system in optimum condition.
If water isn’t your thing then try mixing it with an electrolyte mix, it will add some zero calorie flavour as well as some much needed nutrients like potassium and magnesium.
If you do choose to consume some adult beverages while on board, remember that alcohol contributes to dehydration. You’ll need some extra water to make up for this.
Travel Light (Meals!)
You are probably thinking what the hell has packing got to do with staying fit and healthy on a plane?
However having light meals prior to flying is sound advice. Stuffing yourself pre-flight is not good. Not only will it be harder to digest while up in the air in a cramped space, but it will also leave you feeling lethargic and leave you with no motivation to perform some of the handy in-seat exercises below.
Stay Fit While Flying – An In Flight Workout
Try these in flight exercises to promote good blood flow, remain active and stay loose wherever you’re headed:
- The Foot Pump – Start with both feet firmly on the ground and then while keeping your heels in contact with the floor point your toes upward as high as possible. Hold at the top for a second and then back down. Repeat 5 times and then switch to keeping your toes on the ground and lifting your heels.
- The Foot Twirl – Simply lift both feet off the ground. Rotate clockwise 5 times and then switch to anti clockwise for a further 5. There is no race here – a slow and controlled rotation is key.
- Knee Lift – Start by leaning slightly forward in your seat and then raise one knee towards your chest and hold for 15 seconds before switching knees. You can use your hands as support here.
- The shoulder roll – Another easy one. Simply raise your shoulders and rotate them forwards. Do 5 reps and switch to rotating them backwards.
- The Neck Roll – Relax your shoulders and lean your head to one side. The simply roll your head from side to side, forwards and backwards. Again you are looking for slow and controlled rotations here. Ten reps should do nicely.
- The Deckchair – Start sat upright and bend forward until your chest is touching your thighs (if there is room!). Fold yourself ‘in half’, hold for a couple of seconds and then slowly go back to an upright position. 15-20 reps should be enough.
- Walk – This final one can’t be done in your seat, but that doesn’t mean it should be missed. A little walk up and down the aisle every now and then will help stretch you out and feel much better.
Don’t Forget About Your Brain
Flights can be long, boring and your body is not the only thing that suffers. Your mental state can be affected too. Use all the time spent on planes doing something productive. Read a good book, do some puzzles or my personal favourite – listen to TED Talks.
Stimulating your mind is never a bad thing and let’s face it – you don’t have much else to do on a plane.
At first glance someone travelling all of the time was at risk of severe boredom, jet lag and a whole host of health problems. I can’t do anything about the jetlag, but following the advice laid out above you can get in a quick workout, maintain a healthy and balanced diet and supersize your brain.
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