6 Easy Exercises and Stretches You Can Do Even in Economy

May 28, 2018

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Flying has never been healthier, easier or more affordable — but for many travelers, it’s still a literal pain. In addition to the discomfort that comes from staying folded in a cramped seat on long-haul flights, flying has also been linked to conditions such as deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms, particularly in travelers with pre-existing conditions.

Experts agree that one of the best ways to stay safe (and comfortable) is to keep the blood flowing.

The Points Guy spoke with Daniel Giordano, co-founder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City, about movements and stretches travelers can easily perform on an airplane to promote blood circulation, and to alleviate lower back and neck pain.

“These exercises [and stretches] are designed with that in mind,” Giordano said. “They’re really easy and help with mobility in the spine, breathing and opening up the muscles.”

Best of all? You can even do most of them while seated in economy.

Take a stroll around the cabin

You don’t have to jog in place or do lunges when the captain turns off the seatbelt sign. Simply get up and walk up and down the aisles to help improve circulation.

(Illustration by MCKIBILLO)
(Illustration by MCKIBILLO)

Pump your legs

To boost blood flow and improve circulation, “pump your feet” while you sit. In addition to preventing deep vein thrombosis, pumping your feet can reduce swelling in the lower extremities. (Giordano even recommends that his clients travel with a device, such as a Firefly knee strap, that can gently stimulate the peroneal nerve to promote circulation.)

(Illustration by MCKIBILLO)
(Illustration by MCKIBILLO)

Do a few seated stretches

Upper Trapezius and Levator Scapulae Stretches

“[There are] two neck stretches that people do, and they’re pretty easy,” Giordano said. For the upper trap stretch, simply sit up tall and “pull your ear toward your shoulder while the other arm is dropped at your side.”

Very similar to the upper trapezius stretch, the levator scapulae stretch (pictured below) features one key alteration. Instead of pulling your ear to your shoulder, “pull your nose to your armpit,” Giordano said. “That stretches all aspects of your neck.”

(Illustration by MCKIBILLO)
(Illustration by MCKIBILLO)

Seated Figure Four

Start by placing your right ankle on your left knee at a right angle, then bend forward.

“[This] will help stretch the glute from the end of your hips,” Giordano said.

Repeat on the other side, placing your left ankle on your right knee. It’s usually recommended that you keep your foot flexed. This exercise, admittedly, will be easier if you’re friendly with your seat neighbor — or seated in business class.

(Illustration by MCKIBILLO)
(Illustration by MCKIBILLO)

Seated Cat Cow

To help with mobility in the spine, “[put] your hands on your knees, and as you inhale bring your chest forward and look up,” Giordano said. “As you exhale, round your spine.” If you practice yoga, you’ll immediately recognize the flow of the move.

(Illustration by MCKIBILLO)
(Illustration by MCKIBILLO)

Illustrations by MCKIBBILLO

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