11 chair exercises to help you stay comfortable and healthy on long airplane flights

back bends

I’m always looking for ways to exercise and stay fit and healthy on the road. This year it’s been a challenge with multiple airplane trips. Not only have I gained a few pounds, but I’m tired of being sore and jet lagged after a long flight.

So with another trip on my itinerary, I plan to take advice from EL AL, the national airline of Israel. These wellness tips from the Israeli Center of Pilates help airline passengers stay in shape, relax, and feel fresher during any flight as well as upon landing.

leg joint stretch

Each exercise can easily be done from the comfort of any seat, without disturbing neighboring passengers. (Well almost, just watch your elbows.) Exercises can be repeated as often as desired but should not be performed if there is difficulty or if pain occurs.

In flight stretches and exercises

side bends

BACK BENDS: Fold hands behind your head and stretch upward. Then, slowly roll your head down and around in a circle, rising slowly (and change directions).

LEG JOINT STRETCH: Bring knee to your chest, keeping your back in an upright position. Rotate leg in small circles in each direction. Alternate legs.

spinal stretches

SIDE BENDS: Sitting straight up, place your hand on the opposite knee and twist your body in that direction. Repeat the same twist in the other direction.

SPINAL STRETCHES: Link your hands together and stretch your arms overhead. Bend to the right and to the left.

7 more in-flight exercises

ANKLE TWIRLS: Lift your feet from the floor. Outline a circle with your toe tips, moving one foot clockwise and the other counterclockwise. Switch directions.

FOOT PUSHES: Begin with both feet flat on the floor, raising them as high as you can. Then, raise your heels high and keep toes on the floor. Perform this in a continuous movement.

KNEE LIFTS: Raise your leg with knee bent, contracting the thigh muscle (quadriceps). Switch legs.

NECK SWIVELS: With shoulders relaxed, lower your ear to your shoulder and gently move your neck to the right side and then to the left.

KNEE TO CHEST: Bend forward slightly. Wrap your hands around your left knee and hug it to your chest. Hold the contracted position for 15 seconds. Still holding your knee with your hands, lower it slowly. Switch knees.

FORWARD BENDS: With both feet on the floor and belly contracted inward, slowly bend forward and move  hands downward, advancing toward feet. Hold this stretched position for 15 seconds and slowly return to a sitting position.

SHOULDER ROTATIONS: Arch your shoulders forward, upward and downward in gentle circular movements.

10 tips for staying comfortable during your flight

  1. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and dress in layers.
  2. Wear shoes that you can slip on and off easily or that can be loosened in case your feet swell. Some people bring bedroom slippers or slipper socks to put on after take off – great idea!
  3. Drink plenty of water. Bring your own water bottle and have the flight attendant fill it up for you. Bring single servings of powdered drink mix in your bag to add to your water. I don’t know about you, but I drink more flavored water than I would plain water.
  4. Reduce consumption of coffee, tea and alcoholic beverages.
  5. Avoid heavy meals. Have a light snack every two to three hours.
  6. Remove contact lenses and wear glasses to prevent eye dryness.
  7. To equalize pressure in the ears, it may help to swallow and yawn.
  8. If possible, get out of your seat and walk around.
  9. Don’t forget to pack your pain medications in your carry on bag, briefcase or purse.
  10. You may also want to look into a no jet lag homeopathic remedy like No-Jet-Lag Homeopathic Jet Lag Prevention Tablets. I’ve used them with some success and felt less tired the day after traveling.

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