Vacations are nice but often they involve long rides in the car, bus, train or plane; which means we are seated for long periods of time. If you are travelling by road, you could always stop the vehicle and take a little stretch. You could also take a little walk around the carriage if you’re travelling by train. Planes though are a little more of a challenge.
The importance of moving when on a plane
When seated for long periods, your circulation doesn’t work as well and you will feel that your legs or hands might get swollen. Besides feeling uncomfortable, you are more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis due to the different air pressure, dehydration and lack of movement.
The air pressure in a plane cabin is similar to an altitude of around 2400m, which means the air is thinner and there is less oxygen. What the body does as a coping mechanism to make sure every cell receives enough oxygen is to generate more blood platelets as these are the ones transporting the oxygen to the cells. This however means that the blood gets more viscous which increases the likelihood of blood clots. The dry cabin air paired with not drinking enough liquids or even consuming alcohol also leads to dehydration, which makes the blood even thicker.
Moving keeps your circulation going, prevents the blood from sitting in your legs and forming a blood clot, and you will also feel better all over. This is especially important when you are prone to blood clotting due to medication or genetic disorders.
Below are a few exercises you could try on your next journey to keep the blood moving.
At the airport/
Walk - We’ve all experienced the boredom of waiting to board our flights. Instead of just sitting down, walk around and stretch those legs.
Heel raises – Stand up and push your heels off the ground (standing on tiptoes). You can do this one leg at a time, or both at once.
Butt squeezes – Stand up and squeeze your butt muscles. Pretend there is a piece of paper you don’t want to lose in between those butt cheeks! Hold for a few seconds and repeat.
Of course you can do squats, lunges and push-ups on the chairs too – but I usually only do them when no one is watching. :)
In the air
Seated heel raises - Sit in your chair and lift one heel as high as you can, then the other foot.
Seated ball raises - Now lift the front (the ball) of your foot as high as you can keeping the heel on the floor.
Knee hugs - Bring your knee up and hug it to your chest – hold, and then switch to the other knee.
Tensing your muscles – Pick one muscle in your body and actively engage it as much as you can and hold it for a few seconds, then release and pick another one.
Stand up frequently – Bend forward to stretch your back, reach up as high as you can and perform some heel raises. You can do this in the aisle or while waiting in line for the washroom, for example.
That you are mostly immobile due to the little space available is a given but you don’t need much space to help your circulation along. So do whatever you can to move those limbs, stretch those muscles and get the blood flowing – you’ll feel better and ready to enjoy your holiday when you reach your destination.