The ability to fly across the country and around the globe has enriched the lives of millions of people. But flying, especially longer flights, also can lead to aches, pains, muscle tension and stiffness. That’s why it’s important to make in-flight exercises part of your travel itinerary.

Fortunately, there are some simple in-flight exercises you can do. You also can get into the habit of doing some pre and post-flight workouts and exercises that can help you better prepare for flying and help you relax and feel better when it is over.

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Pre-Flight Workouts and Exercise

Before flying, do some simple pre-flight workouts that stretch your muscles and keep you loose. Also, remember to hydrate before a flight to prep for dry plane air. It’s worth noting that many exercises work well for both pre-flight and post-flight exercises. The idea is to stretch out muscles and get the blood flowing.

If you have time, within 24 hours of your flight, put in a full workout or go for a long run (if running is your thing). That will strengthen the body and build up the immune system for the flight. It also will increase blood flow and reduce the chance of swelling in legs and feet from sitting in one place for too long.

If you only have 30 minutes or so at home before you leave, or even at the airport if there is space, you can try squats, reverse lunges, planks and push-ups.

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In-Flight Exercises

You only have a certain degree of control during the flight. If the plane encounters turbulence, pilots may ask you to remain seated during the flight. But even so, there are in-flight exercises you can do while seated, according to the National Blood Clot Alliance. They include the following.

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  • Ankle circles. Lift and twirl your feet as if drawing circles with your toes. Continue for 15 seconds, then reverse direction.
  • Foot Pumps. With your heels on the floor, lift the front of your foot as high as possible. Hold for a moment, then flatten your feet and lift your heels as high as possible, keeping the balls of your feet on the floor.
  • Knee lifts. Bend your leg and lift your knee to your chest, holding a moment. Put your foot back down and do the same with the other leg.
  • Forward Flex: With both feet on the floor, bend forward and reach for your ankles. Hold for 15 seconds and slowly return to a seated position.
  • Overhead Stretch: Raise both hands over your head. Grab the wrist of the opposite arm and gently pull to one side. Hold for 15 seconds, then repeat with the other arm.

If allowed by the flight crew, stand up regularly and even move a bit in the aisle, just to get your blood flowing. This will help prevent aches and reduce the risk of inflammation.

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Post-Flight Workouts and Exercise

Even if you get the chance to do in-flight exercises, you still may have tight muscles and stiff joints, especially after longer flights. The best post-flight workouts involve stretches that stretch your back, open your chest and hips, and target your inner thighs and calves. Here are a few that can help. Keep in mind, these also work well for pre-flight exercises.

Resistance band. One of the best things you can invest in for a bit of post-flight exercise is a resistance band. They are not expensive and make post-flight workouts easier. You can try resistance band squats and resistance band bent over rows. You can also do hamstring, hip and chest stretches using resistance bands.

Jumping Jacks. Doing a set of jumping jacks is a great way to get the blood flowing again throughout your body. 

Inchworm. This simple exercise allows you to stretch muscles in your legs and shoulders. If you’ve never done one, it works like this: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend at the waist, placing your hands on the floor. Walk your hands forward until reaching a “push up” position, with your hands flat and straight under your shoulders. Hold a moment. Then, slowly walk your hands back to your feet. Do this about a half dozen times.

Chest stretch. Chances are, you spent much of your flight hunched over, sleeping or looking at your phone. A simple chest stretch can open your chest. Stand with your arms stretched behind you at butt-level and your finger interlocked. As you keep your back straight and shoulder blades together, raise your arms until you can feel the stretching in your chest. Hold that position for about a half minute. Remember, you don’t have to do any of these perfectly. The idea is to stretch out your muscles and open any areas that may have tensed up or stiffened during the flight. Coupled with in-flight exercises, these pre and post-flight workouts will leave you feeling better and ready to face the rest of your day.

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