The Frequent Flyer Program
Yes, you should move about the cabin. Trainer Lauren Williams offers 8 in-flight stretches.
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If you spend as much time on airplanes as you do at your desk, it’s time to make fitness a part of flying.
After all, while we’ve all heard about the negative effects of sitting—it’s thought to slow metabolism and contribute to chronic illness—it’s also easy to see the plane as the break room, the ideal place to plop down and succumb to an hours-long Netflix binge.
Not a good plan: Sitting still for too long can cause your blood to pool upping your risk for clots, and leave your body stagnant, making you stiff upon landing, says Lauren Williams, a Tier 2 personal trainer in New York City.
“Certain muscles are ‘turned off’ if you stay in the same position too long,” she adds.
Williams would know. She's estimates she’s been on about 25 planes this year, traveling everywhere from Milwaukee to Hawaii.
That’s why she has an arsenal of in-flight exercises to loosen her muscles, open her body, and reboot circulation. Focusing on total-body movement, with a particular concentration on legs and hips, the moves are targeted at your most neglected body parts—yet easy enough to do on a plane.
“I’m sure people think I’m crazy,” she admits.
Stretch your way through any flight with Williams’ moves, which require only a lacrosse or yoga ball. Don’t worry about doing them back-to-back—on the way to the bathroom or in between email bouts works just fine.
1. Knee Huggers + Ankle Circles
Sit tall in seat, plant right foot on the ground while pulling left knee into chest, as shown. Keep pulling knee close to chest and do 10 clockwise then 10 counter clockwise circles with left ankle; repeat on other side. Complete 4 to 6 reps on each side.
2. Seated Twist
Sit forward in chair with feet flat on the ground, knees pointing forward. Turn head and shoulders to the right grabbing the armrest with both hands to gently deepen twist. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds; repeat to other side. Complete 5 to 10 reps on each side.
3. Calf Roll
Sit forward in seat. Plant left foot on the ground and cross right ankle over left knee. Take the lacrosse ball, and applying medium pressure, press ball into side calf, as shown, making small circles. Move ball up and down calf making sure to hit entire length of calf muscle. Repeat on other side. Complete 4 to 6 reps on each side.
4. Foot Roller
Sit forward in seat with both feet flat on the ground. Remove your shoes, and place a lacrosse ball underneath ball of left foot. Apply light to medium pressure and roll ball back and forth and in circles on sole of foot. Roll for 60 to 90 seconds then switch sides. Complete 5 to 10 reps on each side.
5. Standing Back Bend
Stand up next to seat and clasp hands together behind head. Then slowly reach up and back, keeping gaze toward the ceiling, as shown. Keep reaching back until breathing becomes challenged, then slowly come back to starting position. Complete 3 to 5 reps.
6. Half-Kneel Hip Flexor Stretch
Next to seat, come to a half-kneeling position, right knee on the ground and left foot flat on the ground. Lean forward, shifting knee forward and weight into left foot, stretching right hip flexor, as shown. Complete 4 to 6 reps on each side.
7. Figure Four Stretch
Start standing and place hands on seat for support. Cross right ankle over left knee and sit into a squat, as shown. Stretch outside of right hip and butt. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds; repeat on other side. Complete 3 to 5 reps.
8. Shoulder Opener
Stand tall next to seat, place right hand (thumb pointing toward ceiling) on headrest. Next, press hand against seat while angling body to the left, opening up right shoulder, as shown. Repeat on the other side. Complete 3 to 5 reps.