Even the best of holidays are preceded by what can only be described as a test of will: air travel. Most people should be keenly aware of the challenges posed by economy-class flights (business and first-class passengers need not apply). Limited leg room, cramped seating and lumpy chairs are just some of the things that can cause nagging aches that no one wants to have on their first day of vacation. Luckily, there are a number of stretches that you can do for instant relief.
Reach to the sky
This basic amongst basics can be done from the confines of your seat. Simply extend your arms towards the ceiling and push them up, forcefully extending your upper back as you do so.
Standing calf raise
No one likes having cranky ankles. Doing this stretch helps to relieve the calf muscle of tightness caused by excessive sitting. Be sure to really squeeze the muscle at the top of the stretch. For an increased range of motion, you can take a thick in-flight magazine or book and place it under your forefoot when you do the stretch.
Standing hip flexor stretch
Excessive sitting can also result in tightened hip flexors which contribute to lower back pain. You can perform this standing stretch to release some of the tension and provide some short-term relief. Simply raise one leg behind you and grasp your ankle with the opposite hand. Contract the glutes to begin the stretch, paying attention to not hyperextend through the lower back.
Doorway pec stretch
Poor chair design, particularly in the upper regions, can also result in tightened chest muscles. Using a doorway or walkway frame, you can do a simple stretch to alleviate feelings of discomfort. Simply grasp the edge of the frame with an open palm and rotate your torso away from the frame. Keep a relaxed grip on the frame to prevent your forearm from taking some of the tension away from the pectorals.
A tight upper back can be a pain to deal with mid-flight. If you don’t have one of those portable massage canes handy, the next best thing you could do is to perform a wall stretch. Simply place both hands on a wall while keeping a torso angle of about 45° and pull your hips back and down. You should feel a stretch in the rhomboid and the upper extremities of your lats.
Standing glute squeeze
Gluteal amnesia might sound like a made-up term, but it’s actually a very real thing. Remaining seated for too long can cause your glutes to “switch off”. Glutes are essential in maintaining proper pelvic positioning, which in turn affect lower back health. Getting your glutes to remember their purpose can be done by utilising an extended isometric squeeze. Just stand up and contract your glutes as hard as possible, holding for at least 10 seconds.
These stretches require minimal equipment and should not cause inconvenience to yourself or your fellow passengers, however they are simple, and effective and will have you feeling great when you arrive at your destination.