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December 20, 2016updated Apr 05, 2017

Stay Energized: Best Exercises for Long Haul Flights

By Chris Boyle

By Vivian Kelly

The consequences of a long haul flight can leave you feeling tired and groggy, not to mention the increased risk of developing travel-related deep vien thrombosis (DVT).

Hours of no movement and confined spaces means your blood circulation becomes stagnant, reducing oxygen levels in the blood and often causing swelling around the foot and ankles.

However, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure your journey is as painless as possible. We chatted to Sports psychologist and fitness trainer, Melinda Nicci who told us the very best exercises to keep you feeling comfortable and energized by touchdown. Here’s what you need to know before embarking on your long journey…

Before flying

Instagram: @evemuc

Prepping for a flight is easier than you think. Step up your cardio regimen by hitting the gym. Getting your heart bumping before you’re due to fly will ensure it’s in optimal condition, improving your overall heart health and circulation – an important consideration when you’re parked in an airplane seat for a considerable amount of time.

Step up the intensity the day before. Nicci says, ‘Challenge yourself to a really tough workout the day before you fly. Exercise releases endorphins and naturally lowers cortisol levels (your stress hormone).

‘Traveling can be stressful as this is a good way to relax ahead of time. Plus, an intense workout will make you feel more tired the next day, hopefully allowing you to sleep better on the plane’.

During the flight

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The key to get your blood flowing is to do some leg work. ‘Sluggish circulation in the legs is the biggest concern during long haul flights’ say Nicci.

To help avoid this, as well as, reduce cramps and swelling in your feet, Nicci recommends doing this circuit every hour. Start with 15 calf raises, pushing up onto your toes and engaging your calf muscles. Then, if space allows, lift your legs so they are outstretched in front of you and flex your feet, hold for 20 seconds, and repeat. For a refreshing pick-me-up slather on Elemis’ Instant Refreshing Gel and massage gently in upward movements around your feet and ankles.This will help get your blood flowing.

Image: Elemis

The muscles in your hamstrings and glutes naturally shorten on a flight when you’re seat-bound for hours. To help relieve soreness and pain, put your heel up onto the top of your opposite knee and push down on your leg to get a good stretch in your glute.

Tightly cramped conditions of a plane seat always leads to tension in the neck and shoulders. ‘To alleviate this, do 5 shoulder rolls forward and then 5 backward, then do 5 neck rolls clockwise and 5 counterclockwise. Try these exercises about every hour or so’ says Nicci.

Instagram: @anschoys

Stretching is also great for these areas too. For your neck, bend your head forward at a 45˚ angle, then gently pull your head forward with your hand to feel the stretch radiate through the back of your neck. We recommend using a Aromatherapy’s De-Stress Muscle Gel to reap the benefits of aromatherapy too. Rosemary, black pepper, lavender and ginger essential oils will help your muscles remain lubricated and relaxed. For your arms, stretch each one by pulling it across your body to release tension in the shoulders for a few seconds and release. The release of tension will be instantaneous.

Post flight

Instagram: @hotpilateschick

Stay moving and do some yoga stretching. The best thing to do right after a flight is to walk as much as possible until you get to your destination. This is an effective way to gently warm up your muscles and keep your circulation flowing.

Nicci says, ‘If you’re able to, do some yoga flows to stretch and loosen up your whole body. Aim to do 3 sun salutations and finish off with a few minutes in camel pose, cobra pose, pigeon pose, and finally child’s pose. These positions are perfect for helping open your hips and chest, as well as, helping you feel relaxed and rebooted after a long flight.

What exercises do you practice when flying? Tweet us at @elite_traveler!

For more information about Melinda Nicci, visit or tweet her at @melindanicci

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