The biggest downside to a long flight just is definitely the long, stagnant periods of sitting still. This stationary position can cause a rush of discomfort that starts at your feet and works up to your shoulders. It’s important to do post-flight stretches to ease this discomfort. “We’re not meant to stay in that seated position for a long period of time,” says Aaptiv Trainer Mike Septh. “So a lot of times, your quads and hip flexors get very tight. This can also lead to discomfort in the low back [and] inner thighs and maybe even tightness in the upper to middle back. Anything that’s tight on the anterior [front] of body affects the posterior chain [back] of body.” Not to mention, your butt can get quite sore, too.
Here’s why the posterior chain is so important:
You can aim to avoid in-flight stiffness by simply standing up every 30 minutes (a good reason to choose the aisle seat), Septh says. Or, if that’s not so easy, try to move your legs around by hugging your knees into your chest, one side at a time. “The more range of motion you can move in, the better,” he says. It’s a good idea to move your neck around, too—tilt it from side to side and front to back. As soon as you get off the plane, you can easily stretch out tight spots. Septh shares four post-flight stretches that will help you feel great.
“Do this first to get into the quads and hips,” Septh says. Start in a push-up position or on all fours. Bring your right foot to the outside of your right hand. Press into your right heel, and push your hips forward. You should feel a stretch in the left hip flexor. Keep your chest upright. Move in and out of the stretch by bending and straightening the front knee for ten to 15 reps, and then switch sides. “After a long flight, the idea is to move, so it’s better to keep this as an active stretch rather than static,” Septh says.
Perfect Stretch with Rotation
Go back to the perfect stretch described above on the right leg. This time, take your right hand up toward the ceiling while rotating through the upper spine and looking to the right. Next, take your right hand under your chest, rotating toward the left side. Repeat for ten to 15 reps, and then switch sides. This will help loosen up the mid to upper back, which tends to get tight from sitting in a rounded posture, Septh says.
Work through your thoracic spine with this active stretch, Septh says. Start by standing with your feet aligned under your hips, pelvis tucked under, and hands across your chest. Roll your left shoulder toward the right, trying to rotate only through the upper body—keep your hips square to the front. Tilt to the right, and then move in one big circle to the front, the left side, and back at an angle. Keep your hips steady the entire time, and try not to push your belly out as you go. Do eight to ten reps in one direction, and then reverse it.
Loosen up your traps by rotating through your cervical spine. Tilt your head to the right and then back behind your shoulder, moving in a clockwise motion. Make sure your shoulders stay square to the front. Do eight to ten reps in one direction, and then switch.
Stay limber and avoid discomfort and stiffness after a flight with this round of post-flight stretches.