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10 Stretches to Do Before, During, and After Your Next Flight

Young woman walking in an airport
Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock

From getting yelled at in the TSA line to fighting over the armrest with the stranger beside you, air travel is hardly the romantic, exciting experience of yore. Here’s how to stay as stress-free, limber, and relaxed as possible.

Most times, flying is just downright uncomfortable, and the long bouts of sitting do a number on your body. With these ten stretches, though, you can help counteract the effects of extended travel and feel better—physically at least, there are no stretches for dealing with security hassles, alas.

Why It’s Important to Stretch When Flying

Aside from being uncomfortable, remaining seated in a cramped position for a long time can impact your health. While rare, some people do develop blood clots while flying, which can be fatal. Moving around can reduce your risk of developing a blood clot.

Stretches will also help you feel better when you get off your flight. Small, simple movements can prevent you from developing annoying pain, like a cramp in your neck, which can plague you long after you disembark.

Four Stretches to Do Before Your Flight

Stretching before your flight will loosen your muscles and relieve tension. They might even help you keep your cool through TSA!

Downward Dog

Place your palms flat on the ground and lift your butt into the air, forming a V with your body. Reach for the ground with your heels, but don’t stress if you can’t touch the ground with them. Pedal out your heels, stretching one ankle, then another, while gently swaying side to side and front to back.

Figure Four

Stand on one foot, using a wall or table to balance if you need to. Take your right ankle and cross it over your left knee, forming a four with your body.

Holding for balance, sit back with your hips, as low as you can go. You’ll feel a stretch on the outside of your hip. Hold for a few seconds at the bottom, then switch legs and repeat.

Calf Raises

Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Slowly, rise onto the balls of your feet. Squeeze your butt, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Hamstring Reach and Sweep

Stand on your right foot and extend your left foot, pointing your toe to the ceiling. Keeping your left leg straight, bend your right knee. Reach down towards the floor and then out towards your flexed left foot with both hands.

Once you feel a good stretch, pause for a second. Then, slowly sweep your arms back to your sides and come back to a normal standing position. Switch legs and repeat.

Four Stretches to Do During Your Flight

Do these stretches to get your blood moving and prevent cramping during your flight. Use your discretion when doing them and make sure you’re doing any stretches that require you to be out of your seat at a safe and appropriate time.

Neck Rolls

Slowly nod your head “yes” and then shake your head “no.” Roll your chin down to your chest slowly and then all the way around in a complete circle. Switch directions and repeat. Speaking of your neck: make sure you support it while you sneak an inflight nap to avoid landing with an ache or two.

Seated Twist

Grab one side of your armrest with both hands. Gently pull your torso towards your hands, pausing when you feel a good stretch. Return to center, switch your hands to the other side, and then repeat.

Ankle Circles

Raise one of your ankles off the ground and slowly draw a circle, keeping your toe pointed. Reverse directions several times, then switch to your other foot.

Quadriceps Stretch

Perform this stretch while standing in line for the bathroom. Using a wall or seat for balance (just don’t disturb your fellow passengers), reach back with your right hand, and grab your ankle. Pull your ankle back towards your butt. Hold for a few seconds, then release to the floor. Switch to your left leg.

Four Stretches to Do After Your Flight

Congratulations! You’ve made it to your destination. Hopefully, your luggage did too. Do these stretches to relieve any built-up tension or pain that you developed in flight.

Child’s Pose

Kneel down and slowly bend forward, stretching your arms out in front of until your forehead touches the ground (or as close as you can go). Remain here for a few minutes until you feel like a happy noodle.

Legs Up The Wall

You might want to wait until you reach your destination to do this stretch (or until you can find a quiet area in the terminal). Sit on the ground facing the wall, then lay down on your back. Scoot your butt as close as you can to where the wall meets the floor, sliding both of your legs straight up the wall.

Hang out here for a few minutes while you feel the stress melt away.

Flying can be stressful on your mind and your body. Performing these simple stretches can help you feel better as you travel.

Hayley Milliman Hayley Milliman
Hayley is a former Teach for America teacher turned curriculum developer and writer. Over the past five years, she's written hundreds of articles on everything from education to personal finance to history. She's co-author of the book  Females. Read Full Bio »
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