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Keeping Fit While Flying: Exercises to Do on an Airplane

Elation PT Blog Airplane

Long flights can be challenging, especially when it comes to maintaining comfort and preventing stiffness. Whether you're flying for business or leisure, staying active during your journey can help mitigate the effects of prolonged sitting. Here are some simple yet effective exercises you can do on an airplane to stay limber and refreshed.

Seated Exercises

1. Ankle Circles:
- Lift one foot slightly off the floor.
- Rotate your ankle in a circular motion, 10 times clockwise and 10 times counterclockwise.
- Repeat with the other foot.

2. Foot Pumps:
- Keep your heels on the floor and lift your toes as high as possible.
- Lower your toes back to the floor and lift your heels.
- Repeat this motion 10-15 times.

3. Seated Marches:
- Lift your right knee towards your chest while keeping your back straight.
- Lower your right leg and repeat with your left leg.
- Continue alternating for about 30 seconds to a minute.

4. Shoulder Rolls:
- Sit up straight and roll your shoulders forward in a circular motion.
- After 10 rolls, reverse the direction and roll them backward.
- This helps relieve tension in your neck and shoulders.

5. Neck Stretches:
- Gently tilt your head towards your right shoulder until you feel a stretch on the left side of your neck.
- Hold for 10-15 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Then, slowly turn your head to the right and left, holding each position for a few seconds.

Standing Exercises

If you can safely move about the cabin and find a space to stand, these exercises can further enhance your in-flight comfort.

1. Calf Raises:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding onto the back of your seat or a nearby surface for balance.
- Rise up onto your toes, hold for a second, and then slowly lower back down.
- Repeat 15-20 times.

2. Leg Stretches:
- Find an empty space and stand on one leg (hold onto something for balance if needed).
- Extend the other leg forward and hold for a few seconds, then extend it backward.
- Repeat 10 times for each leg.

3. Forward Bends:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Gently bend forward at the hips, letting your arms hang towards the floor.
- Hold for a few seconds and then slowly roll back up to standing.
- This helps stretch your back and hamstrings.

4. Upper Body Stretch:
- Stand tall and interlace your fingers.
- Stretch your arms above your head, palms facing up.
- Hold for 10-15 seconds and then release.
- Repeat a few times to open up your chest and shoulders.

Tips for Staying Active

- Frequent Movement: Aim to stand up and move around the cabin every hour if possible. Even short walks to the restroom can help.
- Hydration: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, which helps reduce muscle cramps and stiffness.
- Comfortable Clothing: Wear loose-fitting clothes that allow you to move freely.


Incorporating these exercises into your flight routine can significantly enhance your comfort and reduce the risk of stiffness and swelling. At Elation Physical Therapy, we believe in empowering individuals to move through life with comfort and confidence, regardless of the circumstances. By staying active and mindful of your body’s needs, you can arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy your journey.

For more personalized advice and comprehensive rehabilitation therapies, our team at Elation Physical Therapy is here to help. We offer both in-person and telehealth appointments to support your physical wellness needs. Safe travels and keep moving!

Christina King Christina King, PT, MPT Christina is a licensed physical therapist and owner of Elation Physical Therapy in Katy, TX. She is an energetic and compassionate PT who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2003. Christina prides herself in her diversity of her clinical experience, including orthopedic, neurological, pediatric, and women’s health practice areas. Her passion is in sharing her knowledge of the musculoskeletal and neurological systems so that clients maximize long-term recovery.

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