photo of an aeroplane

After over 2 years of crazy times with the pandemic, we are finally able to travel overseas!!

Recently, I was lucky enough to go to Brazil and see my family, which was great! But the 33 hour flight wasn’t so enjoyable.  Long periods of sitting  and not regularly moving over a long period of time, muscles can become tense and stiff, fluid may collect around your feet causing swelling, blood circulation may decrease and there are studies indicating that long periods of inactivity can lead to blood pooling in the deep veins of the legs, increasing the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis.

Back pain is one of the most common issues after long flights and if you already have some back niggles it can be a lot worse after a long trip. Prolonged sitting can cause back compression, stiffness and muscle spasms. Muscle contraction keeps blood flowing through the veins, so carrying out some simple exercises frequently as well as standing up and moving around as often as possible helps to minimise the risks of long-haul flights by improving blood circulation and stretching muscle groups and joints. During my trip  I made sure I moved my body as much as possible and did some exercises during that time. I am going to share some of the strategies I used to avoid body aches and pains during my flight.

Before the flight or during layovers

  1. Do some form of physical activity before going to the airport if you have a chance. Go for a walk, swim or any exercise that is part of your routine. This is important to improve blood flow and stimulate muscle activation before being in the same position for hours.
  2. While waiting at the airport, walk around and avoid sitting for longer than half an hour.
  3. Use the back of the airport seats to perform some core activation, which can help maintain a better posture and stabilise your spine – this modified plank can work well.
    core activation leaning on chair
    **Hold the position for 5 breaths
  4. Do some lats/hams stretch using the back of the seat. These muscles can be very tight with sitting, so a good stretch beforehand can make you feel more relaxed on the flight.

lat back stretch on back of chair standing

During the flight

  1. Get up and walk around frequently, every hour or so when you are awake :). It will help with blood flow and keep your joints lubricated.
  2. Perform some calf raises every time you get up or while waiting for the toilet. This also helps to control swelling.
  3. Find a little space at the back of the plane or close to the toilets to perform the following exercises:Dynamic hip flexor stretch *** Pulsing up/down x 5 on each side
    hip flexor stretch
    Lats stretch
    lat stretch
    Pec stretch
    pec stretch
    Calf stretch

    calf stretch
    Quads stretch
    quad stretch
    Glute stretch
    glute stretch
    Wall push up
    wall push up


While sitting

Sitting is one of the positions in which there is the greatest compression on the back. To put less strain on your back you can place a little pillow or a rolled up towel between your back and the back of the seat. This will help your back by keeping its natural curve. I actually used the little pillow they provided on the plane, it worked perfectly.

sitting with towel being back

I hope those little tips help you feel a bit more comfortable on your long flights. And feel free to get in touch if you need extra help!