When travelling interstate or overseas for a business trip, your busy schedule doesn’t allow you much time to be nursing an injury. If you’re a frequent business traveller, you know that sitting down for hours on long haul flights can cause serious discomfort in your legs and lower back, which can affect you for the rest of your trip. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple stretching exercises you can do before and during the flight to prepare your body and reduce any pain after the flight.
To begin with, there are a number of ways you can plan for your trip to make the whole experience easier on your back.
● Use a small suitcase: When packing for your holiday, try to only take the essentials to make your bag lighter. A smaller, lightweight suitcase with four roller wheels will be easier to travel through the airport with.
● Lift carefully: When lifting bags in and out of taxis, into overhead luggage and off the baggage claim, use your knees. If the bag is too heavy, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance from airport staff.
● Choose an aisle seat: sitting on the aisle gives you a chance to get up and move around as often as you like for mid-flight exercising.
Yoga Stretches for before the flight
It’s important to get yourself in the habit of regular stretching and exercise. A few last minute stretches five minutes before the flight won’t offer any immediate help in alleviating pain, so try and get into the habit of doing a few simple stretches a couple of times a week to loosen up and strengthen your muscles. Here are seven simple stretches you should be incorporating into your daily routine.
1. Lumbar extensions
Lie flat on your stomach and prop yourself up with your forearms. Your elbows should be shoulder width apart. Press your palms and the top of your feet towards the ground and push your pubic bone forward.
2. Bridge stretch
While lying on your back, bend your knees and place your feet hip distance apart. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, lift your hips until your knees, shoulders and hips are in a straight line. Breath in and lower your hips back down to the floor.
3. Knees to chest
Start by lying on your back with both legs outstretched. Bring one knee up into your chest and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. You will feel the stretch in your buttocks and lower back.
4. Hamstring stretch
Lie on your back with your hips level and lower back touching the floor. Keeping one leg extended, bend the other one towards your chest. Using your hands, pull your bent leg towards your chest until your can feel the pull. Then slowly extend your raised knee, lifting your foot towards the ceiling.
As well as looking after your back, it’s important to also focus on your calves in preparation for long-haul flights. Blood clotting is a health problem associated with air travel, so consider trying out one or more of these calf stretches before hopping on your next business flight.
Standing with your feet hip-width apart then lean over, reaching for your toes. From here, walk your body down into the plank position. Once you’re planking, drop your hips down and look up. Walk your hands back to your feet and stand up.
6. Toe raises
Again, standing with your feet hip-width apart, lift yourself onto the balls of your feet. Squeeze all your muscles from your lower back, down to your feet, then lower your heels back to the ground.
7. Figure four
Standing on your left foot, take your right ankle and cross it over your left knee. Sit down as low as you can, then hold it for a few seconds. Stand back up and switch legs.
Simple stretches for during the flight
To prevent your muscles from cramping up and causing you pain throughout and after the flight, try the following yoga stretches to loosen your body from head to toe while you’re up in the air. It’s best to hold each stretch for around 20 seconds and repeat several times.
Begin your inflight yoga routine with breathing exercises. Sitting with a straight spine, take your right hand to your nose. Close the right nostril with your thumb, breath out, then inhale through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale and inhale through your right nostril. Continue alternating for around two minutes. This should help relieve tension from your body and leave you feeling relaxed for the flight ahead.
Start with both feet flat on the floor. Lift and tap your heels on the floor, then lift and tap your toes. Alternate between each by rolling your feet from heel to toe. Next, stretch out your legs and raise your feet off the floor. Flex and point your feet, spreading your toes as your flex, then lower your heels back to the floor about 20cm apart. Turn your toes out and in, then lift your feet making circular movements with your ankles.
Moving on to your legs, pounding them with your fists is great to increase circulation through your legs. Only pound as hard as feels comfortable for you – you could alternatively use an open hand slapping technique for a gentler massage.
4. Hips and upper body
Lay your arms on the seat’s arm rests and grip with your hands. Then lift and lower your backside off the seat several times. While you are raised off the seat, move your hips around in a circular motion. This will relieve pressure on your spinal disks. To stretch your shoulders, put your hands in your lap and squeeze your shoulder blades together to open up your chest.
5. Hands and arms
Leaning back in your seat, stretch your arms out in front of you at shoulder height. With your palms facing down, clench fingers into a fist and release, spreading your fingers as your release, then repeat several times. You can also try rotating your wrists around in circles, in both directions.
6. Head and neck
Give yourself a jaw massage by placing your thumbs around on the side of your head near your ear. Press your thumb towards your chin and as you move along your jaw, open your mouth slightly. Next, turn your head slowly from side to side and roll your head forward so your chin is in on your chest.
When you have finished going through your yoga routine, recline your seat and place some pillows behind your back and neck. Close your eyes and take in some deep breaths. Allow yourself to relax in this position and your body should start feeling refreshed.
Prepare for your next flight
Knowing how to look after your body before and during air travel can help to reduce lower back pain and the risk of blood clotting. If you frequently travel for business, try incorporating some yoga stretches into your routine in the weeks leading up to your travel, as well as during your flight, to ensure you feel better throughout your trip.