Traveling is a Thing again this summer, mainly thanks to vaccines and relaxed government recommendations on masks and social distancing. You'd think that flying on an airplane would come back to you easily, sort of like riding a bicycle, but acclimating to air travel again has been... weird. (Wait, they're charging for carry-on bags now?!)
Even if you've been using your couch as a desk for the past year, you still may find yourself unprepared for how sore you get sitting on the rock-hard, cramped slabs that pass for coach seats these days. Which is why stretching while traveling is important to remember. Austin Martinez, CSCS, director of education for StretchLab, recommends doing the three simple stretches for plane travel below to alleviate aches and relieve tension while you're in the air (or waiting at the terminal).
- Austin Martinez, MS, CSCS, ATC, vice president of training and experience at StretchLab
3 essential stretches for plane travel that will soothe soreness in no time:
1. Lower back stretch
Sitting for long hours at a time—say, on a plane seat or waiting for your delayed flight at the terminal—can wreck havoc on your lower back. “The quadratus lumborum, or lower back muscles, are frequent contributors to lower back pain,” Robert Shire, DC, a chiropractor at Tru Whole Care in New York City, previously told Well+Good. “Sitting for prolonged periods of time can exacerbate the problem,” he said—those lower back muscles can become tight and even spasm, causing pain.
To give those muscles some relief, sit up straight and slowly turn your shoulders to the left. "Use your right hand on the outside of your left knee to further extend the stretch," Martinez says. "Slowly come back to center, and then rotate to the right. This time use your left hand on the outside of your right knee to further extend the stretch."
2. Chest and shoulders
Airplane seats aren't necessarily supportive of good posture; those hours hunching in your few square inches of space can strain your chest and shoulder muscles. "Interlock your fingers and reach up above your head; then gently push your hands and elbows backwards," Martinez says, for a simple stretch. "Don’t forget to include a few deep breaths and a couple of ankle rotations, and you’ll feel a lot better for it."
3. Hips and legs
Sitting can also put lots of pressure on your hips (thanks, gravity) so open them up with this simple move. "Bend your right knee and place your left ankle on it, creating a 'four' with your legs," Martinez says. "Slowly fold at the hips while keeping your left foot flexed." Pause to take a few deep breaths, then sit upright and repeat on the other side.
Once you're off the plane, try this deeper stretching series for even more soothing benefits:
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