Right now I’m on a plane. I’m a long way up over the Atlantic Ocean and I’m feeling a little conflicted: I love to travel but I’m not a fan of sitting still.
I’ve been doing a lot of flying recently, and although I’ve been to some great places and met wonderful people, it still means I’ve been sitting down for long periods of time during air travel. That’s just not something my body is used to doing. In fact, I’m such a believer in keeping my body moving that I find it hard to sit still at home, too.
My constant need for movement makes me laugh, as I remind myself that I am constantly telling my kids to stop fidgeting and sit still. I’m typing this while confined to a chair and I’ve been hit by a revelation—kids have got the right idea. With all the known facts about how movement can improve your mood, it makes sense that kids are almost always happy. And it makes me wonder: should we ever be sat in one position for hours at a time?
It’s my opinion that the human body is designed for movement. Sitting still for prolonged periods of time isn’t a great idea, especially as it can impact your circulation while also making you feel stiff and cranky. Many airlines provide an exercise sheet to encourage you to stretch and wiggle your feet to keep your circulation moving efficiently, and I encourage you to follow their instructions. Don’t feel that completing the exercise card routine once is enough—you need to listen to your body. If you’re on a long flight, then revisit the exercise card routine every couple of hours. And I suggest also adding your own moves to make sure stiffness doesn’t get a chance to build up anywhere. For instance, if you spend a lot of time reading or staring at a screen, then loosen up your neck muscles periodically. And if you fall asleep at an odd angle, then take the time to work out all the kinks systematically when you wake up.
Wondering about all this made me decide to do want my what body wanted—to move around. I just stepped into the aisle and stretched. And you know what? It felt wonderful. My low-key aisle aerobics were certainly worth the looks and smiles I received from fellow passengers.
I made sure not to get in anyone’s way and made the most of the small amount of space available. I’m not tall, so reaching for the ceiling felt great, and releasing the tension that had built up in my neck and shoulders was a relief. I’d say a few people were intrigued by my actions, and unfortunately everyone was too shy to join me. We are taught from a young age to sit still and not cause a fuss, but one curious passenger on my right asked a few fitness questions and I was happy to explain. I’m on a mission to inspire people to take ownership of their bodies. And if that means I also need to help people free themselves from social awkwardness, then so be it. Let’s all rid ourselves of the social awkwardness that comes hand in hand with going outside of what is considered normal.
Since returning to my seat, I’ve been daydreaming of how fun it would be if air stewards interrupted the quiet sedentary slumber with some upbeat music, combined with a few chair exercises to revitalize and energize passengers. It could even be done using the TV system, or they could do it over the intercom. I’m convinced it would spark conversations among chair partners about their views on movement or lack of it. I’m sure you have a few thoughts on whether this is a good or bad idea but, whatever you think, you know it will make for a more ‘interesting’ flight.
Drink enough to stay hydrated inside and out. You may find that your skin looks better for it even after the harsh air conditioning on board. You’re also more likely to avoid a dehydration headache if you drink frequently enough to avoid ever feeling really thirsty. Drinking often will also mean that you have no choice but to move because you’ll be going to the bathroom.
Sitting with your back fully supported in the chair and being mindful of your posture combined with occasional lower leg, neck and shoulder stretches will ensure you get off your flight feeling refreshed and ready for action.
At regular intervals throughout the air travel adventure, make sure you move. Make time to follow the exercise card if it’s provided, and embrace your inner child by fidgeting to your heart’s content.
When I get off a plane, I have to hit the road full steam ahead, whether I’m headed to a fitness class or home to my excited (and fidgeting) children. It’s important that my body is feeling great and I’m ready to tackle my next challenge head on. So, next time you fly, shake your shyness and move around a little. You may be surprised by how liberated you feel.