Fly Smart: 9 Tips to Reduce Travel Stress on Your Body

Written by | Travel, Wellness

Fly Smarter

Heavy luggage, Cramped airplane seats, dehydration, jet lag, airline food: No matter how luxurious your final destination is, all of these body stressors come with the privilege of trotting the globe. And, no matter how fit you are, they could set you up for injury when you return to any intense activity. Here are 9 tips to minimize the effects of “airplane body,” before and after your trip:

  1. Limit your carry-on to what you can carry or pull comfortably.
  2. Carrying cumbersome or heavy carry-ons when you aren’t conditioned for it can lead to muscle and joint pain. A good rule: If you can’t lift a certain weight comfortably at the gym, you probably can’t safely lug a bag of the same weight around an airport.

  3. Walk the airport.
  4. It’s likely that your time away is going to heavily disrupt your workout routine, so (unless you’re late), skip moving walkways and courtesy trams and feel the burn.

  5. Don’t sit while waiting to board.
  6. You’re about to be stuck in a metal tube for an unnatural amount of time, so keep you body moving while you can. Walk or visit shops in the gate area until boarding time.

  7. Choose an aisle seat, and get up often.
  8. In 2012, the American College of Chest Physicians recommended choosing aisle seats and moving about the plane often to minimize the chance of thrombosis (blood-clot formation). While thrombosis is rare, sitting for long periods of time in a cramped space is an unhealthy state for the human body, decreasing circulation and stressing joints.

  9. Find a stretching space.
  10. On planes, a small space can sometimes be found near the restrooms. Use this space to stretch your calves, raise your arms over head, bend side to side, step into a lunge or do gentle spinal twists.

  11. Remove your shoes, and keep your ankles and feet moving.
  12. Removing constraining shoes will help keep your calves from tightening up while doing ankle circles and wiggling your toes will help keep your blood circulating while seated.

  13. Come hydrated and stay hydrated.
  14. Plane travel is dehydrating, and even mild dehydration can affect mood, energy level and performance. Maintaining optimal hydration is even more important if you’re on an active, high-altitude vacation — skiing or hiking. Bring lots of water onboard, and sip throughout your flight. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine both on the plane and the day before your trip will help hydrate and make it easier to acclimate to new altitudes and time zones.

  15. Upon arrival, search for restorative exercise options for your body.
  16. Your body will need some gentle unwinding after sitting on a plane for hours. Do some light swimming, or ask the concierge where yoga or Pilates classes are available. These will help undo any tightness you feel from your travels and prepare you for the rest of your vacation activities.

  17. Keep healthy habits when you get there.
  18. While we all need rest, too much body stillness can lead to sluggish circulation and other body functions. Make sure you get enough sleep at night, and decompress during the day by taking a mellow walk or swim.

Leslie McNabb is a Restorative Exercise™ Specialist, Pilates instructor and author of the
optimal-health blog Wellinea. She also serves as the Pilates director for CLAY Health Club + Spa in NYC. Learn more at

Last modified: February 16, 2018