Air Travel Exercises

Sitting in an airplane for hours on end can be very cramped. Muscles start to tighten up, feet may go to sleep and other muscles may start to get sore.

Quite a few years ago, we were flying Lufthansa to Europe and mid-flight, a short video was shown of exercises that everyone should do.  The video took us through the exercises, and as Murray and I were faithfully following the video, I looked around to find that we were the only passengers in our area with our arms in the air.  The stretches felt great and relieved that cramped up feeling.

The best way to alleviate this cramped and sore feeling is to do some air travel exercises on the airplane and to get up out of the seat once every hour.

The exercises are for four regions: neck, shoulders, trunk and legs.


  • Chin Tuck – Keep head level, press chin to chest forming a double chin
  • Head Tilt – Lower shoulders, lower ear to shoulder without turning head. Do both sides.


  • Shoulder Blade Squeeze – Squeeze shoulder blades together while breathing in and expanding rib cage.
  • Shoulder Rolls – Circle one shoulder up back down and forward and then circle the other.
  • Shoulder Stretch – Link fingers together, lift arms above head and push up with palms up.


  • Back Arch – Arch back until pelvis is titled forward and breathe normally.
  • Body Twist – Turn body and head to the right, hold onto to right arm of chair with left hand. Do both directions.
  • Knee to Chest – Bend forward, clasp hands around left knee and hug to chest to stretch thigh and butt.  Do both legs.


  • Calf Stretch – With left heel on floor, lift toes off floor. Do both calves.
  • Heels Lifts – Lean forward and rest elbows on knees. Lift heels off floor keeping balls of feet on floor. Gently lower. Do both legs.
  • Ankle Circles – Lift feet off floor and rotate feet in circles. Do both directions.

Standing Stretches  (Do these exercises where you can steady yourself on a seat back or corner.)

  • Thigh Stretch – Support yourself on a seat back with your right hand.  Grab your left foot and pull it towards your butt for a gentle stretch. Do both legs.
  • Body Stretch – Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Push hips forward slightly and reach arms above head with palms up. Stretch.

The previous exercises were taken from an Edmonton Journal newspaper article and an Outpost magazine article (May/June 2003) that we had in our travel file.  There are a number of websites that have pictures and descriptions of how to do these basic exercises. Just google “air travel exercises” and have fun looking at the various pictures and videos!

Next time you are on a long haul flight, take the time to stretch.  You will feel much better and your body with thank you for it.

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