Five super pre-flight stretches


Are you about to fly? Do you normally feel stiff and sore when you get off the plane at the other end? Whilst travelling is great, it often involves sitting for long periods. Sitting for a prolonged period in a confined space can place increased stress on the musculoskeletal system.


The time spent sitting getting to and from the airport, in transit and on the plane itself can add up to many hours. Make the most of the time at the airport to stay on your feet. Even better find an area in which to try the following stretches. These stretches can be completed easily within 10 minutes. All stretches should be pain-free and are great to counter the negative effects of sitting.  


1. Back arches
A great exercise to assist with the low back. Sitting often flexes the back into awkward positions. Try standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Placing your hands on your hips, or in the small of your back, gently push your hips forward. Hold each stretch for three to five seconds. Repeat six to eight times.


2. Back slides
Another great exercise to stretch out the low back. Stand with both feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your hands at your side, lean to one direction sliding your hand towards your foot. Hold this for three to five seconds. Repeat to the opposite side. Try performing at least six to eight repetitions in each direction.


3. Calf stretches
Prolonged sitting can place your calf muscles in a shortened position. This is often why you might feel stiff or tight in your lower legs when you get up from sitting.


Place one foot in front of the other. Keeping the back heel flat on the floor and knee straight, lean forward. You should feel a gentle stretch in the back leg.


Hold this stretch for 15 seconds. Repeat once or twice on both legs.


4. Upper back-stretch
If you enjoy reading or watching movies on the plane, it is important to stretch out the upper back muscles. Unfortunately, there are not many ergonomic ways to read on the plane. However, before you fly, try interlocking your fingers behind your back. Reach both hands up as far as you are comfortable, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Interlocking the fingers is not critical so if it is uncomfortable to do so, try squeezing your shoulder blades together instead. Hold each squeeze for three to five seconds. Repeat 12 to 15 times.


5. Hamstring stretch
Another muscle group that is affected when sitting is your hamstrings. Sitting for long periods causes shortening of these muscles at the back of your thigh. At the airport, try sitting on the front of your chair. Straighten one knee and reach as far as is comfortable towards your toes. You should feel a stretch behind your thigh. Hold this stretch for 15 seconds. Repeat on the other leg and try repeating this two to three times.


Next time you are travelling, try these five stretches before you take off or while in transit. If these exercises are difficult to perform, see your local physiotherapist who will be able to recommend a range of safe travel exercises.


Jason Lee APAM
B. Physiotherapy
Malvern East Physiotherapy


Jason is happy to answer any questions you may have, simply send an email to


Related articles:
How to sneak in exercise on holiday
How to stretch safely after 50
Plane-friendly yoga

Written by Jason Lee

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