Whether you’re on a plane, train, or automobile, the cramps and tightness that can follow a long trip is no fun. But before you book that pricey massage or private yoga class to help you recover, consider these movements that can help to decrease that post-trip tension.
In today’s episode of The Fix, physical therapist Daniel Giordano, DPT, PT, C.S.C.S. of Bespoke Treatments, walks through a series of exercises to help you decrease tension during your next flight (they work well for other modes of transportation that require you to stay seated, too). You can do all of the exercises sitting in your seat—but take care not to stretch into any seat mates.
The Best Airplane Stretches
- Thoracic Rotation
While seated, put your hands across your body and rotate side to side. Pause for a second, so you can feel that stretch through your mid-back and upper back and then rotate to the other side. You can do these on your flight in your seat without hitting the person next to you. Do five to eight reps on each side to “decrease that muscle tension in the mid-back and allow that mid-back to move more freely,” says Giordano.
- Pec Stretch
While seated, rotate slightly to one side to open up the anterior aspect of the chest. “We need to make sure that our chest stays open,” says Giordano. “Because the more tight we are in here, the harder it’s gonna be for us to breathe and the tighter you’re gonna feel all through your posture.” Do five to eight reps on each side.
- Rotational Stretch
While seated, turn and lock one hand across the top of your opposite knee. “That’s going to create the tension to stretch through this whole side of his lat all the way into his mid back,” says Giordano. “The more that we can open up this area, the less tension there’s going to be anteriorly as well.” Loosening up both sides will feel great. Do five to eight reps on each side.
- Figure Four Seated Stretch
Cross your foot over the other knee while sitting down. “Just slightly lean forward, creating that tension, feeling that stretch through this loop [in your upper thigh and specifically IT band],” says Giordano. Pause for three seconds, then come up and repeat five to eight times to decrease tension from your glute towards your hamstring through the back side of the posterior chain. This is a great way to open up your glutes and open up tight hips after a prolonged period of not moving, even if you’re at home.
- The World’s Greatest Stretch
Again, while sitting down, lock your hand into your inner ankle on the same side and pull the other elbow up keeping it tight to your side and open up following your hand with your eyes so there’s no tension in the neck. While you rotate, be sure to tuck in your bottom rib so you get the full stretch through your mid-back. Do five to eight repetitions on each side.
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