The world used to be a large place and none but a privileged few had ever seen beyond the coast line or borders of their own country. More recently the advancement of air travel and travel in general means that the four corners of the world are getting steadily closer. As a result of this, despite the recent increase in advanced technology, there is still pressure being put on people to travel abroad in order to do business. The advantages of meeting business colleagues in person still far outweighing the electronic equivalents. However, it is not just businessmen who have to endure flights over 5 hours long. Many Americans and Australians take internal flights that last for similar amounts of time!
As a result of this, it is becoming increasingly necessary to be aware of good healthy practice for your body whilst travelling. It is all too easy to stay in your seat with your seatbelt fastened throughout the whole flight. Although this is a must when asked to do so by cabin staff, the benefits of mild activity during the flight are many. Here are a few tips to help you combat the fatigue and results of general inactivity induced by airline flights.
1. If possible, book a seat by the bulkhead or in the aisle, this will allow you that extra bit of room to stretch your legs.
2. Dress in loose fitting clothing. Exercise gear is best although avoid extremes like t-shirts as sometimes flights can be colder than expected and the blanket provided is never enough. The same goes for warm clothing. Ok, so you can take that jacket and jumper off, but where are you going to put them on a crowded flight when the overhead lockers are full?
3. Check in as many items of hold luggage as possible. This will ensure that you are travelling light and may help you to avoid an injury lifting a heavy bag into a locker.
4. Warm-up and stretch out before you get on-board. This will help to improve blood flow to the muscles and improve flexibility for the flight. It also reduces the feelings of stiffness on arrival at your destination.
5. Superhydrate yourself. Aircraft cabin air is of a very low humidity. This results in mild dehydration (this can be come more serious if you drink alcohol before or during the flight) which can lead to headaches which are not very pleasant, especially when you wake up. Superhydrating may make you want to go to the toilet, but at least you will not be dehydrated and you will be getting out of your seat at regular intervals.
6. Moderate your intake of carbohydrates before travel as they induce sleep. Eating more proteins will promote alertness and help you through the flight. However, this tactic should be reversed if you intend to sleep when you arrive.
7. If you can, try to resist drinking alcohol on the flight. It acts as a diuretic and makes you go to the toilet (increasing dehydration further). This also applies to coffee and tea. The best thing that you can do is to supplement your superhydration by carrying a bottle of water with you and taking regular drinks.
8. You'll probably be doing it anyway as a result of all of this drinking, but try to get out of your seat at least once an hour for 5 minutes or so. Walk up and down the plane a few times to give your muscles a workout. If you can, go to the back of the aircraft and have a quick stretch. All this will help to keep you supple, relax your spine and will prevent cramps, making you more comfortable when you are sitting down.
9. Try to book a non-stop flight which arrives in the daytime. This will get the journey over in the shortest time possible and avoid throwing your body clock out of synch. Sunlight is one of the best cures for jetlag, therefore arriving in the daytime will let your body clock know what time of day it is and help it to readjust itself. If you have to take a flight which stops over on the way, stay active whilst at the transit airport. Keep stretching and stock up on water.
10. Never travel hungry but only eat lightly during the flight as trapped wind can cause problems for both yourself and your neighbour!
11. When you have settled into your seat, use either a special lumbar support or the blanket provided to prop behind your back. This will lend extra support and prevent backache if you feel that you cannot get out of your seat on a regular basis.
12. Although it may seem a good idea at the time to ensure a good night's sleep, save the sleeping tablets for an occasion when you can be guaranteed to sleep in a halfway decent position. If your body is uncomfortable, it will let you know by waking you up. Knocking yourself out for 5 hours and sleeping with your neck at an awkward angle could result in severe referred pain in your back and also headaches.
13. When you arrive at your destination have a good stretch of your whole body. This will help to re-establish a good blood flow to the extremities and, if you are going to crash out in your hotel room, it will help to avoid waking up stiff.
I hope that these points prove to be of some use to you when you next have to endure a lengthy flight.