Are you fit for the flight?

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a Certified Health Coach and a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

This is certainly a busy time of year, and not just for retail establishments laden with holiday gift returns. The airline industry also cherishes the holiday season. As our world seems to expand with increasing technology, so too have our families spread their wings, living and working in cities all over the globe. Skype is a fabulous method for keeping in touch, but let’s face it: nothing can compare to that warm embrace of a loved one…and perhaps a childhood treat from Mom’s kitchen!

A common question on travelers’ minds is often, “Will this carry-on bag fit?” Once that decision has been made, there is something else to consider for that upcoming transcontinental plane ride: “How can I keep my bloodstream fit?”

Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT, is of particular concern for many individuals. Since this condition usually originates in the legs, it has earned the nickname “Economy Class Syndrome”, where travelers may find themselves with little allowance for leg room while seated for many hours.  Although blood clots can form from a multitude of causes, clumps of blood wedged in the arteries is most often the culprit. With some forethought and planning, this potentially life-threatening situation can be avoided while traveling.

By performing simple exercises while whittling away the time leafing through the Skymall magazine, “located in the seat pocket in front of you”, elevate your right foot slightly and hold it there.  Now, point your right toe and begin writing each letter of the alphabet in the air.  This will involve movement on the part of your ankle, both in a circular motion as well as flexion and extension of the ankle, all of which will facilitate adequate blood flow.  When you have reached the letter Z, lower the right foot and repeat the process with your left. 


If you are fortunate enough to be on a smooth flight and your seat belt is not required at all times, the Center for Disease Control suggests the following exercise. Bring your right knee toward your chest, wrap an arm around it, and hold it in this position for 15 seconds.  Release, lower, and repeat with the left knee.  The CDC suggests repeating this movement 10 times on each leg.

If you are able to extricate yourself politely from your window seat, walking around during a long flight is always going to help your body’s blood flow.  If there is a wait for the bathroom, quietly march in place.  Shoulder shrugs too are an easy movement to perform, either while standing or in a seated position.

Safe travels involve more than just praying for an uneventful flight.  By remembering these few simple moves, you can take a healthy bloodstream with you, and allow your heart to do something else as well: anticipate a few special days ahead with family and friends.  Now, get packing!