We probably all know by now that sitting too much isn’t great for our health. Aside from a plethora of health concerns, extended periods of inactivity can leave us fatigued, sore, and achy.
There are plenty of times where you can make conscious choices to work activity into your life– take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further from the mall entrance. But there are some times where circumstances leave your options a bit more limited. Travel, for instance, is one time where you usually have no choice but to stay seated with little ability to move much. Being cooped up in a vehicle for too long can also affect mental health- creating feelings of depression or even claustrophobia-induced anxiety.
Although you cannot always control your environment, you can work with it to create a more comfortable environment and boost your health. Every little bit of activity counts, so be creative! Here are some ways to leave you feeling happy and healthy after a long trip.
On plane/train/bus trips:
–Walk like you’re on a mission. So what if you’re two hours early for your departure? For all anyone else knows, you’re about to miss it. So grab your bags and start pumping your arms if you want to work in some cardio before 6 hours of cramped plane/train/bus time.
-Peruse the terminal gift shops while waiting for your flight (or train, or bus). If you need a bite to eat, don’t settle for what’s around your gate. Take a look at the directory to scout out a restaurant a bit further away, time permitting. Often times the eateries at one end of an airport (or train/bus station) are completely different than what’s offered on the other side.
-In the bathroom, take some time to do a little stretching (if there’s no one waiting, of course). Simple spinal twists and quad stretches can work wonders. They will decrease muscle tension which, when you return to your uncomfortable seat, will make sitting in it more bearable.
–Do some yoga! Some airports (like SFO) now offer full yoga studios available to travelers. Others (like RD) have meditation rooms. Whether you want to stretch it out or center your mind, setting some time aside to practice pre or post trip is a great way to combat the ill affects.
On road trips:
– When you stop for gas, restrooms, snacks, etc. don’t just run in and out. Take a few minutes to briefly walk around the building, do a few squats/lunges, or maybe even some pushups if you’re feeling brave. This works out especially well when traveling in groups- as I’m sure you know if you’ve tried to take a bathroom break with 4+ people. I’m still baffled as to how it can take so long, but it lends the perfect excuse to get up and moving while you wait.
Whenever you are sitting:
–Calf raises: Sit with feet flat on the ground and legs parallel. Lift and lower heels to strengthen and tone calves.
–Sit up straight and engage your core. This will not only work not only your abs but your back as well (which is beneficial to prevent back pain that often accompanies sitting for long periods of time).
-Roll your ankles, wrists and head to get blood flowing and stretch out your tendons.
–Lift your shoulders all the way up to your ears. Hold them there for a few seconds, then release. Repeat several times. Creating tension will actually allow you to release more once you drop your shoulders, which should leave them feeling more relaxed than before. (This is especially helpful for those who tend to hold their stress in their upper body- which many of us do).
-Do some seated cat/cow stretches. As you inhale, arch your back and open your chest. As you exhale, curve your spine and bring your chin to your chest. Move with your breath and repeat as necessary.
Whenever you get a chance to grab some fresh air:
-Close your eyes and practice some deep breathing exercises. My favorite is an exercise where one inhales, holds, and exhales at an increasing rate. For instance, breathe in for 5 seconds, pause for 6, breathe out for 7. You can increase or decrease that length if you wish. Breathing exercises in or outdoors will provide relief for most temporary mental affects you may experience (like those mentioned previously). However, being outside is recommended because it reconnects you with nature and increases mental clarity. These are both very helpful after a long trip that leaves you disoriented and groggy.
These tips will keep you feeling good while traveling, but don’t forget to incorporate activity into your actual trip as well. You don’t need fancy gyms or expensive classes (although they can be a great incentive to work out). Natural movement integrated into your day is the best way to stay fit and healthy without even trying!
Related: How to Exercise While on Vacation
Also by Quincy: Think Yourself Toward Compassion
Photo: Cali4Beach via Flickr