Jet-setters, don’t let layovers and far off destinations derail your fitness. Make the most of your airport and plane time with these expert tipsBy: Alyssa Wells
Long lines are a drag any way you slice ‘em—but they don’t have to be a total waste of time. Instead of schlepping through security with your carryon on your shoulder (or wheeling it behind you), use a slow line as an opportunity to perform squats, says Anthony Wall, director of professional education for the American Counsel on Exercise. Each time the line moves, squat down to pick up your bag and then perform a second squat to set it back down. Not only will you save your back from strain (the last thing you want to do before sitting on a plane for hours), but the super-move will also activate all of your lower body muscles and help promote blood circulation. When the line isn’t moving perform simple calf raises—they help strengthen your legs while also testing your balance. (Search: What are the health benefits of balance training?)
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Unless you’re planning to sprint to your gate at full speed, use the time before boarding to tone your arms and perform some light cardio. Use the edge of your chair or a bench to knock out a couple sets of triceps dips, says Wall. (Tip: The farther you place your feet from the chair, the more challenging the exercise becomes.) Or, if you’re really early for your flight, speed-walk the length of the terminal. This is a great option for people who are a little too self-conscious to perform exercises outright in an airport, since other travelers will just assume you’re in a hurry, says Wall. (Related: Beat these travel fat traps!)
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Wall suggests setting your sights on the aisle, which makes it easy to stretch your legs, stand up, or take a quick walk. If you are stuck by the window—or worse, the dreaded middle seat—let your row-mates know you’re going to be bugging them a bit. “I always tell the person next to me right away that I’m going to be getting up a lot during the flight to stretch so they’re more understanding,” says Wall, who recommends moving around at least once every hour.
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Once the seatbelt light goes off, head to the back of the plane. It’s just enough space to do shoulder rolls, wall pushups (if you can find the space), and a few more calf raises. “I’ve been on a lot of international flights where I’ve sat next to people who don’t get up for seven or eight hours,” says Wall. Add that to the fact that a day of air travel means you probably won’t make it into the gym, and you’re looking at an entire day spent on your butt—a dangerous practice when you consider recent studies have shown that exercise can’t even undo the damage extended sitting does to your health. (Related: 84 Ways to Stand Up for Your Health)
Wonder why your eyes itch and your skin feels like sandpaper when you get off the plane? The air inside the cabin usually has a humidity of 10 to 20 percent—much lower than the typical indoor humidity of 30 to 65 percent. When you’re in the sky, it’s essential to chug water and pass on alcohol, which can dehydrate you even more quickly. And the tiny cups of H2O you get when the drink cart passes by aren’t going to cut it. Wall suggests buying a large bottle of water once you’re through security or packing an empty, reusable bottle in your carryon that you can fill up before you board. (Check out our favorite water bottles here!) Staying hydrated is the easiest way to guarantee you’ll land feeling fresh instead of tired and grungy, says Wall. “Whether or not you’re hydrated also affects your ability to think critically—a skill you may need immediately if you’re traveling for business,” he says.
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Anyone who’s suffered through a long layover knows the bookstore and food court quickly lose their luster. Luckily, some airports are installing yoga rooms and gyms (and in one case a rooftop swimming pool!). Look into the airport amenities before you land so you know whether to pack workout clothes, shoes, or even a swimsuit in an easy-to-access part of your carryon.
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