Just when you thought sitting at a desk for work was bad news, here I come to let you know how hard sitting for travel can be! Living a sedentary lifestyle is hard on your body, but did you know that committing to an hour of exercise per day isn’t going to help you if you are sitting (while travelling) for hours a day?
Whether at a desk, on a chartered bus, or on a plane – keeping your blood flowing and your body moving is imperative to ensuring your muscles don’t become tense. Tense muscles will restrict your blood flow, causing your blood to pool in your muscles which is what leads to stiffness. And contrary to popular belief, waiting for the next pit stop or simply standing and stretching for a few seconds isn’t going to do the trick either.
In this post I am going to discuss 6 stretches or moves that you can do while seated (and some even with a seatbelt on) so you can alleviate the stress on your body while you travel by ensuring your blood is able to flow adequately! Less achiness means more time for something more fun or interesting.
Let’s just start with acknowledging that the people around you will see you stretching, and that’s okay! Hopefully you will inspire someone else to take care of their body while they travel.
Let’s start with:
1. Your upper back.
Tightness can set in quickly, especially if you are sitting uncomfortably and hunched over. Your traps and your rhomboid muscles could be overworked here. Since you are already seated, place both feet evenly on the floor. Then, lift both arms in front of you, bending them upwards at the elbow. Place one elbow in the crook of the other arm and then thread your arms to clasp your hands. Repeat with the opposite arm.
2. Your mid back.
Your mid-back can become very tight from sitting for prolonged periods of time. To loosen up the muscles, stretch it out by crossing one leg over the other and then gently twisting your torso toward the upper leg. Switch legs and twist in the opposite direction.
3. Your neck and shoulders.
Your neck and shoulders (traps) are often the first place you notice discomfort, as this can result in a headache. To alleviate this tension, sit up straight in your chair with one arm bracing yourself on the seat. Lift the other arm and place it atop your head. Then gently pull your head toward your arm to stretch your neck and traps. Hold for a few seconds, sending your breath down into your belly, and then repeat on the other side.
4. Your hips.
Your hips can become tight and achy from prolonged sitting. Getting up once or twice to walk it out just isn’t enough during a long trip, you can stretch them by placing the outside of your right ankle on top of your left knee. Gently coax the knee down toward the floor until you feel the muscles in your hip and butt start to stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Your torso and back work together, so including a seated twist is a perfect way to keep both moving. Grab onto your seat’s armrest with both of your hands and gently pull to twist your torso to one side so you can help stretch and relax the spine. Complete on both sides.
5. Your ankles.
Your ankles can become swollen during long (and sometimes even during short) journeys. Staying hydrated is a must during long trips, but some simple ankle rolls can help keep your blood circulating. Start by lifting one foot slightly off the ground and gently roll your ankle changing direction every few rolls. Repeat on the other side.
If You Have More Room Than Usual:
During long trips via bus or airplane, there often just isn’t any room to be able to “really” stretch. But if you are between stops – or if there is adequate room because you’ve been lucky and aren’t on a packed-solid bus or plane – you can try this one for your hamstrings and your lower back. Place your hands on the back (or the side, if in a tight squeeze) of your chair and bend forward in a 90-degree angle until you feel your hamstrings and lower back stretching. Repeat this as often as you need to to feel better. It will get your blood circulating and will prevent your muscles from becoming too tight.
6. Posture is Important
It’s equally as important to pay attention to your posture. Ensure your feet are flat on the floor, and your back should be straight with your shoulders down and wide. Your butt should touch the back of your seat, with your spine lengthened through the back of your neck, and your chin should not be tense. Ensure your body weight is evenly distributed across your hips and your knees are at a 90-degree angle. If you are able to adjust your seat, your knees should preferably be slightly lower than your hips. Your forearms, hands, and wrists should remain parallel to the floor.
Every 30 Minutes is Ideal
I know this all seems like a lot for a trip, but once your body becomes sore you’ve already allowed things to go too far. This is why all but one of these can be done while seated! Ideally, these should be done every 30 minutes during your trip. Set a timer on your phone if you need to, but just make sure you keep moving!
Here are a few “don’ts” for when you are seated for extended periods of time:
- Don’t lean forward, which is common when using a laptop.
- Don’t over-arch your back.
- Don’t lean back for prolonged periods, this can result in slouching.
- Don’t forget to breathe! Those deep belly breaths are not only great for your circulation and maintaining a healthy oxygen level, but deep breathing will help you to remain calm. Being able to relax your mind and your body will keep your muscles from becoming too tense.
Just like stretches are required for working in an office or at a desk all day, the same (or similar) movements are required for these long trips. The sole purpose of these stretches is to prevent blood from pooling in your muscles which creates tension, and to prevent any form of inflammation.
At the Urban Wellness Clinic, we take your health and wellness seriously, so please jot down some notes for the next time you are travelling, or better yet try these at home!