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Jet set go

If you take a lot of long flights, then you’ll know the side effects—aching joints, lack of sleep and irregular sleeping and eating patterns. Sure, you know that drinking enough water and flexing your limbs from time to time will help ease the pain. But it’s not that simple. Here’s a lowdown on how to really stay fit before, during and after a long haul.

Nisha Varma | Print Edition: September 7, 2008

Singapore on Monday, London on Friday night and back to Mumbai on a Monday morning. Does this sound rather like your weekly routine? If that is, indeed, the case, chances are that a lot of the fitness and health issues that go hand in hand with frequent travel, also dog you.

Why Does It Happen?
Our waking and sleeping hours vary according to body rhythms. These vary in people and are influenced by various lifestyle and environmental factors. The influences could also be due to frequent time and temperature changes.

Fear factor: Recycled air in an aircraft and long hours of sitting still in cramped places brings a lot of health risks like chronic fatigue, indigestion, dehydration, dry skin, headaches, stiff joints, weak muscles, nausea, stooping shoulders, swollen ankles and deep vein thrombosis. Sounds crazy? Hang on! A few easy exercises can fix the problem.
Everyday Workouts for the Jet-setter
Cardio-vascular exercises like walking, Step Reebok Classes or any other dance-based cardio workout is great for those who frequently cross time zones and take long flights. A good pair of running or walking shoes and easy-to-carry fitness equipment like the Reebok Resistance Tube should be a part of your travel luggage.


The flying workout

When on a long flight, say, from Chennai to London or from Mumbai to Tokyo, stiff joints are a common complaint, even if you do follow the basic advice of drinking lots of water and walking up and down the aisle from time to time. Here are a few quick fixes:

The neck: To release tension at the back of the neck, place a pillow or a towel below the chin and hold it tight between the chin and the upper chest for 30 seconds.
Why? This will stretch the muscles at the back of the neck.

The chin: Turn the chin towards the right shoulder and try and press the head to the back of the chair. Repeat on the other side as well.
Why? This will stretch the muscles on the sides of the neck.

Upper back: This part gets tired with long hours of sitting or reading. Cross your arms over the chest and give yourself a good hug.

Why? This will stretch the muscles in the upper back. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.

Tummy press: Clench your fists and press them on either side of the navel (remember not to cover the navel). Inhale and expand the stomach and bend forward while exhaling slowly. The fists will create a physical pressure on the lower abdominal area. Maintain normal breathing while holding the posture. Hold for at least ten seconds.
Why? Helps prevent indigestion and flatulence during long hours of travelling. This exercise should be done on an empty stomach.

The knees:
Lift the right knee, hold with both hands and pull it towards your chest. The seat should be upright and the seat belt loose while performing this exercise. Repeat two to three times on each side.
Why? Releases any soreness in the buttocks as well as mobilises the hip joint.

The Feet: Remove your shoes and point and flex the feet several times. Rotate the ankles clockwise and anti-clockwise several times.
Why? Prevents pooling of blood in the lower limbs and prevents swelling of the foot.
Food funda
Besides exercise, a few precautions regarding food and drink intake will ease some of the discomfort. You might have heard this before, but still, eat a light meal when travelling, avoid aerated drinks on flights as they result in dehydration and try and avoid alcohol to avoid headaches and acidity.


Sleep therapy

• Going to sleep just because the local clock tower sounds the midnight gong is a difficult proposition when you have just landed in a country that has a 10-hour time difference with India. Follow this method for better results.
• Lie down on your back with both legs slightly apart.
• Maintain deep abdominal breathing throughout. Feel the abdominal wall expand while inhaling and relaxing while exhaling. The whole body should feel relaxed while exhaling.
• Focus on the feet and the ankles and relax them. Imagine the stress and pain going out of your body with every exhalation.
• Travel up from the feet to the shins, the calves, knees, front of the thighs and the back of the thighs, the hip and lower back, the middle back and the torso, the chest and the upper back, finally the neck, shoulder, arms, palms and fingers.
• Repeat the process from head to the feet.
• Try and listen to some very light music while performing this technique.
Sleep easy close your eyes and focus on the feet and the ankles and relax them. Imagine the stress and pain going out of the body with every exhalation.


Fight the fatigue

Despite a few hours of sleep and moving around from time to time, deep fatigue may set in after a 24-hour flight. The ballerina posture is a good way to tackle this head-on.
• Stand tall with both feet together and arms by the side.
• Lift the arms to shoulder level and inhale deeply.
• Bring the arms down while exhaling.
• Interlock the fingers and lift both arms overhead (with locked fingers) while inhaling. Exhale and release.

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