Top 5 tips for feeling good after flying

This time of year a lot of people are flying off around the country (and overseas), so here are our top 5 (and a bit) tips to get off the plane and into your holiday feeling as good (and healthy) as possible.

1. Move regularly

You've seen it on the back of every safety card, and in the briefing. Just because it's boring doesn't mean it's not true. As a general rule our bodies like movement and dislike staying still for too long (which is why we can feel stiff in the mornings, or getting up after a movie). Regular movement also reduces your risk of any adverse things like DVT. 

Wherever possible, get up and move around the cabin intermittently (I would try at least every hour). Walk a little, and maybe even stretch. 

While you are sitting, remember to wiggle your toes, move your ankles up and down, tense your leg muscles and gluteal muscles. This keeps the blood moving thorugh your legs, and aims to reduce pooling of blood in the veisn in your legs (which is what can lead to DVT).

2. Compression socks/stockings

Back when I was travelling around the country as an athlete, I would always travel with compression tights (such as skins) to reduce the pooling of blood, etc in the legs and try to keep the legs feeling lighter and less stiff. (It was also helpful for recovery as I would be flying home after 3 full days of competition with sore legs, and never enjoyed a leg cramp in a cramped economy seat.)

Compression socks or stocking will provide a similar benefit, and should reduce your risk of DVT as well. They should feel tight, but shouldn't be painful or uncomfortable. 

3. Stay Hydrated

Combining the pressurised cabin, the artificial air and the altitude, it seems that flying can be quite dehydrating. Obviously dehydration has a range of negative impacts. At very bad levels it also could make you a little more prone to vascular issues like DVT.

Keep up your fluid intake (maybe a little more than you normally would in your day to day life) to feel fresh, avoid headaches, etc.

Along this line too, alcohol can also affect you more while on a plane, and alcohol is actually quite dehydrating (it's a strong diuretic). So to feel good after your flight, I would always recommend avoiding the alcohol. (In know a lot of people like to make use of the complimentary wine or beer, but it's really not the best thing for us and we all know it).

4. Neck Support while sleeping

Who hasn't fallen asleep on a plane and woken up with a very stiff, sore neck...
Sleeping while sitting up isn't exactly comfortable or supportive, and with a lot of people having long haul flights (or red-eye flights) sleep is still a necessity. 
If you are likely to be sleeping, even just a neck pillow to help support your head up (and in a neutral position) will be much nicer for your neck (and hopefully you won't end up asleep on some stranger's shoulder next to you). 

5. Get moving as soon as you are off the plane.

Once you arrive at your destination, I always recommend getting moving to loosen up those stiff joints and muscles as soon as possible. Admittedly, it's not the first thing you will feel like doing (you'll probably be feeling a bit stiff and sore), but I promise you'll feel much better after you're done.

Again back when I was travelling around for sport, we would always head to the beach first before anything else after a flight (even before checking in to our accomodation). Even though we were feeling stiff and didn't really feel like running around, and nice light training with a lot of mobility work always had us feeling much more prepared. 

So when you get off the plane, once you check in try and head straight to the pool, or the gym, or the beach and move and stretch and get your heart rate up a little bit (all other health issues being equal) and you'll definitely feel better afterwards.

Bonus Tips....

6. Sit up the pointy end of the plane

IF you manage to find yourself bumped up to business class (or you are lucky enough to be in a position to travel business class), grab that opportunity with both hands! Extra legroom, lay flat beds, wider seats (maybe even individual pods) mean more room to move and less stress on your body. I think there's a reason all those rich and beautiful people still look beautiful after a business class flight. (And do they still give you pyjamas to change into???)

7. Get some sleep

While long haul flights can be a challenge (as is changing time zones), adequate sleep is actually really important for your overall health and wellbeing. If you do take the red-eye and don't sleep, maybe at least a nap before you get moving would be a better idea.
Research has shown lack of sleephas the equivalent effect to being under the influence of alcohol. Also lack of sleep increases stress hormones and chemicals in your body which can have effects ranging from making you gain weight to affecting your heart health. Getting into a normal sleep routine as soon as possible will pay you back big time.

Happy Travelling, and have a wonderful holidays to everyone!

Julian Bowen

Julian is a Director and manager at BodyWise Physiotherapy.  He has spent  over 13 years working exclusively in private physiotherapy practice, and estimates he has performed close to 40,000 individual treatments in that time. He has worked with everyone from Paralympians,  elite athletes, WAFL Footballers, the Defence Forces and weekend warriors, to thousands of everyday people with all manner of issues.  He is passionate about injury prevention and has a special interest in the treatment of headaches, shoulder issues, hypermobility management and exercise rehabilitation for the prevention and treatment of injuries.