Jet-LEG: 5 tips for long distance flights

 

Recently, I undertook the longest flight of my life: 17 hours from Auckland in New Zealand to Doha in Qatar. NONSTOP! Such long distance flights cannot only be really exhausting, but are quite toxic for our bodies as well, since the constant sitting seriously impairs the blood flow in our legs. In this blogpost I share with you my 5 best tips how you can keep your blood circulation going during long distance flights.

 

 

The problem with long distance flights

The main problem with long distance flights is not the flying itself but the fact that those flying tubes provide us with an elbow-room of a sardine in a can. That is, sitting is almost the only thing you can do during this time. The narrow corridors between the seats enable barely to walk to the toilet and back. And also the legroom of each seat is limited to a minimum unless you are traveling in business or first class.

So, what happens? Muscle activity in our legs decreases dramatically because we are constantly sitting. Furthermore, our blood literally impounds in our legs, the blood flow slows down and dangerous concretions can be built up on the walls of our blood vessels. In this context experts often speak about deep vein thrombosis of the leg. Due to reduced blood flow in the legs a so called thrombus or blood clot can build up. It is getting really serious and even life threatening when this clot on the wall of a blood vessel in the legs breaks away and makes its way to the heart. There, important blood vessels supplying the heart can get blocked. In a worst case scenario this leads to a heart attack which might end up lethal.

Finally we all want to get to heaven, but surely not now. So, how can we prevent this literally collapse above the clouds?

 

Tip 1: Compression stockings

Of course, “old lady”-socks are not really what young and trendy women (not to mention men) would describe as cool. However, dead within your twenties, for example, isn’t the cooler choice. Even though it seems that compression stockings are more suitable for female pensioners thrombosis can occur at all ages and in both genders. That is why I can totally recommend the usage of special socks which increase blood pressure in the legs slightly and thus promote blood flow on long distance flights. For this purpose you do not necessarily need those really expensive medical compression stockings you can buy in pharmacies or specialized stores.  If you do not have any preconditions compressions socks from a chemist will do the job.

p.s.: As airplanes are usually “heated” to temperatures in a fridge you can hide the socks easily underneath long trousers and other socks.

 

Tip 2: Drink much

For good blood flow in the legs it is important to drink regularly and enough. By drinking a lot the blood becomes a bit thinner and it can be transported up from legs into the rest of the body more easily. However, if you only rely on the beverages offered by the flight attendants directly on your seat the chance is high that you are not getting enough fluids. Thus, do not worry about ordering more than one drink. Moreover, usually you can go to the kitchen in the back of the plane and get yourself some drinks.

p.s.: the more you drink the more often you’ll need to see a bathroom. Hence, drinking a lot initiates movement.

 

 

Tip 3: Seated leg exercises

Activating the muscles in your legs, especially those in your lower legs, is really important in order to ensure a good blood flow during long distance flights. For this purpose you can conduct the following exercises regularly:

  • Jogging in place
  • Bring up your heels and tiptoe alternately
  • With your feet on the ground lift up your butt
  • Raise your legs and lower them, repeat

 

Tip 4: Get up regularly

When you are on a long distance flight there is always the moment you just want to get off the plane and go crazy. But neither the disillusion facing even more upcoming hours in the air nor the limited space within a plane should be a reason for not getting up regularly. This is more than important. Going to the toilet is just the beginning, even though it is a good one. If you managed to get up, a short sports program is a good idea. This can reach from going a few more steps along the corridors to stretching exercises. Leg exercises are ideal to activate the blood pumps in your veins. Jumping in place, bouncing on your tiptoes, squats and lunges do not need lots of space and are quite effective to stimulate the blood circulation in your legs.

 

Tip 5: Stop-overs

Even though long distance flights are necessary to get from one end of the world to the other, you should always ask yourself whether there are other opportunities. In any case, for me and my boyfriend after surviving this 17 hours non-stop torture it is certain that we will not undertake such a long flight again. We rather want to have some more stop-overs to reduce the time spent sitting in the plane and by doing so increase our potential for physical activity.

p.s.: Furthermore, stop-overs provide the interesting opportunity to discover cities and countries you would not have thought about visiting.

 

How properly timed workouts can help with learning

 

By now, countless studies have shown that working out is not only good for our body, but also for our brain. Exercise lifts the spirits, reduces stress and can increase our cognitive function. To see just how much targeted workouts can influence the learning of new things, Dutch researchers took a closer look. They hit upon an interesting strategy.

 

 

This is How the Study Worked

The researchers of a study, that was published in the journal Current Biology in 2016, wanted to find out how a single work out affects learning. They showed the participants 90 different pictures that showed up on different spots on the screen. The participants had about 40 minutes to memorize where each picture was located.

 

After this memory exercise, they were randomly divided into 3 groups:

 

  1. Group: The participants did 35 minutes of interval training on a stationary bike immediately at the conclusion of the learning exercise.
  2. Group: This group also did interval training, but only 4 hours after the learning exercise.
  3. Group: The participants did not work out at all.

 

Two days later, the participants returned to the laboratory, and tried to remember the pictures and locations that had been presented to them. They did this in an MRI-Scanner, meaning that the researchers could also monitor brain activity during recall.

 

 

Deferred Training wins

Indeed, the participants, who worked out four hours after the learning exercise, could remember best. This was seen not only in the number of pictures that were recalled, but also in the brain scans. Those who trained later showed higher activity in the hippocampus. This is an important brain structure for learning and memory. By the way, the group that worked out immediately after the leaning exercise saw no improvement in recall capability.

 

Even if the researchers don’t know yet why deferred workouts showed the best results, we do know, from animal studies, that exercising improves the biochemistry of the brain, and increases our performance. Properly timed workouts can then help us to study more effectively for the next exam or test and to retain more.

 

 

Study

van Dongen, E.V., Kersten, I.H.P., Wagner, I.C., Morris, R.G.M., & Fernandez, G. (2016). Physical Exercise Performed Four Hours after Learning Improves Memory Retention and Increases Hippocampal Pattern Similarity during Retrieval. Current Biology, 26(13), 1722-1727.

 

 

Running on a Treadmill or Outside – is There a Difference?

 

During bad weather the treadmill is ideal for still getting in a few kilometers. But have you ever asked yourselves if both are equally effective? Or have you ever noticed differences in the performance, when you are running on a treadmill or outside? In this blogpost, we are going to look at this more closely.

 

Running doesn’t equal running

As a matter of fact, running on a treadmill and running outside are not the same thing. Outside, we constantly have to push our body forwards, in order to move on, while on a treadmill, the belt runs automatically beneath us. And running on a treadmill is a little easier, because there is no air resistance.

 

We can see the same thing with hiking. When hiking, our hiking boots make walking more strenuous. If you were to have hiking boots on when running on a treadmill, that would be much more strenuous than wearing gym shoes.

 

 

This is how you can make your work out on the treadmill as effective as possible

With a few adjustments, you can have the same effectiveness on the treadmill as with running in the fresh air. The incline is the deciding factor. Researchers in scientific studies have examined how great the incline has to be, in order to achieve the same difficulty as outside, assuming the same speed. The researchers found out that a 1% incline makes running on a treadmill just as strenuous as outside.

 

In order to prepare for your next hiking vacation, when you will climb over mountain ridges in hiking boots, set the incline on the treadmill to 3%. Then you are not only compensating for the difference between inside and outside, but also for the additional effect of clunky hiking boots.

 

Running on a treadmill or outside – Comparison

 

 

What are the Advantages of the Treadmill?

During bad weather conditions, the treadmill clearly has the advantage. What constitutes bad weather comes down to personal preference. Some people practically melt in high temperatures and look for air-conditioned coolness for their workouts. Others, however, hate to do their workouts in the rain or cold air outside. In any case, you can stay in shape on the treadmill, independent of the weather.

 

On the treadmill, you can select a wide variety of routes and programs. It doesn’t matter whether you want hilly terrain or exactly-times interval training, all you have to do is program your treadmill at the beginning. Many treadmills now even offer several pre-programmed work outs. Now you can simulate a cross-country or mountain run anytime and anywhere with the push of a button. Interval training is also easy to do on a treadmill, since you don’t have to worry about the time or if you are maintaining the same speed. Many treadmills offer pre-programmed interval workouts, as well.

 

 

What are Disadvantages of the Treadmill?

Clearly, the biggest disadvantage of the treadmill is, that it is pretty boring after a while. Sure, you can listen to music or even watch TV in some gyms, but there really isn’t much variety.

Little variety can have a negative effect on tendons and ligaments. Routes that don’t have a smooth surface, but are bumpy and uneven, instead, strengthen the supporting structures around the ankle and knee. This is really important for preventing injuries. Ideal routes for this are gravel and wood paths.

 

On the treadmill, you also don’t get a feel for speed on the treadmill, nor for how to settle into the right speed. You just type everything in and go. Then, if you run outside, it is hard to gauge how fast you are going, or for how strength you have left. For recreational runners, this isn’t a problem. But for those, who are running against a certain time and are preparing for a half marathon, for instance, having that sense of your own speed is really important.

 

 

Summary

In the end, with a slightly greater incline, you can work on your running performance almost as effectively on the treadmill as outside. If you want to work out regularly on the treadmill, it is important to have a good mix. For sure, the treadmill allows us to follow our work out plan even during bad outside conditions. For that reason alone, treadmills are definitely recommended.

 

 

Studies

Fattorini, L., Pittiglio G., Federico, B., Pallicca, A., Bernardi, M., & Rodio, A. (2012). Workload Comparison between Hiking and Indoor Physical Activity. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(10), 2883-2889.

Jones, A.M., Doust, J.H. (1996). A 1% treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running. Journal of Sports Science, 14(4), 321-327.

 

5 Tips to stay active outdoors even in winter

Slowly but surely, the cold season is creeping through the northern hemisphere. T-shirts are dumped by thick sweaters and long trousers are now a must. Not only do these obfuscation tactics invite you to add a few extra pounds that you cannot see under the thick clotheslines anyway, but the weather also brings ambitious amateurs back into the fight with their inner temptation.

 

Volleyball on the beach, football in the park or just a short jog or swimming in the outdoor pool after work: regular exercise is so much easier in summer than in the dark and cold winter. There you just want to relax on the couch, eat Christmas cookies and enjoy the cosiness of your own four walls. Every winter our fitness and our shape suffer. The following tips will help you come through the winter sportily and make your summer shape a year-long one.

 

1. Maintain good habits

Many people can be tempted by outdoors‘ good weather and mood during summer. Frequently, there are habits, such as regular jogging in the evening or a walk with friends. Habits are enormously important for our movement behaviour. This means that if you have built up a good habit of movement over the summer, you should not give it away at all. Though the cold season really does not invite to outdoor sport, try to stay the course and be active in winter!

 

Even as a real sports lover, I noticed how hard it is to start again when I have not been jogging or practicing yoga for a while. Though it is sometimes hard to keep up, remember what you are doing this for and how good you will feel afterwards. The smallest bit of movement is better than none to keep your good habits alive.

 

2. The right clothes

My mom always said there is no bad weather, just bad clothes! I used to have the eyes twisted annoyingly, though, when I had to walk our dog under the rain and in the cold. Today I agree with her 100%. In order to feel good outdoors during winter, it is important to pack thick enough, but not too thick. Especially during physical activity, one gets warm quickly. Therefore, too warm clothes either lead us to sweat to death or to unnecessarily chop up unnecessary garments on the way.

 

Optimal is functional clothing, which sends moisture to the outside. Reflectors are very advisable during the short days in winter. Additionally, the tried and tested onion method helps create heat buffers and, in an emergency, you can pull out a layer and bind it around the hips. A cap is certainly unconditional, because human body loses most of the heat through the head.

 

3. Warm up is trump

Especially when it is cold outside, you should place great emphasis on a good warm-up. Sprinting directly from the comfortable sofa into the park or to a high intensity workout place in the garden is not a good idea. Thereby serious injuries may affect the tendons, ligaments and muscles. This applies even in warmer temperatures, but in winter it is especially important because temperature differences are of course much greater.

 

Fot being active in winter, it is best to warm up for about three to five minutes before start. The muscles and joints that you need during the next training should be heated up. When walking, this particularly affects the leg muscles. With a few loose jumping jacks and dynamic stretching exercise for hips, calves and thighs one becomes well prepared. Start the workout slowly to reach the operating temperature before you start right through.

 

4. Quickly get reinstalled

In cold temperatures, it is best to avoid staying out after workouts. Even if a conversation with training partners or extensive stretching are appealing to many, this could be a real health killer in winter. After sweating, evaporation leads to a rapid cooling of the body. This makes us particularly vulnerable to colds after training.

 

It is best to shower and put on fresh clothes after you have been active in winter. If this is not immediately possible, you should at least clothe yourself a little bit thicker and quickly go on your way home to be fit for the next training session.

 

5. Shared suffering is half-suffering

Getting up on your own from the comfortably warm bed early in the morning or leaving the cosy sofa in the evening to go jogging is a thousand times more difficult than with when done with a fellow „sufferer“. Be it the partner, the buddy or the friend: get somebody into the boat with whom you can get together in the winter!

 

Social support has been proved in countless studies as a true motivation booster. This means that not only you have someone at your side who beats the drums for you, but also experienced competition can add to your motivation and makes you realise that you have a sport appointment with someone else, which further increases your liability.