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.