aisle of plane people sitting

Whether you’re on a 1 hour, 5 hour, or 15 hour flight things like restlessness, bloating, back pain, and sleep issues are a real thing. Traveling can be both exhausting and terrible for your health and daily routine. On long hauls, especially, you’re also at higher risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) also known as blood clotting. This is no way to kick of a vacation or to start a business trip.

It’s proven that getting your blood flowing through simple exercises and movements can help with restlessness, sleep, energy, and bloating while on your flight. We’ve put together these simple, yet effective exercises that you can do on almost any flight to make traveling easier:

In Seat Exercises

Heel Hold

Heel holds are great for stretching your quad and feet muscles, while encouraging blood flow into the area. This is especially great for feet and leg bloating which is common among travels due to constant sitting, elevation, and cabin pressure.

  1. Start by sitting in your seat with your back against the chair and your feet flat against the ground.
  2. Lift the front of your foot up as far as you can while keeping your heel on the ground. Hold this position for 15 – 30 seconds
  3. Repeat in sets of 3 – 5 throughout your flight

Ankle Rotations

Ankle Rotations are another great and simple in seat exercise to combat leg restlessness, blood clotting and bloating, while encouraging lower body blood flow.

  1. Start by sitting in your sit with your back against your chair. If you can, clear out any items beneath the seat in front of you. You can place them on your lap or in the overhead bin.
  2. Keep one foot flat on the ground and stretch the other leg as far and as high as you can under the seat in front of you.
  3. Now twist your extended foot as far as you can to the left then to the right. Repeat this circular motion for 15 – 30 seconds.
  4. Switch legs and repeat the above exercise.
  5. Repeat this set 3 – 5 times throughout your flight for maximum effectiveness

Leg Lifts

Use leg lifts to activate both your core and legs while sitting in your seat.

  1. Start by sitting with your hands on the arm rest, back against the back of the seat and feet flat on the ground.
  2. With your legs together slowly lift them up (while still bent) towards your chest as far up as your can.
  3. Pause at the top of the movement for 1 second, then move your legs back down to the ground.
  4. Repeat 5 – 10 times to complete one set. Shoot for 3 – 5 sets a few times during your flight.

Seated Dips

Seated dips are a more advanced and involved movement, but they’re a great way to build strength and get your blood flowing while on your flight.

  1. Start by placing both hands on either arm rest or on either side of you site. Keep you back straight and feet touching the ground
  2. With your elbows as close to your body as possible, push down with your hands against the armrests lifting your body into the air. If this move is difficult lightly use the toe end of one of your feet for assistance
  3. Come back down into your seat to complete the movement

In the Aisle or While Waiting for the Bathroom

If you’re walking to the bathroom or can find room while waiting for the restroom or in the flight attendent area, these exercises are great for getting your blood pumping and overcoming any bloating and fatigue from flying.

Calf Raises

Calf Raises are simple and subtle workouts that most people won’t see you doing. They’re great for calf development and for getting blood to your legs especially after sitting on a long flight.

  1. Start by standing with your feet flat and shoulder width apart with your hands on either side of your body.
  2. Keeping your body straight, raise your body upwards so you’re standing the very tip of both of your toes.
  3. Hold this position for 1 second then come back down to your starting position
  4. Repeat 10 times to complete one set. Try to do 3 – 5 sets each time you get up to go to the bathroom.


Squats are a great overall body exercise. It’ll get your blood pumping, especially in your lower body and core. It’s also a great way to stretch out your leg muscles after sitting for so long.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. You can put your hands behind your head or together out in front of you. This is your starting place.
  2. Begin the movement by flexing your hips and your knees, squatting down, pushing your butt and hips back and your knees forward. Through this movement keep your chest forward and your back as straight as possible to prevent injury.
  3. Bend until your hamstrings are parallel or slightly less than parallel to the ground, and reverse the movement back to your starting place. As you’re coming up push through your heels and keep your head and chest up.


Whether you’re sitting or standing, contractions can be a discreet way to activate your muscles. Pick any muscle group and flex (tense up) them as hard as you can and hold this flex for 15 – 30 seconds. Relax your muscles then repeat 3 – 5 times. Popular muscle groups for contractions are abs, glutes, or legs.

Bottom Line

Any movement, stretches, exercises, or workouts you do on your flight can and will really help prevent things like bloating, restfulness, and in the worst case blood clots. If you fly often or are on a long haul these simple exercises will also drastically improve your sleep and energy levels during and after your flight. Happy traveling!


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