Holiday travel can be tough on your body.  Whether driving a few hours to visit the in-laws or flying cross-country for a week-long holiday excursion, you can hardly make the most of your time if the trip leaves you tired, stressed, stiff and sore.

“We all know that sitting for extended periods of time should be avoided,” says Dr. Andrew Cohen, a chiropractor with ProActive Chiropractic of San Francisco.  Long flights will decrease circulation, increase fatigue and cause muscles to stiffen and in rare cases cause blood clots that can be life-threatening, like deep vein thrombosis.

The American Chiropractic Association recommends the following in-flight exercises to help travelers avoid muscle tension and stiffness:

Foot Pumps

Start with both heels on the floor and point your feet upward as high as you can.  Return both feet flat on the floor. Then, lift your heels high, keeping balls of feet on the floor.  Repeat the three stages in a continuous motion and in 30-second intervals.

Ankle Circles

Lift one foot off the floor. Draw a circle with your toes 10 times in a clockwise rotation, then 10 times counter-clockwise. Relax. Repeat with the other foot.

Knee Lifts

While in a seated position –with your back straight and feet flat on the floor –lift the right foot a few inches off the floor while keeping the knee bent at 90 degrees.  Alternate legs.  Repeat 20 to 30 times for each leg.

Shoulder Rolls

Gently roll your shoulders forward, up, back and down. Repeat in the reverse direction. Repeat several times.


Neck Rolls

With your shoulders relaxed, drop one ear to your shoulder and gently roll your neck forward and back, holding each position about five seconds.  Repeat five times.

In addition, keep your blood flowing by walking up and down the aisle periodically, when permitted by aircraft personnel; keep your legs uncrossed; wear comfortable clothing; and drink plenty of water.

Dr. Cohen knows this first hand because last year during the holidays, he and his  wife flew to Sri Lanka for their destination wedding.  He followed this advice and learned first hand that travel can be stressful and difficult on your body (especially pre-wedding, but TSA itself is stressful).  He recommends getting adjusted after a long flight (anything over 5 hours) because the seats on a plane are “awful ergonomically” and a chiropractor can help restore the balance.  “Also make sure you drink at least one large cup of water an hour because the recycled air on the plane will quickly dehydrate you, and make sure you take frequent stretch breaks.  Sitting on a Backvitalizer, an unstable surface that helps strengthen the muscles also prevents some of the normal wear and tear. ”

(A safari photo from our honeymoon, also in Sri Lanka.) Contributions from the American Chiropractic Association, the nation’s leading chiropractic organization.