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Stretches Before You Fly

Stretches You Need to do Before You Fly

Stretches You Need to do Before You Fly

In 2015, Dr. Johnathan Leary had an epiphany. Having gone into sports medicine, all of his clients were Olympians and professional athletes. He wondered: why stop at the healthiest people in the world?



It was then he realized he could make his techniques available to not just the most elite athletes but the average person. An advocate for preventative health and wellness as the first line of defense to treat illness and injury over surgery, Dr. Leary is now the first and only concierge wellness doctor.


With flights being a source of pain and discomfort for the majority of people who fly, Dr. Leary recommends specific stretches before during and after each flight. “When you’re in a seated position, everything tightens” Dr. Leary says. This seated position will inevitably lead to pain. Stiffness and lack of motion is a large part of why your body doesn’t feel great after a day of sedentary flying, according to Dr. Leary. Here are some moves you can do on a plane that will have you feeling better in no time (and if someone stares, tell them it’s what Olympians do).


Start with a standing “Seated” Figure Four. This stretch helps release the glutes, takes tension off of your lower back, and can be done either in the back of the plane or in your seat as long as your legs aren’t too long.



With your feet hip-width distance apart, stand with your back flat against a wall. Take one step forward, about one foot. Slide down the wall until you are in a seated position. Flexing your right foot, place your right ankle on your left thigh. Put your hands on your hips, and if you are flexible, use your right hand to gently press into the right thigh. Take five deep breaths and switch sides.

Dr. Johnathan Leary

Move on to the Runner Stretch, which will help open up your tight hip flexors and take the tension off your lower back. You can do this stretch while walking towards the bathroom line or on your way to get a glass of water from a flight attendant.



Kneel on your right knee, with your left foot straight in front of your body.  Lean forward from the hips and then gently swing back, bending your left knee. Raise your arms, doing a slight back bend. Go back and forth in controlled movements (do not use your body’s momentum or swing too quickly) for around 30 seconds. Switch sides.


Now it’s time for the Malasana Squat.For someone who doesn’t stretch a lot, this may be uncomfortable at first, but it is very important to opening up your hips, which tighten as you’re seated. These tightening muscles then impact your lower back and glutes. In addition to opening up your hips, this squat releases your glutes and lower back.



Stand with a wide stance slightly further than hips-width distance. Turn your feet out slightly. Now crouch or sit as far as your hips comfortably can. If your heels lift a bit, try keeping them down but don’t force it! Bring your elbows inside your knees and place both hands on the ground. Once you’re comfortable with your balance reach your right arm up to the sky with your eyes tracking your hand and switch to the left. Repeat 15 times on each side.



“Tech neck” it’s a thing. If you’re hunched over a computer, your phone, or watching TV on the plane, (aka everyone) there are two really important exercises to include in your daily routine. These stretches can be done in your seat, particularly if no one is sitting next to you.


The first set of stretches are Wall Slides that will open up your chest, the front of your shoulders, and improve your posture.



If you have neighbors in your seat, find a wall and stand upright with your back against it. Place your feet hips-width distance. Bring your arms up like a cactus and press your shoulder blades into the wall. Slide your arms up with the backs of your hands against the wall and your palms facing outward and bring them down as far as you can repeating the motion 30 times.

Scalene Stretches

The second is Scalene Stretches. This stretch will open the front of the neck and counteract all the muscles that are tight from looking down at your phone constantly.



Stabilize your right shoulder by holding onto your chair or sitting on your hand. Place your left hand over your head above your right ear and gently flex your neck to the left by bringing the left ear to left shoulder. Breathe deeply five times and switch sides.

While it’s important to do these stretches on a plane, Dr. Leary advises doing these stretches often as most jobs and careers involve sitting in a chair and typing on a computer (says the person writing this who now wants to get up and run a few laps around my desk). In addition to stretching before, during, and as soon as you get back to your hotel room, you should also be getting up, walking around, and moving on your flight. If you’re in the middle aisle, just let your seatmates know as they’re getting up that you’re really doing them a Dr. Leary-approved favor.

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