Holiday travel can be fun, exciting, and stressful. But being stuck in the same place, in the same position for hours on end can also mean stiff joints and a variety of aches and pains. Whether you’re flying or driving, sitting in the same position for extended periods of time isn’t going to do your body any favors.
Crowded seating in planes, trains, buses, or cars can mean your knees touch the seat in front of you—especially if you’re tall. Plus, if you’re in a middle or window seat, you might be reluctant to move around to avoid all the commotion of asking strangers to get up for you.
Fortunately, there are some things you can to do help prevent discomfort and even ease it—so you can enjoy your trip instead of feeling sore and achy. Here are our favorite three tricks for preventing stiff joints while traveling.
Your neck and upper back
Whether you’re sitting on the sofa or in a crowded airplane seat, most of us tend to slouch over time—and if you’re slouched for hours, you’re sure to feel it later. Basically, if you aren’t using the full range of motion in your joints, you start to lose it—even temporarily when you sit for a long time. Your best bet is to do everything you can to prevent it. That means doing some stretches every half hour to hour or so.
For your upper body, roll your head in circles several times in each direction, move your head and neck to look up and down, left and right. Stretches like those will help your neck. To stretch your upper back, you can stay seated. If your seatmates aren’t too close, reach your hands overhead and bend from side to side at the waist. If you are in close quarters, try crossing your arms, holding your opposite shoulders, and bending side to side as far as you can. Stretches like these can help the upper part of your spine to stay mobile.
Your lower back and hips
Narrow plane and car seats can render your core strength inactive. Our bodies were not designed to remain in cramped positions for several hours running. And putting your spine and the muscles that support it under this type of stressful condition can result in lower back pain, because your core isn’t engaged. The seated position puts your hip flexors in a shortened and flexed situation that increases muscle tension.
To help prevent stiffness and soreness, stand up and walk around as often as you reasonably can. The best stretch for your lower back and hips is to grab one knee with clasped hands and pull your knee to your chest. Keep your bottom leg extended straight, hold the position for a few seconds, and alternate sides.
Your glutes and legs
If you have an achy rear, your body is signaling that it’s not happy with staying seated for so long. You’ll want to stand on one leg and bend forward, so your fingers reach toward your knee or ankle (don’t overdo it). Extend your non-standing leg slightly behind you (be sure to pay attention to what’s going on around you, so you don’t kick anyone!). Alternate legs, and walk as many steps as you can—after all, walking is one of the best ways we can encourage blood flow and improve circulation.
Most of us travel with a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. Set yourself some reminders to stretch periodically!
If you’re able to choose your seat when making your travel arrangements, book an aisle seat. It’ll be easier for you to get up and move without disturbing your fellow travelers.
Take shorter flights, if you know you’re prone to soreness. It may take longer for you to reach your destination, but you will have more opportunities to move around.
Consider driving, if your destination makes it possible. By driving, you can stop to walk around and stretch whenever you need to.
Keep these tips in mind, and enjoy your travels!