Traveling is about creating memories, recuperating, and enjoying your downtime. Whether your trip is an active one or just for relaxation, these simple tips will help you stay healthy and fit while flying so you can get the most out of your holiday.
When you’re flying long distances, there are a few potential health problems to look out for – one of the most common is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), but you can also experience back and neck pain or fatigue. All of these can disrupt not just your holiday, but your long-term health, so let’s look at how to keep ourselves healthy while flying.
DVT is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the legs, which is more likely to happen with less movement. That’s why there’s such a risk in long-haul flights, particularly in economy class, as there’s not a lot of room to move around.
Many of the other risk factors for DVT are outside of our control, such as height and genetic predisposition, but there are some things we can do to reduce the risk – such as wearing compression socks. These socks or stockings help prevent swelling and blood clots on long-haul flights.
One of the best things you can do to prevent DVT is to move your body – however you can, as often as you can. We know ankle and foot exercises increase blood flow to the deep veins, thus decreasing the risk of thrombosis, and all movement in general increases blood flow and supports a healthy vascular system.
You can also reduce the risk associated with dehydration by avoiding known diuretics such as alcohol, coffee, and tea. Start hydrating in the days before your flight to ensure you are heading into your trip well hydrated.
We often see patients in the clinic after their holidays with neck pain and/or back pain, and often headaches as well. There are many possible reasons for this, but to prevent any flight-related pains, the advice is to stay as active and mobile as possible while on holiday and during your flights. As always, see a health professional if your pain persists.
There is nothing worse than returning from a holiday feeling more tired than before you left. Sadly, this is common because our sleep habits get out of whack, whether that’s because of crossing time zones or just staying up too late.
Sleep rhythm is both the key culprit and the antidote. When flying long haul, try to match your sleep habits on the plane with the time zone of your destination. For example, if you’re heading to the UK and its daytime in London when you get on the plane, do your best to stay awake no matter what time it is in the city you are departing.
My tips for adjusting your sleep schedule are to watch loud action movies to stay awake, and listen to soft, calm music when you need to sleep. Consider using a sleep mask, too; even if you don’t actually fall asleep, the relaxation and darkness will help set your new circadian rhythms.
We hope you found these tips helpful, but we always encourage you to check with your GP about what precautions you should take to look after yourself while on holiday. Ultimately, don’t forget to stay active, drink water, and enjoy your holidays!
Dr Paul Hermann is the first and currently the only dual-titled Advanced Osteopath and Exercise/Sports Scientist in Australia and the founder of Stay Tuned Sports Medicine Clinics.
Whilst studying Osteopathy, Paul completed his Master's research examining the 'Effectiveness of Swiss Ball Training on Lower Back Stability' before authoring the popular book 'Effective Swiss Ball Training'. Paul's thirst for knowledge and finding more ways for people to "feel good" led him to also complete a Masters in Exercise Science.
Dr Hermann believes wholeheartedly in the company's motto; 'Everybody Deserves to Feel Good'.
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