Best ways to stay fit on long haul flights

This September I am slated to fly from Mumbai to Beijing and then from there, onwards to London. My stopover in China is for just two days, I’m mentally preparing for the time zone differences to wreak havoc on my body.

Like me, there are many globe-trotters flying high in the skies, and the majority of them are without the luxury of traveling in Business Class, or on an aircraft with a spacious configuration and room to stretch – like possibly AirGo’s cabin design we discussed here. So the question is, how do you travel long distances and still arrive fresh and happy, versus tired and cranky.

It’s All in the Mind

It is very easy to convince yourself that a long haul will be an easy flight. The longest haul I have done so far is from Mumbai to Honolulu with two layovers – Paris and Seattle. The return journey was via San Francisco and Paris. I used a psychological trick to convince myself I needed to be happy – because I had the whole day to myself: to do nothing but sleep and eat – as easy as vegetating on a beach!

However, the most logical thing to do is align sleeping patterns with the destination city. For example, there is a fifteen-and-a-half-hour time difference between Mumbai and Honolulu, I forced myself in advance into the destination’s time zone the minute I boarded my flight.

In order to achieve this, I had to ask the air hostess to hold my meal and serve it to me upon waking. Usually, economy class tickets don’t entitle you to a nice toiletry kit. But sometimes upon request a kind air hostess will be more than happy to slip you some ear plugs and an eye mask. With these small but critical items, I was able to promptly fall asleep.

After three hours, I woke up and wolfed down my meal and hydrated with lots of water. It is so tempting to tank up on alcohol, or sodas and juices, but be forewarned that they do nothing but dehydrate you. While an alcohol induced sleep seems alluring at first, it’s best to be avoided for obvious reason – waking up on a plane with a parched mouth and dry throat is not what you want.

It Could Be Gas

This is something I hate to admit but you can often blame airline meals for inducing nasty burps and unbecoming flatulence. You may not be the victim of gut-wrenching airline food, but your over-enthusiastic seat neighbor who chomped down their meal might be. It’s a good idea to work off an airline meal by walking up and down the aisle, plus the stretch will do you good. One of my favorite spots is at the back of the aircraft near the exits. There is a small circular window, and you can lean forward to peep through it.

Take a few laps, regardless of what people think, stretch your spine and add a few forward bends and side stretches. Stand tall and do some quick ankle rotations. Do at least three yoga postures to stay light and agile despite the long hours cooped up in the cabin.

You can always do (what I call) the ‘air vent seat stretch’. Reach to adjust the vent a couple of times using both hands and then one by one.

Other than that, it’s nice to use the time during a long haul flight for self-development and reflection, rather than catching up on the latest movies. There is something magical about being high in the clouds and contemplating what direction to take next!