Traveling for the holidays?
10 fitness tips to move right along
December 1, 2019
There are plenty of physical and mental stressors involved in holiday travel for people of any age. For seniors, long drives, train rides, or flights can pose specific challenges.
No matter the mode of transport, sitting for extended periods of time can result in stiffness and discomfort in the lower back and often in the knees, hips and feet as well. Restricted leg room can also lead to overall stiffness and exacerbate pain in body parts that are injured or diseased. Unnatural sleep positions, especially for the neck, mean you can awake with soreness. Stiff necks can predispose us to headaches.
Moreover, all of this can affect your mood. And who wants to be cranky during the holidays?
No matter how health conscious and active you are, these challenges are real and can be addressed by simple, equipment-free, functional movements. Functional movement might sound like the exercise du jour, but it’s really a return to the basic movements that help us to do daily tasks safely and successfully. Functional movements allow all of our body parts to work together as a whole, easily and painlessly.
To offset stiffness, soreness, imbalance, anxiety (and even the boredom) that can come with travel, here are 10 functional movements to try:
1. Attend to your posture while sitting and standing. Roll your shoulders back and keep your head upright. Chin slightly tucked in towards the chest. Continue with shoulder rolls: rolling them forward 10 times and roll them back 10 times.
2. Engage “Mountain Pose” in both sitting and, when possible, standing. Rest your feet on the ground together with the body tall, strong and vertically upright. Pull the top of your head toward the ceiling and your straight fingers point down towards the ground. Just two minutes in this position lowers cortisol levels and increases testosterone levels, making us feel stronger and more powerful. It also improves balance and stability.
3. If possible, raise up to standing from a seated position and return to sitting. Repeat this sit-to-stand activity 10 times each hour.
4. Interrupt your sitting every 30 minutes. Find a rest stop and walk around for five minutes. If you’re on a train or plane, stroll the aisle as is appropriate.
5. Run in your seat. Alternate lifting your knees to replicate running for 30 seconds to two minutes.
6. Massage your jaw muscles on both sides of the face in front of the ears. Keeping your lips slightly apart, use two fingers to massage your jaw muscles in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions. Yawn, or take a deep breath in and then sigh out. This will increase circulation and reduce muscle stiffness.
7. Gently turn your head from right to left five times. Then tuck your chin to your chest and slowly raise your head back to the neutral position. Repeat five to 10 times.
8. Straighten your legs as much as possible, raising your feet off the floor. Circle your ankles, pointing and flexing the feet. Repeat 10 times on each side. You can do this standing as well.
9. While seated with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, raise and lower your heels 10 times. You could repeat this heel raise activity by standing up while holding the back of your chair and slowly lifting and lowering the heels to the floor.
10. Place your hands on your tummy, close your eyes and breathe in deeply and slowly for a count of four and breathe out slowly for a count of five. Repeat five times. This will slow down your breathing and heart rate and induce rest and relaxation.
The holidays are for family, friends and fun. Sometimes that joy comes with a little franticness during travel. Employing some anytime/anywhere functional movements can help ease the stress in your body and mind so that when you get to your destination, you’re ready to go. Remember these two golden rules: change positions often, and motion is lotion for our bodies.
Simone Berzen Levy is a registered physiotherapist with 35 years of experience in musculoskeletal physiotherapy, orthopedic and sports rehabilitation, functional movement therapy and group exercise instruction.