I typically don’t travel much, but I have been on several trips in the past month or so. Since I’m a bit of an activity geek, I have been noticing the opportunities for and barriers to activity that are present when traveling by air. For the most part, flying involves a lot of sitting—on the plane and in the airport waiting for flights. But it doesn’t need to be this way.
Staying active when you travel is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week. Of course, I’m not the only one who tries to move more when I fly, both on the plane and in the airport. For example, this guy takes being active between flights to a whole new level. (Yes, he is my hero.)
While it is possible to use your time in the airport to be active, it isn’t always the first thing you think of. Even though nearly everyone does some walking in the airport, moving walkways and trains are an easy alternative to walking the sometimes long distances between terminals. Some airports are better than others at encouraging active transportation in the airport.
For example, the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta has a train that runs between the terminals. Right next to the train is a walkway that also connects the terminals. There are signs that tell you how far you have to go (it’s a little less than 1/4 mile between terminals) and art, history, and local information displays line the walkway. Other airports do this too, and some have elaborate light and music shows to keep you entertained. Others have dedicated spaces for exercise, like the yoga room in the San Francisco airport.
Not every airport has made this level of effort to help travelers be more active, but this should change in the future. The American College of Sports Medicine has a Healthy Air Travel task force that aims to develop more opportunities for activity in airports by providing information and other resources to airport management and travelers.
You should also try to be active during your flight, too. Getting up out of your seat (when allowed, of course) or doing simple foot and leg exercises is a good idea. This is recommended to reduce the risk of blood clots that could develop during prolonged sitting. Even though the risk of these blood clots, commonly called “economy class syndrome,” may be low, moving around during a flight is still a good idea.
Between limiting prolonged sitting during the flight and walking more in the airport, my guess is that some people probably get more activity on days when they fly!
Of course, there is another whole aspect of healthy travel that I haven’t addressed: making smart decisions about what to eat for meals and snacks. But that is a story for another time…