Go for a walk while you fly!

If you travel for work or have vacation plans this summer that may mean spending time on planes and in airports. It usually also means a lot of sitting. But it doesn’t have to. In fact, you can easily find ways to include physical activity in your air travel plans. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

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Airports, especially large airports, are built for walking. If time permits, you can easily walk long distances while you wait for your flight. Even if the airport has a train or other transportation between terminals, there is almost always a way to walk. If you have enough time, you can take a walk around the entire airport, giving you an active way to pass the time. You can always get at least a few minutes of activity by taking a short walk rather than sitting in the gate area waiting for your flight to board.

While airports are not designed with exercise in mind, some do encourage walkingby posting information about distances between terminals. Passageways that showcase art, shopping, or other information make walking through the airport a more pleasant experience. Some airports even have dedicated spaces for exercise and a few have added yoga roomsfor travelers to use. If you are travelling with children, many airports have areas that allow kids to move and play.

Prolonged sitting has health consequences, whether it is done at home, work, or on a plane. There has been some concern about the development on blood clots in the veins in the legs as a result of sitting still on long flights. This condition is commonly called “economy class syndrome,” since the tight seating makes it challenging to move around. While the risk of blood clots appears to be low for most people, this concern has made people aware of the importance of moving during flight.

Breaking up sitting, even for short amounts of time, is beneficial. On the plane you can usually get out of your seat and stand up, stretch, and walk around a bit. This is easier if you book an aisle seat. If not, your seat mates will need to stand up to let you out. Far from being an inconvenience, though, they should thank you for giving them a short break from sitting. While you are seated you can do leg exercises, too. The safety information card at your seat likely has suggestions, but even moving your legs and feet can improve circulation and make you feel better.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to take advantage of opportunities to move while you travel:

  • Book an aisle seat so it is easier for you to get up and out of your seat during your flight
  • Walk rather than using motorized transportation and walkways in airports
  • Check the airport website to find places to walk and other amenities (like a yoga room or play area for kids)
  • Wear comfortable shoes—you will be doing a lot of walking!

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