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Easy Airplane Exercises To Keep You Feeling Fresh All Flight Long

Want to keep yourself loose and limber when you’re in the air? Have a look at our guide to the best airplane exercises!

Flying is the gateway to the rest of the world. Super exciting! But the confined space, long hours, and lack of room to stretch can leave us feeling restless and a bit worse for wear. We’ve put together a list of airplane exercises to keep you feeling fresh when you’re jetsetting!

airplane exercise benefits

Pre-Flight Prep

Before you take off, there are a few things you’ll need to prepare a few things to make sure you maximize your in-flight fitness.

Dress for the occasion

Let’s talk wardrobe. You may have the best taste (it would explain why you’re reading this blog), but what you wear makes all the difference.

Say goodbye to constricting suits or tight jeans; we’re aiming for comfort without sacrificing style.

You’ll want to go for the athleisure vibe. We’re talking cozy leggings or joggers that could easily go from the airport to a casual lunch. Pair that with a comfy top, socks, and slip-on shoes, and you’re ready for any type of long-haul airplane exercise.

Seat selection

You can do airplane exercises in any seat, but if you want to get some airplane seat exercises in, you’ll want to aim for an aisle seat. For the most discreet stretches, we recommend looking for an aisle seat in the back.

Now that you know where you’re sitting, let’s look at the types of exercises on airplanes.

Easy Sitting Airplane Exercises

Human beings aren’t supposed to sit still for more than a few hours. It’s a good idea to walk around the cabin whenever you get a chance – but if you’re stuck in your seat, here are a few airplane seat exercises you can do.

Neck and Shoulder Stretches

These seated airplane exercises are great for relieving the tension in your neck and shoulders that usually build up during long periods of sitting. They also help improve flexibility and reduce discomfort that’s commonly associated with poor posture.

  • Tilt your head to the right gently, bringing your ear towards your shoulder until you feel a stretch along the left side of your neck.
  • Repeat for the left side.
  • For a forward/backward stretch, lower your chin to your chest and then tilt your head back, stretching the front of your neck.
  • Roll your shoulders forward and backwards in circular motions to release tension.

Ankle Circles and Toe Taps

Ankle circles help to enhance ankle flexibility and alleviate swelling.

Toe taps engage your calf muscles, which promotes blood circulation in your legs and prevents stiffness.

  • Lift one foot off the floor and make circles with your ankle clockwise and counterclockwise.
  • Now the other foot.
  • To engage your calves, tap your toes on the floor, lifting your heels slightly.
  • Then tap your heels, lifting your toes.

Seated Leg Lifts

This airplane exercise targets the hamstrings and quadriceps, which promotes flexibility and prevents fatigue.

  • While keeping your back straight, lift one leg at a time until it’s straight out in front of you.
  • Hold for a few seconds, feeling the stretch in your hamstring.
  • Lower the leg and repeat with the other side.

Knee Extensions

This single leg airplane exercise engages your quadriceps and promotes blood flow to your legs. It’s good for preventing stiffness in your knee joints and supports overall leg circulation.

  • Lift one leg at the knee, extending it straight out in front of you.
  • Hold for a few seconds, engaging your quadriceps.
  • Lower the leg and repeat with the other side.

Wrist and Hand Exercises

Wrist rotations help with flexibility and reduce stiffness, while hand exercises enhance dexterity and help prevent hand pains.

  • Rotate your wrists in circular motions – first clockwise and then counterclockwise.
  • Open and close your fists, spreading your fingers wide and then making a fist.
  • Gently bend and straighten your fingers, promoting flexibility and blood flow.

airplane exercises for long flights

Standing Airplane Exercises

Airplane seat exercises are great – but to really keep your body in good shape, you’ll also want to do some standing airplane exercises.

Short Walks

Brief walks up and down the aisle improve circulation, prevent stiffness, and give your muscles a chance to stretch.

  • Stand up when it’s safe.
  • Take short walks up and down the aisle.
  • Swing your arms gently for added movement.
  • Aim for a minute or two of walking.

Simple Stretches While You Wait

These are one of the easiest exercises to do on an airplane! They relieve tension in the back, shoulders, and hamstrings.

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Reach your arms overhead, stretching toward the sky.
  • Bend at the waist for a gentle forward fold.
  • Reach down toward your toes.
  • Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds.

Calf Raises

This airplane hold exercise promotes blood circulation and prevents discomfort. Calf raises also engage the muscles in your legs, providing a quick energy boost.

  • Stand with feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift your heels off the ground.
  • Rise onto the balls of your feet.
  • Lower your heels back down.
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.

Gentle Squats

Gentle squats engage the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. They’re also a great airplane hip exercise. It promotes flexibility in the hips and knees, countering the effects of prolonged sitting.

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower your body into a squat by bending your knees.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Rise back up to the standing position.
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.

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In-seat Yoga

Ready to turn the cabin into your yoga studio? How about turning your seat into a yoga mat?

These yoga exercises for airplane travel are great for keeping you flexible and energized!

Seated Cat-Cow Stretch

This airplane exercise move releases spinal tension, enhances flexibility, and it’s a great airplane core exercise!

  • Sit tall in your seat with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Inhale, arch your back, and lift your chest (Cow Pose).
  • Exhale, round your spine, and bring your chin to your chest (Cat Pose).
  • Repeat for 5-10 rounds to release tension in your spine.

Seated Forward Fold

The stretched forward fold is a super simple airplane hold exercise. It stretches you hamstrings, decompresses your spine, and promotes stress reduction.

  • Sit with your feet flat, hip-width apart.
  • Inhale, lengthen your spine, and exhale, hinge at your hips to reach forward.
  • Hold onto your shins, ankles, or the seat in front.
  • Feel a gentle stretch in your hamstrings and lower back.

Seated Twist

Sore back? Try the seated twist! It increases spinal mobility, stretches the muscles along your spine, and aids in detoxification.

  • Sit with your spine straight and feet flat.
  • Inhale to lengthen, then exhale to twist your torso to one side.
  • Hold the back of your seat and gaze over your shoulder.
  • Repeat on the other side to release tension in your spine.

Ankle-to-Knee Pose

This airplane hip exercise opens the outer hips, alleviates hip tension, and promotes relaxation.

  • Cross your right ankle over your left knee.
  • Flex your right foot to protect your knee.
  • Sit tall, feeling a stretch in your outer hip.
  • Switch legs to balance the stretch.

Wrist and Finger Stretches

This one’s similar to the wrist and hand exercises. It relieves wrist and finger tension, enhances flexibility, and reduces discomfort.

  • Extend your arms forward at shoulder height.
  • Flex and extend your wrists, then spread and close your fingers.
  • Gently circle your wrists in both directions to ease tension.

Seated Pigeon Pose

This airplane exercise opens your outer hips and glutes, improves hip flexibility, and releases lower back tension.

  • Sit tall and cross your right ankle over your left knee.
  • Flex your right foot and feel a stretch in your outer hip.
  • Hold for a few breaths and switch sides.

Deep Breathing and Meditation

It’s not technically a yoga stretch, but it’s still super important! It calms the nervous system, increases oxygenation, and enhances mental focus and relaxation.

  • Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your lungs.
  • Exhale slowly through pursed lips.
  • Repeat for several breath cycles to promote relaxation.

Staying mindful

While you’re cruising through the air, it can be tempting to focus on stretches alone. But staying mindful is also super important! Here are a few things you can do to take your airplane exercises to the next level.

  • Mentally scan your body to identify any areas of tension
  • Take a moment to observe the sights and sounds around you
  • Reflect on the parts of your journey you’re grateful for
  • Step away from your screen every once in a while

By incorporating these exercises into your flight, you’ll find your flight becomes a lot shorter, and you feel refreshed when you land – meaning more time for exploring!

Safe travels!

airplane exercises for long flights

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Jenny Cohen Drefler

Jenny Cohen Derfler

Air Dr CEO & Co-Founder

Jenny is the CEO and one of the Co-Founders at Air Doctor. She spent more than 20 years at Intel, most recently as general manager of its manufacturing facility in Israel and before that in various engineering and manufacturing roles in Silicon Valley. Air Doctor is her second startup having previously founded electric vehicle company ElectRoad.