Whether you are getting away, going to, or being taken away, or being brought back as the Diane Warwick lyrics woefully tell… you want to arrive at your destination pain free and full of that “it” which allows you to enjoy your getaway or make the deal that makes the difference. And that really takes planning.
You plan your trip, luggage, tickets, car checkup, games for the kids, snacks, hotel reservations, meeting times, business lunch, the tours, etc… but what about your poor body that will be trapped somewhere for hours at a time with bad air, bad food, people, noise and limited space?
The easiest place to survive is on a cruise… once you get there. You can step out of your room and walk the decks, enjoy a spa experience, use the exercise room, take a dip and a myriad of other offerings. You hardly have to plan anything once you are there. Just make a selection depending on your mood.
Trains, although less spacious, do offer the option to move around in relative safety. Cars trap you unless you decide not to let them. Planes? Most people are happy to sit down, take advantage of a good book or a nap and ignore their crying out for help bodies.
Practically everyone is aware of the potential for pulmonary embolisms when on long flights. But the same is true of a number of short flights in succession, and long train or car rides.
“Any situation in which the leg is bent at the knee for prolonged periods without much active motion may lead to the reduction of blood flow and increase the risk of blood clots.” —The JAMA Network
And then there is: Postinertial dyskinesia or Poststatic dyskinesia, meaning that you have pain or stiffness after sitting or rest.
Some Facts and Solutions
- THE PELVIS is the center of you and in some ways as important as your brain. At the start of her lecture during a conference for writers Bonnie asked her listeners to sit on their hands while she kept on with her lecture. After about 15 minutes, most hands were numb or with pins and needles, the result of compression and not enough blood flow. “That,” she said, “is what happens to your brain when you sit for too long. Writer’s block.”
PELVIC TILT: The pelvic tilt can be done in any position and anywhere. Done while sitting it allows you to get up without groaning or feeling like you are 101 years old. Basically, the action (contraction and relaxation) of the abdominals and the gluteals starts the blood flowing. But it also builds strength in both those areas.
Tighten your seat, tighten your abdominals, hold, 2, 3, and relax. Repeat 3 more times and often throughout your sitting trip. You would be surprised at what you can accomplish during in-town driving if at every red light you do your pelvic tilts. During long trips it gets the blood flowing, makes you more alert and begins the process of preventing the aforementioned travel woes.
- THE LEGS are an auxiliary pump for the heart. And when the muscles of the legs are used, it is the action of those muscles that help pump the blood back up to your heart. During prolonged sitting the muscles in the backs of the legs (the hamstrings) are compressed, as well as shortened. The knees are bent and blood pools in the lower leg. If this isn’t balanced out with action, over time the results are: tight hamstrings and shortened gait, lower back pain, poor circulation, swelling of the ankles or worse: the blood clot.
KNEE BENDS: Plan ahead and get an aisle seat in the plane. Plan ahead and add an hour to your car trip. In either case a glass of water on the hour will mean you will need to get UP in the plane or get OUT of the car. In each case a series of half knee bends or full knee bends (if there is room) are a must. Full knee bends build strong legs needed for taking you places and for maintaining your independence. Half knee bends are better than NO knee bends and when you keep your heels flat on the floor they help stretch your calf muscles which are apt to cramp up on long trips without action.
FLEXIBILITY BOUNCE: This very important exercise serves the purpose of releasing tension, lengthening the hamstrings and preventing low back pain. Whenever and wherever there is enough room, always do it.
- THE SHOULDERS and NECK are known for carrying tension and while a long drive may not seem like a big deal, your muscles think it is and at the end of the day or drive they tell you so. Holding the wheel does not seem strenuous but the tension is continuous and mostly unmoving.
Driving can be hypnotic. We’ve all had the experience of realizing we were at our destination without remembering the passage of the time and being thankful that somehow we did it safely.
SHOULDER SHRUGS: The simple action of bringing your shoulders up to your ears and down, up and down, up and down and then alternating shoulders not only relieves the tension but increases the circulation and elevates your alertness. It does not require that you take your eyes off the road.
While drivers are limited, for safety reasons, to pelvic tilts and shoulder shrugs, passengers can and should add arm and torso rotations as seat belts permit.
It usually takes 2 weeks to establish a habit, so start your shoulder rotations, pelvic tilts and knee bends NOW. They will serve you well every single day and ensure a more pleasurable and bountiful trip.
The following exercises can be done almost anywhere and almost any time. So when you arrive…. don’t stop… keep moving! Safe and pain-free travel!
The exercise pictures featured above are from How to Keep Slender and Fit After Thirty, by Bonnie Prudden. The drawings – by Bonnie Prudden – are from Office Stress Release.
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help.
Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®