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Dynamic exercise is counter-productive on board aircraft because of the oxygen deficiency. Therefore a special 'exercise in the air programme' has been developed to deal with flying - which is after all as sedentary activity done in an environment that makes unusual demands on the body.

Although the type and requirements of exercise vary with age, condition and occupation, for air travel there are two elements that need to be emphasised : to increase the intake of oxygen and to improve circulation. As there is a slight deficiency of oxygen on board because of cabin pressurisation, passengers (particularly on long haul flights) benefit from exercises that improve their ability to absorb oxygen

Exercise before and during the flight can help reduce the risk of a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) but you should take note that other measures such as wearing flight socks or taking low dose aspirin should also be considered.

Pre-flight Exercise

The best form of exercise to achieve a high oxygen intake is one that makes use of the major muscle groups, such as jogging, running, squash, tennis, cycling and particularly swimming. To have any significant effect on oxygen saturation the exercise should be carried out three times a week for a period of 30 minutes. People in sedentary occupations should build up over a longer period, some six to eight weeks before a trip.

The other type of exercise of interest to air travellers encourages circulation. Moderate dynamic exercise, such as brisk walking, not only decreases the tendency of the blood to clot but also exerts a protective influence on the circulatory system. Such an effect can last for several hours even after only 30 minutes exercise.

In- flight Exercise

On board, because of the limited space and lack of opportunity to walk, it is often best to exercise in your seat. Moving your feet up and down to simulate walking can increase the blood flow rate significantly.

There are four further exercises that can be of help -

  • Contract the buttocks and abdominal muscles to stimulate circulation in the pelvis.
  • Stretch your arms and lift them up and down.
  • Open and clench your fists.
  • Rotate your ankle joints in large circles, extending them fully.

Several exercising devices are also available which are suitable for exercising on an aircraft.

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