When you fly from Tampa to, say, Hong Kong, your legs and other parts of your body may get stiff along the way. I have long been aware that it’s helpful for a passenger to rise every hour or so and stretch his/her legs while standing in the aisle. I’ve practiced that exercise ever since the early 1900s, when the Wright brothers hailed me on a North Carolina beach and asked, “Would you give us a hand with this contraption we’re testing?”
Last week I read an updated stiffness advisory for air travelers. To my surprise, it suggested that passengers “stroll the aisle” every 20 or 30 minutes to stretch leg muscles. In addition, if we can find the space, we should do squats and quad stretches every hour.
My reaction to this notice (which appeared in a respected national magazine) was, “Have the nation’s airline flight attendants been told about this latest anti-stiffness proposal?”
I’ve long assumed that on most flights the attendants are thankful if no more than one or two passengers at a time rose from their seats and did exercises in the aisle. This allows the attendants to carry out their assorted duties. These include taking drink orders, filling the cups, serving them, carrying out orders from the flight captain, asking passengers to please fasten their seat belts, checking to see that the overhead storage bins are securely shut, and so forth, all the while asking themselves, “Aren’t we lucky to have such fun?”
A few years ago Hollywood gave us a film, “Snakes on a Plane.” It described the pandemonium that broke out when a shipment of poisonous reptiles escaped from their containers aboard a crowded jet-liner. A fitting sequel to “Snakes” would be a movie showing the chaos that would take place aboard a 200-seat aircraft if most (or even half) of the passengers climbed into the aisle every half hour to stretch. Or do squat-thrusts.
Fortunately, the magazine piece I’m referring to had some non-aisle-blocking suggestions to help relieve passenger stiffness.
Here’s how it might work: Three persons are seated in a row. Suddenly all three decide to move their feet by tapping their toes for 30 to 60 seconds. Then they add in calf raises, i.e., they lift their heels and squeeze their calf muscles by raising their feet up and down. Lower and repeat 20 times. You go, boys and girls!
If this isn’t loosening enough, the trio should try an assortment of head, shoulder and neck rolls. Here’s how: “Lower your chin and roll your head toward your right shoulder. Pause for six seconds, then roll your noggin back to the left. Next, roll your shoulders forward and backward; then do likewise with your wrists and ankles. “
“Finally, you twist your spine. Cross your right leg over your left leg; put your left hand on top of your knee and your right hand on the back of your seat. Take a deep breath and rotate your torso.” (You got all that?) “Hold that position for several seconds, then switch and do the same thing, but on your other side.”
Simple enough, I reckon. But what if the person on the inside, next to the window, weighs about 300 pounds and groans with each joint he/she de-stiffens? And the person in the middle seat has a weak bladder and may have to sprint for the toilet with only 20 seconds notice. And lucky you, in the aisle seat, suddenly spill hot coffee 8 inches south of your navel zone.
Imagine jollies like all of this happening in two dozen points between the flight deck and the airplane’s aft galley. Especially just as the plane runs into severe turbulence and the captain says, “Cancel all joint unstiffening procedures and fasten your seat belts!!!”
Please don’t think I’m questioning the magazine piece I read last week. It may be a travel pearl of great value. Still, I think I’ll confine my joint and muscle exercises to one or two sets per flight. At my age, joint stiffening has to be accepted or (in one or two instances) joyfully celebrated.