words by Kathleen Fleming
Recently I have been travelling a lot on long haul flights. At the end of every one my whole body feels stiff and swollen and more often than not, my throat is dry and my nose is running. These feelings got me thinking about how to stay healthy on board a cramped, cold plane where breakfast is eggs made from powder, the whitest roll you have ever seen and strawberry (sugar packed) yogurt. And to top it off you probably won’t get any sleep (unless you are lucky enough to fly business class and your seat turns into a bed).
Below are some tips on how to disembark an epic flight feeling healthy.
The air inside an aircraft cabin has significantly lower humidity levels than a normal comfortable indoor environment. This can result in dehydration which can leave you feeling sick and dizzy. To combat dehydration, drink water and lots of it. Hydrate your body with lots of water and/or coconut water the night before your long flight. Try to avoid drinking alcohol, tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and sweet fruit juices which can make dehydration worse. I know a lot of people love a glass of wine to help them fall asleep but try sticking to one glass followed by water. Buy a big bottle of water and some coconut water at the airport (after security) to take on board with you.
Drinking water will hydrate your skin from inside but it is a good idea to pack a good moisturiser in your hand luggage as well (make sure it is less than 100ml!). Every few hours apply some moisturiser to your face and hands to keep them feeling fresh.
After a rubbish sleep in a tiny seat, the last thing you want to eat is a powdered egg omelette. There is no way you will feel good after a long flight if you eat this food. My top tip is to order a vegan meal. With a vegan meal you normally get food such as fresh fruit, salads, ratatouille and little bags of nuts and raisins. Who knew economy class food could be so healthy! Most airlines allow you to request a special meal online either at the time of booking or at least 72 hours in advance of your flight.
In addition to your vegan meal, you may want to pack a few snacks for the journey. I normally make myself a little snack pack of nuts and seeds, a couple of pieces of fruit and some chopped carrot sticks. If you are really organised and have space in your bag, you can avoid eating any plane food and pack your own healthy, light meals. Be aware that you have to eat it all on the flight as you probably won’t be allowed to take it into your destination country.
Moving around in economy class on a 12 hour flight is easier said than done. You don’t want to be one of those annoying people who continuously walk up and down the aisles or congregate around the toilets but you do need to move. However, if you don’t move, you will disembark feeling stiff and swollen. Not moving around also increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis, blood clotting in the deep veins, which is potentially fatal.
The best thing to do is to get up every hour and walk around the plane. At the same time do some stretches. You can also stretch in your seat. Most yoga teachers can give some tips on good postures to practice from your seat or in a confined space like a plane.
If you can afford it, try booking an emergency exit seat. Although these seats are normally a little pricier, you get significantly more leg room and a little space to do some yoga.
Our legs, ankles and feet often swell on long flights due to compression against the seat, inactivity and the fact that our legs are dangling down for a long period of time. The swelling can be painful and uncomfortable. Try wearing compression stockings which can be bought from most pharmacies as these will reduce swelling. I would also suggest packing a pair of tracksuit bottoms or loose trousers to wear on the plane as these will be more comfortable and won’t impede blood flow in your legs.
If your flight is at night, sleep is the hardest thing to do and probably the most important if you don’t want to feel terrible when you land. Unless you are very small or blessed with the gift of being able to sleep anywhere and everywhere, you probably won’t be able to sleep for 7 hours straight in that tiny seat. My suggestion is to try to take regular short naps throughout the flight and get up to move around in between. I find that I normally wake up about every hour with a sore neck or the arm rest poking into my back. See this as a gentle nudge to move and then come back to another hour’s sleep. If I am really struggling to sleep it is normally because of something bothering me mentally so I try to do some breathing exercises to calm my mind. This normally helps me get to sleep.
Try to avoid taking a sleeping pill. Even with very little sleep if you hydrate, eat well and dress comfortably you will still feel better on landing than someone who downed two sleeping pills with a whisky.
We wish you a Hip and Healthy flight!
image from www.vogue.it