7 Ways to Work Out in the Sky


Because American Way (American Airline’s in-flight magazine) is featuring the House Fairy this month, I thought it’d be good to write about exercising while flying. So, Mom, want to shrink that belly fat while you’re on your way to Los Angeles? Here are 7 ways to get back into those pants that are too tight.


As an author of get-organized books, I’ve had to fly extensively, and over the years I’ve figured out some ways to get in a little fitness activity on a plane without getting kicked off it. We have to put our fellow passengers first before our exercise regimes. Having a passenger invade my space is on my list of top ten annoyances, so I’m very careful not to bother my seat partners.

Once while travelling, the woman next to me used an inflatable neck rest which obviously had a leak. While she slept, the air leaked out and her large body gradually listed into my space and finally rested on my arm and shoulder. The assertiveness-training classes I took, didn’t take and I allowed the invasion of my personal space. Soon after, she woke up from the awkward slant of her torso, blew the thing back up, and returned to dreamland, gradually tilting back over her armrest again and into my lap. This process repeated every 27 minutes (not that I was counting!) on our nonstop flight from Portland, Oregon, to New York City, New York.

We certainly don’t want to be invasive like that while we squeeze some exercise into our travels.

My goal when exercising on a flight is to keep my workout as discrete as I can. That’s part of the fun! One good way to do that is to get your moves in before takeoff. If you think how much time it takes for all those passengers to get on the plane and the chaos created as they get their stuff stowed and get seated, most of these exercises can be done after you board and before the plane taxis off to the runway, thereby sparing your flight mates any grief while you work out.   

Some of my exercises are isometric and make use of your imagination.

1. The Marching Soldier 

For lower-body strength: Sit in your seat and pretend that your feet weigh 20 pounds each. Discreetly lift one leg up and hold for five seconds, being careful not to disturb your fellow passenger with groans or heavy breathing (especially if you’re in a center seat). Then raise it up as high as you can without knocking into your tray table and continue holding for five more seconds. Repeat with each leg 15 times.

2. The Flying Yogi

Take your shoes off and sit on your seat with your legs crossed “Yoga style.” (This one’s a big challenge for my six-foot-three-inch husband.) Then place your hands on the armrests, suck in your gut and raise yourself a few inches above the seat, using your stomach muscles and hands. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat five times or until you’re asked to knock it off by a fellow passenger, whichever comes first. 

3. Triceps Counter Dips

This one is for upper-body strength, and comes courtesy of Nolan Palmer-Smith, co-founder of Life without Limits. This exercise was originally explained using your desk, but this can be done in the lavatory after you’ve taken Norman_Palmer_Smitha potty break. Moms, this will help the backs of your arms. Place your butt on the edge of the counter (don’t sit on the counter) with your palms on the edge of the counter on either side of you. Keeping your feet together, bend at the elbows and slide down a few inches, and then push back up. Dip to where your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. Do this 10 times. For a variation, put your feet on the toilet (make sure the lid is down first).

4. A Tension Reliever

This exercise will give your hands a nice, refreshing stretch. Place the backs of your hands on your seat with your fingertips touching the crack between your seat cushion and the back of the seat. Press down into the seat cushion at the bend in your wrist until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat as needed throughout the flight. 

5. Where’s My Cell Phone?

You can tell I like Nolan Palmer-Smith because here’s another exercise he suggests to do from a chair. I’ve adapted it to do from seat 36F. Part your legs slightly and reach under the seat in front of you (35F) where your purse or carry-on is stowed. Stay down there long enough to stretch your back muscles and the backs of your arms. While you’re stretching, you can fish through your purse, pretending to look for your cell phone or a pen.

6. Heavy Literature

Take out your flight magazine, holding it in your right hand. Open the front cover page with your left hand. Pretend the page weighs 20 pounds. Hold it until you’ve read a headline or two (about five seconds). Switch hands and turn the next page with your right hand. Your arms will shake when Heavy_Literatureyou do this isometric exercise and you may look like you have some sort of shaking disorder. This would be a good time to pray for those who have been afflicted with such diseases. Go through every page in the magazine and then take a well-deserved nap

7. Reach for the Sky

For both flexibility and core strength, this is one of Heidi Freyer's favorite poses. She's a Pilates instructor and owner of Pirouette, Pilates and More in Wilton, Connecticut. 

Sit upright in your seat. Hold your right wrist over your head pull it with your left hand, stretching your right side. Heidi says to make sure you keep your shoulders down as you bend (no shrugging). Hold for 10 seconds and return to an upright posture. Next, take hold of your left wrist over your head with your right hand and give your left side a good stretch. Repeat five times on each side. Flight attendants won’t think you need something because they’re used to responding to the button you push for service.

Flying can be stressful, but exercise, especially stretching exercises like these, can help yohappiness_file.jpg u enjoy your flight. The next time you’re up in the air, see if you can come up with some of your own secret exercises. And, by all means, share them with me, so that I can share them on my blog.

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you’ll share it with a frequent flyer 

 aaanewestsig.jpg Happiness all 12 Months of the Year


Subscribe to Pam's Blog!

Recommended Posts

Posts by Month

see all