10 Cockpit Exercises

Extended physical stagnation is not good for your body. It restricts blood flow and can lead to clots. Fortunately, you can take action and create circulation in your body, even while flying on long cross-country flights when you can’t get up and walk around. The following exercises can easily be performed while you’re seated, but they require you to take your feet off the rudder pedals and your hands off the yoke, so make sure you have an autopilot or a copilot who can keep the airplane under control while you get your blood flowing.

1. Ankle circles
Pull your feet off the rudder pedals and make 10 circles with your toes in each direction. Repeat five times.

2. Foot pumps
Put your feet on the floor, hip's distance apart. Pull the toes up toward the knees and hold for five seconds. Then lift the heels off the floor for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.

3. Neck roll
Relax your shoulders and arms. Tilt your head to the left shoulder and hold for five seconds. Slowly roll the head toward your spine and hold. Keep rolling the head until it's tilted toward the right shoulder, then forward, tilting the chin down. Continue rolling the head back to the left shoulder and change direction. Hold each position for five seconds. Repeat five times in each direction.

4. Knee lift
With your feet at hip's distance, lift each leg individually as high as you can and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat five times for each leg. Focus on keeping your back as straight as you can.

5. Shoulder roll
With the arms relaxed and hands on your thighs, bring both shoulders toward your ears. Then roll the shoulders forward as far down as you can comfortably. Bring the shoulders back toward the ears, then roll the shoulders back toward the shoulder blades. Repeat five times.

6. Shoulder stretch
Put your left hand on your right shoulder. Grab your left elbow with your right hand and pull the elbow toward your right. Hold for 10 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat five times.

7. Abdominal contractions
Contract your core muscles as much as you can and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat five times.

8. Arm curl
Put your arms by your sides with the palms facing up. Close the fists and curl the arms up. Contract the muscles of your hands and arms for 10 seconds. Repeat five times.

Interested in other health tips that will help keep you flying longer? Check out our full-length feature, "Fly Until You're 85."

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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