10 simple exercises for staying active while traveling

Travel is a wonderful way to explore the world around you and form lasting memories. But getting to and from destinations often involves being sedentary for long stretches of time, which can leave your joints feeling stiff, your muscles tight and your body achy. Research suggests that breaking up long periods of sedentary time with movement is best for optimal health and wellness. Here are some simple exercises for reducing your sedentary time and staying active while traveling by plane, train or car:

10 exercises for staying active while traveling


3 exercises to sneak in when traveling by car

A family in a car.

  1. Overhead shoulder stretch: Hold a coat, shirt or towel in one hand. Drape it over your shoulder and down your back. If you’re stretching your right shoulder, you should place the coat, shirt or towel over your left shoulder and hold it in your left hand. Reach behind your back with your other hand and grip the towel. Gently pull the towel up and allow the hand behind your back to move across and up your back. You should feel a gentle stretch in the front or side of your shoulder. Once you feel a stretch in your shoulder, hold the position for two to three seconds then slowly release the stretch. Repeat on the opposite side.
  2. Neck stretch: Tilt your head toward one shoulder and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Let the weight of your head stretch your muscles. If you would like a little added stretch, use your hand to gently pull your head toward your shoulder, keeping your shoulders relaxed and down. Repeat on the opposite side.
  3. Chin tuck: Sit upright and look straight ahead with your ears directly over your shoulders. Place a finger on your chin. Without moving your finger, pull your chin and head straight back until you feel a good stretch at the base of your head and top of your neck.A cartoon person demonstrating the chin tuck exercise.

*If you’re driving the vehicle, make sure to stop or pullover in a safe place before attempting any of the above exercises.

3 ways to stay active while traveling by plane

A man and woman sitting in a plane.  

  1. Seated Knee Lift: Sit tall with your knees bent. Lift one leg up as high as you can. Keep your stomach pulled in and remember to keep breathing. Alternate your legs and try to hold it for a few seconds at the top. Remember to focus on good posture and relax your shoulders.
  2. Bug Stomp: Sitting tall while holding the armrests for support, alternate stomping your foot as quickly as possible in all directions (front, side and back) as if squashing ants around you. Move as quickly as possible, returning your feet to the center between each stomp.
  3. Torso Twist: Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor. Twist to the right, bringing both hands over to hold the armrest for five counts and turning your shoulder to touch the back of your seat. Return smoothly to the centre and repeat on your left side.

4 exercises for staying active while traveling by train

  1. Seated Glute Squeeze: Sit tall with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Slowly squeeze your buttocks as hard as you can and hold it for three seconds. Release it completely so your glutes are relaxed and then repeat.
  2. Walking Lunge: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Take a step forward with your right foot, then slowly bend both of your knees until your back knee is just above the floor. Stand back up, take a step forward with your left foot and bend both knees until your back knee is just above the floor. Continue down the aisle until you reach the washroom or food cart!A woman doing walking lunges in a park.
  3. Sit to Stand: Sit at the front of your seat, keeping your toes back underneath your knees and your feet hip-distance apart. Lean forward a little to bring your nose over your toes and lift powerfully up to a standing position, applying leg strength while keeping your arms extended. Using your lower body to resist gravity and keeping your arms raised, slowly lower yourself back down. If you need a little more support, you can use the arm rests.An animated person demonstrating the Sit to Stand exercise, perfect for staying active while traveling.
  4. Wall Push-Up: Stand facing the wall with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on the wall beneath your shoulders, keeping your arms extended but not locking your elbows. With control, lean your body toward the wall as far as you can go, keeping your elbows pointing down. Then, with your back straight, push powerfully back until your arms are extended but not locked.A woman doing a wall push-up.

Just because you’re on a plane, train or in a car doesn’t mean staying active while traveling isn’t possible. Adding the above exercises to your itinerary can help you stay energized, improve your circulation, decrease stiffness and make your travel experience even more enjoyable!