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What Happens to Your Body When You Fly (And How to Combat It)

November 22, 2019 3 min read

What Happens to Your Body When You Fly
(And How to Combat It)


Did you know that over 30 Million people in the US are packing their bags and getting ready to hop on a plane this Thanksgiving holiday? And millions more are loading up the car and preparing to travel over the river and through the woods to grandmothers house to get their grub on.

Fun fact, most of them will avoid talking politics despite the fact that they all have strong opinions on the current state of affairs.   Though, maybe it’s too juicy to resist this year?

But that’s not what this post is about...

family enjoying thanksgiving meal

Traveling can wreak havoc on your body. Stiff joints, sluggishness, and dehydration are byproducts of travel that we all reluctantly subject ourselves to.   But why does all this happen and how can you combat it? Here are some fun things to be aware of while traveling.

Traveling in airplanes can: 

Dehydrate you.  Dry skin, red eyes, and a parched mouth come from the low levels of humidity inside a plane. This is caused by the way air is pulled into the cabin and mixed for breathability. Dehydration is uncomfortable, and can also have serious effects on the health and performance of your muscular and cardiovascular system.

Increase joint pain.   If you’re someone who suffers regular joint pain, the changes in air pressure inside an airplane can trigger an inflammatory response that causes pain in well-worn joints. So if you’re like me, whose younger athletic glory has led to some pretty crappy joints, flying can be downright painful.

Increase back pain. If you sit for long periods of time anywhere, you’re going to experience some stiffness. If you sit crammed into a tiny torture chair for an entire flight, then your stiffness levels can rival your grandpa on the dance floor.   This puts a lot of pressure on your lower spine and can increase back pain and tension. Sitting like this can also lead to poor circulation and swollen feet.

Make you feel Bleh.  Air pressure inside a plane at altitude is much lower than it is at sea level. This means you body takes in less oxygen when you breathe, and can result in a feeling of sluggishness, drowsiness, or downright crankiness.

Stress you out.The whole experience (rushing to the airport, waiting in long lines, dealing with luggage fees, noisy neighbors, and that awkward armrest situation) can raise your cortisol levels and leave you feeling stressed. And stress has numerous negative side effects on the way you feel, not only mentally, but also physically.


So how can you combat all of this?  Make sure to maintain a great wellness practice on the road.  


  • Bring a water bottle with you whenever you fly and fill it up at the airport fountain before you get on the plane. This way you can make sure to get plenty of fluids on board and keep you hydrated.
  • In the airplane, it's good to get up and take a little stroll down the aisle every once in a while.   This will keep your joints moving and aid in proper circulation.
  • Practice deep breathing after the flight to help re-oxygenate your blood and get you feeling a little perkier. It may be inadvisable to take long, deep breaths in-flight (especially this time of year), because people cough and sneeze and stuff.
  • Don’t forget your roller. Foam rolling can help to combat the negative side effects of long travel! A proper foam rolling practice increases circulation and can help to rehydrate muscles, relieves muscle stiffness which contributes to joint pain, aids in the release of the regenerative neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin,endorphins, and oxytocin, and is a great platform to practice mindfulness, deep breathing, and deep stretching which can all help you to chill out after a stressful flight. It’s an awesome way to get you feeling great again…Until the politics conversation comes up of course.
  • If you have a massage gun, a percussion massage before and after flights will have a similar effect as a foam roller on your muscles. Though you're not using your body weight to compress your muscle tissue, a good percussion massager with a high stall force will provide benefits akin to a foam roller.
man putting foam roller into a bag