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With the holidays quickly approaching, you may be in the middle of making travel plans to reunite with loved ones after a long hiatus of missed hugs and time spent together during the pandemic. If you’re traveling by air, there are some all-star tips you can follow to travel like a pro and stay healthier.
We had the opportunity to speak to the Orlando Magic’s Lindsey Elizondo, assistant athletic trainer and physical therapist for the team. She offered insights on the Magic’s typical travel routine and what they do to stay healthy and fit on the road.
AdventHealth physical therapist, Leonard Gordon, also weighed in on how we can apply the Magic’s travel health routine to our own lives. Here’s what they had to say:
How can flying affect anyone’s health, and what can we do to improve it?
Leonard: The first thing I think of with traveling are comorbidities in patients who may have a history of some type of blood clotting. Sitting for long extended periods of time isn’t good for them, and it isn’t good for anyone. Do regular stretching and try to move as much as possible. Force yourself to get up and walk up and down the aisles if you have to. Move around and drink your water.
Any type of low-back stretching is good. Your hamstrings tend to tighten up when sitting for long periods. I tell patients to prime their bodies for a flight before doing anything, even sedentary sitting. Just do some quick muscle activation for the core and the pelvis.
What do you do for the flight specifically? Is there any mobility training needed before or after sitting for long periods?
Lindsey: If some players get stiffer on flights or they're dealing with an injury, then we address those issues. It's definitely a case-by-case scenario. If you've got somebody with back pain who’s sitting down for a long time, that's usually an exacerbating factor, so we get up on the flight or make sure we're doing something before or after to mitigate. We don't want them to come off the flight feeling worse than they did getting on the flight.
What is it like for the Orlando Magic to fly vs. those of us who fly commercial?
Lindsey: We’re very lucky with that. The NBA is contracted with Delta charters, so we've got a flight that really gives these big guys ample room to stretch out and have some space on the flight. They’re able to recline and get into some better positions where they’re not so crunched up. They can have a little bit more space to come out and walk around; we're very lucky that we have that for all of our flights.
Leonard: On commercial flights, it's hard to get comfortable sometimes. Some of those seats are so tight, so think about frequent stretching. I’ve told a lot of patients who travel often in planes or cars: build in frequent stretching breaks before and after you know you're going to be sitting for a while. It can decrease pain.
How important are seemingly little things like staying hydrated and resting enough?
Lindsey: Those are actually the big things! You definitely want to stay hydrated, so drink enough before you get on the flight as well as when you're on your flight, and make sure that you're rested. Get a good night’s sleep beforehand. If you're flying during the day and wide awake, be awake and follow your normal schedule. If you're flying at night and you're able to get a little bit of rest, get that rest.
Once you land, don't stop your hydration strategies. Making sure you're getting in those fluids and then getting up and moving around is a big one. If you've been on a long flight, you know that when you're just sitting there, as soon as you get up and you haven't moved around, your whole body is just kind of feeling lethargic. Getting up and moving around is going to help to pump that blood through your body. Get up and stretch.
Leonard: I tell my patients all the time that the first thing you should do when you wake up is to drink some water. You’re sleeping through a long period without hydrating, and it's the same thing with flying. Even if you lose track of time, your body still thrives on water.
By the time you're thirsty, it’s your body telling you that you need water now. Drink plenty of water on the plane and once you get off.
Do you recommend compression clothing for flying?
Lindsey: Yes, absolutely. That's a big thing that that we use, so we have different compression tights, stockings and a lot of different options. Everyone has a different preference, so we've got different sizes with different levels of compression in those as well.
Compression garments help your body to pump fluid out and recover. If you've got a long flight, your legs feel heavier, kind of swollen from being up there in some of the pressure changes; we have the compression garments on hand to push some of that out so it can't just sit there and pool.
Leonard: Yes. I think a lot of patients who have peripheral vascular diseases where they have a history of blood clots, or they have lower leg swelling or lymphatic issues, benefit from compression clothing. Even those who don't drink enough water or have a salty diet, their legs will swell if they get on a plane. It doesn't hurt to have some compression materials on. I think it definitely bodes well for those patients who have issues with lower leg swelling. The atmospheric pressure changes can cause more swelling.
There's been some pretty good research about compression sleeves, not only for flying, but just being sedentary. They help with overall blood flow and circulation.
In the age of COVID-19, are there any new policies or extra caution around air travel?
Lindsey: We’re lucky that we can space people out. We've got a lot of room on our planes, so if we do have somebody who is sick, we can put them in an area where there aren't other people. We can rearrange some of our seats — whereas on commercial flights, everyone is kind of cramped.
There are policies. We're following all of the NBA guidelines which are being driven by the CDC guidelines, so they're constantly in contact with their infectious disease specialists, the NBA physicians and doctors. Our policies are to really keep everyone as safe as possible, like making sure that people are wearing masks on the planes. We've got as much distance as we can between people. They’re pretty much the same stipulations that you're going to have on a regular commercial flight.
Leonard: With the COVID pandemic, you're talking about isolated germs. Keep your hands dry and clean. As a general rule, use safety precautions like treating everybody as if they are sick. Wash your hands. Wear your mask. Follow those guidelines.
Have a Magic Holiday Season
Thank you to the Orlando Magic’s Lindsey Elizondo and AdventHealth’s Leonard Gordon for their time and amazing insights into how to travel healthfully like a pro this holiday season. We wish you and yours safe travels and a magical time with family and friends.
Learn more about our partnership with the Orlando Magic here.