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I’M THAT person at the airport who sits on the grimy carpet doing twists or squats in the corner by an outlet waiting for my cellphone to charge.

I didn’t used to be this way. I once sat in chairs like everyone else, standing up occasionally if the wait got really long or I had to make one more bathroom run before being herded onto the plane.

We’ve all heard that sitting is bad for us. It slows blood circulation to the legs, shortens hip flexors and weakens the back, core and glutes. Basically, it does a lot of things that are terrible for your body.

It gets even worse on a plane, when regular breaks are dependent on seat mates and turbulence. I’m hoping you already take regular breaks to walk and do a few stretches in the aisle. But I find I can do only so many movements in the cramped space on the plane. So I use waiting areas before boarding and during layovers to get into deeper stretches before subjecting my body to my little spot in coach.

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Please note that comfy clothes help. I like wearing stretchy pants, which allow me to move easily while subtly executing my moves in the corner.

Here are some helpful stretches to counteract the sitting.


A squat is an active resting position (unlike your airplane seat). Bring your feet as wide as you need to in order to keep your heels on the floor. Use your elbows to push your knees over your ankles. See if you can stay a minute or so, stand up for a bit, then do it again. Squats open your hips, increase ankle and knee flexibility and decompress your spine.


Step one foot forward for a low lunge to stretch out your hip flexors, which shorten when sitting. Keep your hips relatively level and facing forward. Engage your core to protect your low back. Add-on: Reach the opposite arm from your front leg up to the ceiling and gently bend to the side.


Bring your feet at least as wide as your hips. Bend your knees, and fold forward. Hold on to your elbows or let your arms hang to the floor. This move stretches your low back and hamstrings. It also relaxes your upper body. Add-on: Interlace your hands behind you at your low back and stretch your hands away from you to open shoulders.


Sit with your legs crossed in front of you. Bring one hand to your opposite knee. Place your other hand behind you. Gently twist. It releases your spine and moves blood around this vital area of your body. Scale down: Do this twist in a chair.


If you are uncomfortable on the floor, you can do some moves in a chair. Remember to stand as frequently as you can.


Extend your legs straight in front of you, parallel to the floor, and reach for your ankles. This stretch also opens up your spine and low back.

Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at Email: Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.