Fit for Flying



I have just flown for the first time in over a year-and-a-half. I was initially planning on writing about what a tremendous success the “anti-comfort airline passenger seat” program has been and how they have finally succeeded in developing and deploying a seat profile that does not conform to the known spinal curvature of any living person on the planet.

But then I started leafing through the in-flight magazine, the one with informative non self-promotional articles with titles like “This is your Captain Speaking,” and “Travel Trends along our Flight Paths.” Near the back, and this is no word of a lie, I found a little story, with graphics and everything, called “Staying Mobile: In-flight Exercises.” The thrust of this article would seem to be aimed at preventing passengers from launching massive law suits after they die from deep vein thrombosis, a particular bosis that results from inactivity while caught in the clutches of a modern airline passenger seat.

The article suggests that the passenger engage in the following leg activities while clamped into their seat: knee flexion, knee extension, dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, inversion, and eversion. I knew in a moment that this article must be a prank because: 1) if anybody was foolish enough to attempt a knee extension while sealed into their seat, they would fracture at least seven vertebrae against the new non-conformal spinal seat back, and 2) they obviously made up the words for the other exercises.

Nonetheless, the story gave me an idea about some real practical exercises that most any airline passenger could do while winging their way to a random airport to miss their transfer for the next leg of their trip.

Jaw Dysplasia: Grasp the raisin “Danish” that the airline…hmmm, what are they called these days? Not stewards or stewardesses, that’s for sure. I think they abandoned hosts and hostesses some time ago as well. I think I heard the lady refer to herself as a purser (like this is the Love Boat or something) during the pre-flight safety instructions (exits are located here, here, and here). Anyway, grasp the food substance that at one time in the distant past may have been an actual pastry and place it in your mouth. Apply 20,000 metric tonnes of vertical pressure in an effort to break off a piece for chewing. If successful, chew repeatedly for the remainder of the flight, spitting out the piece, and any tooth fragments, into the airline doggie bag that has been provided for this purpose. This will give you a wonderfully toned jaw line profile, although you may also have a hankering for spinach and be prone to saying “I yam what I yam.”

Corneal Contrast: This is an easy one. Anytime during the flight that you do not wish to snooze, simply open your eyes and stare into the back of the seat in front of you. It should be close enough that, after a time, you will be able to detect the sub-atomic structure of the nylon seat backing.

Abdominal Impression: Have you ever wanted that abdominal six-pack you always see on men who have nothing better to do than stomach “curls” for upwards of 18 hours per day? First, take in a deeeeep breath, suck in that gut, keep breathing in, hold it, hold it, hold it. Okay, now, very gingerly lower the fold-down table from the seat back in front of you. There should be just enough clearance for it to make it past your inhaled belly. When the table is horizontal, exhale and let your belly expand outwards above and below the edge of the table. Stay like this for five minutes so that a horizontal impression will be permanently marked on your tummy. Repeat this process five or six more times at different locations on your belly giving the appearance of that famous six-pack, although depending on the size of your girth, it may look more like a stack of bread loaves.

Bottom Balancing: If you do nothing else, do this exercise for the sheer entertainment value of it. It is well known that the human bottom is the center of gravity for most people. The human bottom has the highest concentration of nerve endings than any other part of the body, sort of like a dog’s nose. You can check with my wife if you want, she’s a nurse! All of these nerve endings are required to successfully distribute the balancing signals transmitted from the brain so that people can walk, run and dance without causing friends and neighbours to break out in hysterical spontaneous laughter. Unfortunately, it has been determined through precise scientific measurement (don’t ask how) that all of these bottom nerve endings go numb after only ten minutes of being placed in a standard airline passenger seat. If these nerves are not stimulated during the flight, the passenger is at risk of performing an extremely comical walk of the kind illustrated by Monty Python’s John Cleese in the famous “Silly Walk” sketch when the flight is over.

To avoid this embarrassment, perform the following series of exercises every ten minutes:

Make sure that your bottom is placed in the center of the seat. Now, skootch one inch over to the left. This should place you at the left edge of the seat. Now, skootch two inches over to the right so that you’re at the right edge of the seat. Skootch side to side repeatedly for at least three minutes. Next, starting from the middle of the seat again, skootch forward an inch to the edge of the seat. Then skootch back two inches to the back of the seat. Back and forth, left cheek, right cheek, there you go. Do this for at least three minutes. Okay, you’re doing marvelous. Now that your bottom has been warmed up, I want you to skootch around the perimeter of the seat in a clockwise circular motion. That’s it! Fabulous! Now counter-clockwise. Ignore the stares of the other passengers. You’re not going to look like John Cleese walking down the aisle when the flight is over! Four minutes and you’re done. Take a breather and enjoy a small sip from your in flight soda thimble, and then ask your purser for another one. You want have to look far; she, or he, is rolling in the aisle next to your seat.

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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