Yes, You Can Exercise Away Those Jet Lag Symptoms
When you’re jet-setting around the world, crossing over multiple time zones in a given trip, it can be extremely difficult to avoid a major case of jet lag. But besides knowing when to snooze on the plane, avoiding alcohol as you travel and hitting the hay at a “normal” time in your final destination, there’s a way to dramatically lessen the effects of the disorientating fatigue you feel: exercise.
We know, it sounds strange to suggest exerting extra energy when you already feel so exhausted. But research suggests that working up a sweat, especially outdoors, can help with time-change adjustments and may even speed up your return to your normal circadian rhythms (AKA get your internal body clock back on track). In fact, a 1987 study on hamsters found that rodents that ran on an exercise wheel adjusted to their new lab-created time zone in an average of 36 hours, whereas the hamsters that didn’t exercise at all took more than eight days to adjust properly.
If you’re trying to exercise away your jet lag symptoms, there are three ideal times to give it a go: before you get on the plane, while you’re up in the air and within a day of arriving at your intended location. Logging a tough workout at the very beginning of your travel day can help reduce your pre-flight jitters and any stress you might be carrying with you. Moving through some isometric exercises in your seat on the airplane can be a useful way to keep your circulation strong and avoid cramps and restlessness. And the final one is the most important of the three because you need to do it when you’re feeling the most out of sorts.
If you’re not a seasoned runner, now definitely isn’t the time to start. But even a brisk, 30-minute walk can help your body recalibrate more quickly. Simple bodyweight exercises that challenge your muscles but avoid injury risk are also ideal. Think planks, pushups, squats and lunges. And if neither of these options strikes your fancy, give a little yoga session a go. The stretching movements paired with breath control will bring your body back to its center point sooner than you realize.
Regardless of the movement you choose, if it’s providing your brain (and body) with a boost of oxygen, you’re fighting those jet lag symptoms. So resist the pressing urge to nap and get moving. You’ll enjoy your vacation that much more because of it.