Keeping Your Body and Mind Healthy

By ALPA Staff

It’s never been easier to establish a personal routine that keeps your mind and body healthy, even if you fly for a living. Making exercise a part of your daily regimen will help you feel better, sleep more soundly, and think more clearly. Despite gym and hotel exercise facility closings and the physical distancing measures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, developing an everyday routine to perform on layovers or at home can be accomplished with just a few simple tips.

Getting Started

If you’re familiar with developing an exercise routine, you’ve got a head start. If you haven’t worked out for a while, you’ll need to determine a series of exercises and the number of reps to perform. Online resources made available by organizations like WebMD and Harvard Heath explain the various kinds of strength-training or cardiovascular activities you can perform to create an effective, beneficial workout.

Set realistic goals and increase your reps as you become more comfortable. As with any exercise routine, be sure to warm up and stay hydrated. Drinking water regulates your body temperature, lubricates your joints, and accelerates your metabolic rate to give you energy. Be sure to drink water before, during, and after your routine.

For those who may need a little more structure, personal training apps are downloadable using resources like the Apple Store and Google Play, which provide fitness routine planning tools to help you target your workouts and keep track of your progress. Also take advantage of live-streaming personal trainers who you can follow. If you belong to a gym or other exercise facility, ask about available online classes that might be included as part of your membership.

For some, sticking with an exercise routine can be challenging. If you need some help, establish a buddy system. Whether in person or virtually, working out with a partner can provide the friendly competition or encouragement you need to keep your workouts consistent and to hold you accountable.

Go Outside

If you can get outside, walking and jogging are great ways to stay fit. Keep in mind that of the two, walking puts less stress on your joints. Thirty minutes a day can reduce excess body fat, strengthen your bones, and increase your cardiovascular fitness. Taking a walk can also reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease and osteoporosis.

Be mindful of your surroundings and always stick to locations known to be safe. If possible, go with a crewmember. Also be aware of local mask requirements. If you can’t get outside but have access to a treadmill, you can still reap the same health benefits.

Before you get started with any exercise routine, play it safe. Visit your doctor for a medical checkup and mention that you plan to start a new fitness program, especially if you’re more than 40 years old, haven’t exercised in a while, or are overweight.

Mental Wellness Routines

Focusing on your mental health can be just as important. Meditation and breathing exercises are an excellent way to manage stress, and guidance is available online or through specific apps. Mindful breathing exercises work well as a standalone practice, but their effects can be even more beneficial when combined with meditation. Practice these to help improve concentration and to better deal with stress, anxiety, and emotions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to keep mental and physical health a priority. As airline pilots, the daily stresses of the job as well as the state of the industry can be challenging. Add to that stress about financial issues, family or relationship problems, or any other work or personal concerns and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

If exercise and meditation aren’t helping you manage your well-being, ALPA’s Pilot Peer Support program and related master executive council–specific programs can help. Visit www.alpa.org/pps for more information. Speak confidentially with a fellow airline pilot about your situation before these concerns threaten your medical certificate, career, and life.

This article was originally published in the March 2021 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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