Minnesota Flyer - Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

By James D. Lakin PhD MD FACP
CFI,CFII,MEI, Airline Transport Pilot, FAA Sen. Medical Examiner 

Aeromedical Forum

Staying Fit for Flight

 

How many months are we into winter? How many pounds have we put on? Since you can only get so much exercise from throwing around snow, it's hard to avoid the "Late Winter Couch Potato Syndrome"! Lack of physical fitness and overweight are bad enough for the Average Joe. It sets you up for anything from lower back pain to hypertension to heart attacks. For a pilot, deconditioning can lead to problems in stamina, alertness and the ability to respond to the emotional and physical stressors associated with flight. Spring is just around the corner! It's time to get fit!

So how do you transform yourself from Ronnie the Ragmopp to Rocky Balboa? First of all realize that you don't have to look like Rocky to be pretty well conditioned and second, that it won't happen overnight. Before you start you might ask your AME about a fitness program appropriate for the demands of the flight environment. If you have any significant medical conditions, definitely talk with your primary health care provider before you start swinging around the weights.

Any fitness program has to be ongoing to be effective. That means you'll have to start seriously changing your lifestyle. It's not as daunting as it sounds. A few small changes add up to a healthier you. Watch what you shove down your gullet. Pilots are terrible about living off the vending machines and the fast food counters. Bulk up on the veggies and leafy greens. Shun the Big Macs. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you have the time, walk rather than drive. It all adds up. Take it gradually. All too many well-meaning exercise programs come to naught when you try to take things by storm. You end up on the couch with a bottle of ibuprophen, a six-pack and screaming sore muscles.

A regular fitness program can be as simple or as complex as appeals to your personality, lifestyle and goals. The "right" program is one that appeals to you. You can do it at home or at a fitness club. It depends on your preferences and pocketbook.

The exercise gurus tell us an effective fitness program includes the following:

• Warm-up

• Flexibility and stretching

• Aerobic conditioning

• Anaerobic conditioning

• Cool-down and stretching

Warm-up should get the blood flowing to your muscles. A bit of stretching will help to increase your flexibility and range of motion, decreasing the risk of injury. The purpose of aerobic or cardio conditioning is to task the heart and lungs, strengthening their ability to sustain prolonged exercise. Thus you want to use your large muscle groups continuously and rhythmically. Bicycling, fitness walking, jogging, stair climbing or jump roping fit the bill nicely. Anaerobic or resistance conditioning works a particular muscle group to increase strength and/or tone. Here you should consult a certified fitness professional for proper instruction and to develop a program tailored to your specific needs.

Finally a good cool down using a low intensity activity allows the body to flush out your muscles. Stretching will help to reduce muscle soreness later.

A bunch of studies have indicated that even a modest but regular exercise program can promote a long and healthy life. It also can help you pass your flight physicals, especially when you get up into those "later" years.

Fly wisely. See you next month.

As always, comments, questions and suggestions are welcome:

jdlakinmd@gmail.com.

Also, we've moved our office to Airlake Airport's FBO (KLVN)! Call 952-469-4414 for a flight physical appointment.

 

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