Can Exercise Help Reduce the Symptoms of Jet Lag?

Woman resting on a plane
Getty Images/Images By Tang Ming Tung

If you've ever crossed several time zones in one trip, you've probably experienced jet lag, or the unsettling feeling that you might pass out, throw up or collapse at any given moment. To your body, it may feel like the middle of the night but, to your mind, it's the middle of the day. Your body's struggle to adjust is what causes symptoms such as:

  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Problems with coordination and memory

When you're in the midst of jet lag, exercise may be the last thing you want to do. However, a workout may actually help reset your body clock while reducing the symptoms of jet lag. Studies have shown that outdoor exercise can help re-synchronize your body and that there are three important times when exercise can help you the most.

How and When to Exercise to Reduce Your Jet Lag

  • Exercising After You Arrive - You may find that your worst jet lag symptoms happen 2 or 3 days after you arrive. To help combat that, try to exercise the day you get there, even if it's a short walk or a few exercises in your hotel room. Best Post-Flight Workout: A 20 or 30-minute moderate intensity walk followed by some basic Body Weight Exercises to work your muscles.

    There's not much research on the best exercise to reduce jet lag, so listen to your body and do what feels best. High intensity cardio may be out of the question when you're exhausted and your body feels like it weighs twice as much as it normally does. If that's the case, try a light body weight workout, a walk or some stretching exercises and remember you'll be back to your old self in a few days.

    Easy Jet Lag Workouts

    • No Weight Workout - This workout is short, simple and easy to do in your hotel room with no equipment needed. This is perfect to maintain your strength and keep your muscles working even if your energy levels are waning.
    • Basic Stretch - If working up a sweat seems impossible, this simple flexibility workout can get the circulation going without stressing your body.
    • Morning and Evening Yoga - Yoga is a great for stress relief and it can also help you relax. This workout is perfect, whether it's first thing in the morning or it just feels like it is.
    • Seated Stretch - If you're stuck on an airplane for several hours, try this seated stretch workout to keep you from getting tight and sore.


    Shiota M, Sudou M, Ohshima M. Using outdoor exercise to decrease jet lag in airline crewmembers. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1996 Dec;67(12):1155-60.

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