Why You Should Always Travel with a Tennis Ball

published Apr 18, 2018
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(Image credit: Kath Nash)

When packing for a trip, you probably include a change of clothes and toiletries in your carry-on — in case your luggage gets lost — along with a travel pillow, moisturizer, good reading material, and a layer if it’s cold on the plane. But there’s one other item that doesn’t take up much space, and can get you to your destination feeling fresh and nimble.

A long-haul flight spent cramped in an airplane seat is a recipe for sore muscles and stiff joints. Blood clots are also a real danger to some people, especially in really long flights. Yes, getting up and walking can help, but often the threat of turbulence keeps those fasten seat belt lights on for a majority of the time. Not to mention the fact that the aisles aren’t exactly kept clear for exercise-like pacing.

Enter the tennis ball, which can help relive stiff joints and keep the blood flow going to minimize sore muscles. Keeping everything flowing and comfortable will even help with jet lag once you get to your destination. Think of them as a little mini portable foam roller to help you work out the kinks during your flight.

Let’s talk technique. It’s as simple as rolling the tennis ball on places that feel stiff or sore, including your wrists, neck, and back. Apply as much pressure as you can.

Brian Povinelli, Global Brand Leader for Westin and Le Meridien touts the in-flight benefits of the humble tennis ball on Life Hacker: “It’s great to roll under your feet and even under your thighs to keep you from getting stiff/sore. It’s small, inexpensive and easy to replace.”

To really get the hard-to-reach places, place the tennis ball between the airplane seat and your back, then move up and down so it rolls around. In addition, you can put the tennis ball on the floor (careful! you don’t want to have to chase it around the plane) and roll your bare or sock-clad feet over it to soothe travel-weary soles.

Orthopaedic surgeon Ali Gjoz of the London Orthopaedic Clinic concurs with the benefits. “Taking a tennis ball or a massager on the plane will help increase circulation,” he tells Travel and Leisure. He suggests that airplane massages begin with the extremities and move upwards in order to get the blood moving toward the heart.

Tennis ball massages might draw a bit of attention, but we think the looks are worth the decrease in aches and pains. And nothing says you can’t share your tennis ball with your fellow passengers.

Would you bring one on your next flight?