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Seatbacks of Steel

By K.C. Summers
Sunday, November 9, 1997; Page E04


What: "The Kinkout Workout," a 15-minute exercise routine you can do sitting down in your airline seat.

When: During a long car, bus, plane or train trip.

Why: Because sometimes getting there is not half the fun.

Bad enough that traveling can make you cranky, tired and tense -- it can also kill you. A recent study presented to the American College of Chest Physicians confirmed what doctors have long suspected: that passengers sitting in cramped seats for long periods of time are at risk for developing blood clots in their legs. The clots can break off and travel to the lungs, causing death, regardless of age, sex or general health.

Which is a really good reason to exercise during your trip. One option: "The Kinkout Workout," developed by Barbara Ronis, a Montgomery Village fitness instructor. It was designed for seniors, but it also works for travelers of any age.

How effective can exercising in a chair be? Surprisingly, very. Small head and neck movements, like shoulder shrugs and chin rolls, decrease muscle tension instantly. Hand and arm movements, torso twists, little kicks, toe taps and ankle motions get the blood circulating. When you're all warmed up, you thrust your arms skyward, shooting imaginary baskets -- that's where it gets a little weird if you're sitting in a crowded plane.

Indeed, some of the movements can be a bit dicey in a cramped economy-class seat. When I tried the routine during a recent flight, I ended up slamming my head into my seat-back tray. The "easy kick" felt great, but it was hard to do because my carry-on bag took up most of my leg room.

And there's the little matter of feeling like an idiot when the exercises get more obvious. I had a slight problem when it came time to "shoot hoops." Okay, I had a big problem. Okay, I couldn't actually bring myself to do it in public.

But I ended up doing what I could in the space provided. And that's just what I should have done, Ronis told me by phone later. As for the embarrassment factor, "you just have to weigh your pride against your need to exercise," she said. "When you get older, you won't care so much what people think." Good advice any time.

"The Kinkout Workout" video is $14.95 plus $3 shipping and handling; call 1-800-767-3489 (credit card orders only) or 301-519-2268 ($2.75 shipping and handling). It's also available locally at the Gaithersburg Square Borders. Ronis suggests watching the video at home a few times and memorizing the routine, or you could write the moves on an index card for reference during your trip.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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