Whenever you are sitting in the same position for hours at a time during a flight, on a bus, train, in a car or even at your desk your risk for developing a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) increases with the time you are spending immobile.
Here are some valuable tips on how you can drastically reduce the threat of blood clots (Economy Class Syndrome) during air travel:
- Get up from your seat regularly (every hour at least) and walk up and down the aisle if possible
- If you can’t get up rock your feet back and forth for a few minutes to activate your calf muscles, which helps stimulate blood circulation
- Stay hydrated, you should drink at least 48 ounces of liquid (approx. 1.5 Liters) and preferably mostly water every day. On a plane it is recommended to drink 8 ounces of water within every two hour period to stay properly hydrated. Following through with proper hydration will also help prompt you to get up from your seat regularly for trips to the lavatory.
- Consider wearing graduated compression socks, stockings or pantyhose for all long flights – compression hose can stimulate the blood flow and prevent any swelling from fluid retention in the legs
Here are some exercise tips to help stimulating your blood circulation and reducing the threat of blood clots (Coach Class Syndrome) during long hours of immobile travel via airplane, train or bus ride:
- Ankle Circles – Start with the right or left leg lifting it up off the floor (approx. 2 inches). Try to draw circles in the air with your big toe. Do about 15 circles in one direction. Next switch to the other foot doing the same circles. Now switch back to the other foot doing circles in the opposite direction then again switching to the other foot to do the same.
- Ankle Pumps – With your foot off the floor bend your toes as far towards your shin as you can and hold them like this for 10 seconds or so. Do as many repetitions as you can for about 30 seconds with each foot.
- Foot Pumps – Place your heels on the floor and point feet up as high as comfortable. Then put feet flat on the floor again. Next lift your heels while keeping your toes and balls of the feet on the floor. Try to connect these steps into continuous movements for at least 30 second repetitions.
- Knee Lifts – In an alternating fashion lift each leg bending your knee and activating your thigh muscles. Aim for 20 to 30 repetitions.
- Neck Rolls – Tip your head to one side putting your ear on your shoulder. Next roll your neck back and forth holding the positions each time for at least five seconds. Perform 5 repetitions of this exercise.
- Knee to Chest Bending – With your hands around your knee pull it towards your chest holding it there for 15 seconds and release slowly. Do 10 repetitions alternating between left and right.
- Forward Flexes – Place both feet on the floor and pull in your stomach. Bend over and move your hands down your legs to your ankles. Hold the full stretch at the ankles for 15 seconds and slowly return to your upright sitting position.
- Shoulder Rolls – In a rolling motion move your shoulders forward, upward, backward and down resulting in a circular pattern. Do 10 repetitions.
- Neck Bends – Tip your head as far back as you can and put your hands over your forehead. Push your head forward while trying to block the movement with your hands. You can vary this exercise by tipping your head to the right or left and again resisting the movement with your hands. Do several repetitions at your personal comfort level.
Depending on your fitness level you can do all or only some of these exercises at different times during your trip.
The above exercises may also be useful in stimulating circulation in your body or reducing the risk of blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) if you are performing work or leisure activities that require long hours of sitting immobile.
If you have any additional suggestions for exercises please feel free to add them in your comments below.
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