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Get the aisle seat or exercise to avoid blood clots

February 7, 2012

Airplane Exercise

Airplane Exercise

Airlines seats are getting crampier day by day, be it the coach class or the so-called upscale first class. And when you’re on that long-haul flight the next time, have a look in that back-seat pocket for some instructions on simple, basic exercises. Because when it comes to health risks on long flights, it’s not what you pay for your seat, but where you sit that makes the difference.

ABC News reports that the cramped leg room in the cheap seats on long flights can lead to deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots in the legs. The clots can travel through the bloodstream to block blood flow to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism, deadly in as many as 30 percent of sufferers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Also read: How to avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis on long flights


What about the first class, you ask? Sitting in roomier first class seats won’t lower the risk of developing DVT, but sitting in an aisle seat will, according to the American College of Chest Physicians.

Advanced age, pregnancy, use of oral contraception and other forms of estrogen, recent surgery and obesity, also increase the risk of developing DVT during air travel, according to the guidelines. But there’s no evidence that dehydration or alcohol intake will cause clots to form.

People should also watch for the symptoms of a blood clot in the legs, such as tenderness or pain in the calf, warmth, redness or swelling. Serious signs of a pulmonary embolism can include shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, stabbing pain in the chest and an unexplained cough.

So make sure to walk around a bit, and while you do that perform some of these basic exercises:

  • Knee Raise: With your hands on your armrests, slowly lift your knees, lifting both legs simultaneously. Hold for a few seconds. Do this 10 times.
  • Knee to Chest: Hold your right knee and bring it up toward your chest. Hold in that position for around 15 seconds. Repeat with your left leg. Do this 10 times.
  • Leg March: While seated, contract your thigh muscles and march in place. Do this for 30 seconds.
  • Ankle Rotation: Lift your foot, point your toes outward and rotate your foot in a circular motion. Do this for around 30 seconds and then repeat with the opposite foot.
  • Foot Lift Toes: With your heels on the floor, lift the front of your foot and point upward as high as possible. Put both feet flat on the floor. Do this for 30 seconds.
  • Foot Lift Heels: With the balls of your feet touching the floor, lift your heels as high as possible. Do this for 30 seconds.
  • Back Arch: Slowly arch your torso backward while moving your shoulders forward. Slowly arch your torso forward while moving your shoulders backward. This is a good exercise to relieve lower back pain.


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