The Top 5 In-Flight Exercises To Help Prevent Blood Clots

The Top 5 In-Flight Exercises To Help Prevent Blood Clots

No, you don’t have to drop and give us 20 or engage in burpees while on the plane. There are many movements and stretches that may help prevent blood clots on the plane during upcoming travel, according to health experts. These exercises are for everyone and any travel plans, be they for upcoming holiday visits, business, or vacation. 

The most dangerous flights are long-distance ones, which generally exceed four hours. Certain passengers have a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots, during longer flights. The longer the flight, the higher the risk of developing a clot. In fact, the American Society of Hematology suggests that flights that last eight to 10 hours pose the greatest risk. 

Being on a plane, or traveling in general, for long hours can cause blood clots. Sitting for long periods can slow circulation, which contributes to the formation of clots. Plus, the limited leg room on an airplane doesn’t do your body any favors. Additionally, lack of back support can make you uncomfortable all over the body. That’s why experts suggest engaging in certain exercises and stretches to help reduce muscle tightness and the risk of blood clots. 

5 Exercises To Try On Your Next Flight

The best exercise to help prevent blood clots is to stand up and walk around the plane. Since space is a limiting factor, especially if the plane is smaller, you cannot always get up in the aisle and walk around. Fortunately, there are beneficial movements you can do without leaving your seat, provided you cannot get up on your flight. All of the following exercises work to increase circulation to your lower extremities, including the ankles, calves, hamstrings, and quads. Experts recommend that you repeat each exercise every one to three hours, depending on your risk of blood clots. 

Seated Marches

This is a gentle exercise that works to improve blood circulation throughout the cardiovascular system by contracting the leg muscles. Sit up straight in your seat so that you aren’t leaning against the back of the seat. Aim to sit on the edge of your seat, if space allows, and keep both feet flat on the floor, knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Lift one knee about two to three inches off the floor, while you keep the other foot on the ground. Engage your core to prevent curling or flexing in the lower back. Return your foot to the floor in a controlled manner and then repeat the same motion on your other leg. Complete 10 to 20 reps per leg. 

Heel Raises

This is a great movement to promote blood flow, as it requires you to contract the biggest muscle in your calf. You have to complete this exercise standing up, either standing in the aisle or back of the plane. Stand up straight with your feet hip-distance apart and use your seat to provide stability and support. Squeeze your glutes and engage your calves to raise both heels off the ground as high as you comfortably can. In the apex of the exercise, you should be standing on the balls of your feet. Pause at the top and then slowly lower back down to the starting position. Complete a total of 20 reps. 

Seated Hamstring Stretch

You can do this stretch at your seat in the gate area, or at your seat on the plane. It aims to improve flexibility in the hamstring muscles, which can easily tighten during a longer flight. Sit up straight at the edge of your seat and fully extend your right leg out in front of you, placing your heel on the ground and toes pointed up. Keep your left knee bent with your foot planted flat on the floor. Hinge at the hips to lean forward until you feel a stretch along the back of your thigh. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and then slowly return to the upright position. Switch sides and then repeat two to four more times per leg. 

Seated Ankle Pumps

Promote blood flow by activating the muscles in the lower leg, which works to decrease the risk of blood clot formation. This muscle contraction encourages blood flow from the legs up to the heart. Sit up straight with your back against your seat, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Make sure that your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle as you lift your heels off the ground while keeping your toes on the floor. Lower the heels back to the ground and then raise your toes toward the ceiling. Continue alternating to complete a total of 20 reps. 

Piriformis Stretch

The piriformis muscle runs from your lower spine through your butt and to the top of your thighs. Sitting for long periods of time can easily aggravate and inflame this muscle. If this muscle tightens, it can compress the sciatic nerve, so stretching it can help prevent lower back and hip pain during your flight. Sit up straight at the edge of your seat with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and feet planted on the ground. Cross your right knee over your left so that your right ankle is resting just above your left knee. You can use your right hand to gently press down on your right inner thigh to open up the hip. You should feel a stretch along your glute and outside of your hip. To increase the stress, lean forward slightly. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat on your left leg.



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