10 Exercises to do on the Plane to Avoid DVT

Winter is here and that means it’s time to hop on that plane and chase that sunshine! Often though, this involves a long haul flight and many hours sitting down. The limited leg room and inability to move around cannot only be uncomfortable, but can also lead to stiff, sore and cramped legs, as well as a risk of developing DVT. 

What is DVT?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that develops in deep veins in the body, usually in the legs. DVT becomes life-threatening when the clot breaks off and moves through the blood stream causing an embolism. When travelling, there is always a greater risk of developing DVT due to the increased sedentary time over a long haul flight. This risk is heightened even more if you already suffer from varicose veins before flying.

Signs and symptoms of DVT can include:

– Swelling in the affected leg. Rarely this swelling is across both legs
– Pain in the leg. This pain often starts in your calf and can feel like cramping or soreness
– Red or discolouration of the skin
– A feeling of warmth in the affected leg

Fortunately, this does not mean you cannot fly at all, but there is a few precautions you should take to avoid the risk of serious complications. Some of these include trying to regularly stretch and walk up and down the isles to allow maximal blood circulation. There are a number of exercises you can easily complete while flying to lessen your risk of DVT:

Seated Plane Exercises:

Toe raises: Seated with knees bent, keep your heels on the ground and lift your toes and the front of your foot as high off the ground as you can.

Ankle circles: lift one foot off the ground. Rotate your foot around to draw big circles from your ankles. Repeat on both feet.

Shoulder rolls: sit in a relaxed position with your arms by your side. Slowly roll your shoulders in forwards and backwards motions.

Neck rotations: Next, rotate your head in clockwise and counter-clockwise motions. For an additional neck stretch, place your left hand on top of your head and gently pull it towards your left shoulder. Repeat on the right side.

Standing Plane Exercises:

Calf raises: hold onto the back of your chair for balance and stand up nice and tall. Lift up onto your tippy toes, hold for one second and slowly lower your heels back down.  

Quad stretches: hold onto the back of your chair and bend one knee, bringing your foot up towards your bum. Grab your ankle with your hand, pull your foot close to your bum and hold the stretch for 15-30seconds. Release and switch sides.

Walking: When the seatbelt sign is off, of course, take the opportunity to walk around the cabin every few hours at a minimum. Walking will ensure that the blood flow circulates normally from your feet back up to your heart and prevent risk of DVT.

Exercises That Might Look a Little Strange but are Great to do Anyway:

Squats: Standing up tall, bend your knees and squat down like you are going to sit in a chair. Keep your chest up tall then stand back up straight again.

Lunges: take a big step forwards and bend your knees, dropping your back knee down towards the ground. Push back up through your front foot and bring both feet back together again. Alternate legs.

Lumbar rolldown: now this one you can do sitting if you have the space. Tuck your chin to chest and rolldown from the top of your back to almost fold yourself in half so your hands come down towards your toes. Slowly unfold yourself and roll back up to a tall position.