As the holidays approach, many of us will be spending long hours travelling to spend time with family and friends. In addition to racking up those air miles and frequent flyer rewards, we also often accumulate aches and pains from sitting in cramped airplane seats for hours on end. One particular risk of spending a long time sitting on a plane is deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots.
The World Health Organization determined that one in 4,500 airline passengers are likely to develop blood clots as a direct result of sitting for long periods while flying. The research suggests that flights of four hours or more are two to three times more likely to cause clots than shorter flights. Cramped seats make blood circulation more challenging and stagnant blood can pool in the lower legs. Clots can then form deep in the veins of the legs, which can eventually move the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. If clots reach the lungs, there’s a 20 to 25% chance of the condition being fatal.
Blood clots are more likely to occur in passengers who fall into one or more of the following categories: those who are obese, are on hormone replacement therapy or hormone-based birth control, have had recent surgery, or are frequent flyers.
The good news is that the risk of developing blood clots can be greatly reduced with some easy steps:
- stay hydrated while flying to keep blood volume high and viscosity low, allowing the heart to pump blood more freely.
- wear compression socks to promote blood flow back towards the heart.
- get up and move around every hour during the flight by walking up and down the aisle or standing up to stretch your legs.
- book an aisle seat so getting up and stretching your legs is easier to do than sitting by the window or in the middle seat.
- move your legs while seated, flex your feet up and down to keep the blood flowing freely through the lower limbs, do ankle circles, and hug your knees to your chest.
- avoid sleeping for leg periods of time and take catnaps instead so you’re not staying in the same position for more than a couple of hours at a time.
- walk and stretch before and after flights by avoiding moving walkways or using free space to stretch or do some basic yoga poses.
With some simple, yet effective, movements you can avoid the risk of developing blood clots on longer flights and enjoy your time with friends and family. When you get to your final destination, find a local gym to workout, a local park for invigorating walks or, better still, a local pool that has GlideFit classes so that you can stay in shape while away from home!
Wherever you’re going this Thanksgiving, travel safely and have fun.
From all of us here at GlideFit, we sincerely wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!