How to keep active on an airplane

Nov7th 2019

Why is exercising during flight important?

Thanksgiving and winter holidays are quickly approaching. Many people will be traveling, and it’s important to keep active during prolonged sitting. Whether flying, driving, or riding, there are always ways to stay moving. In this post we are talking about airline travel and deep vein thrombosis, aka “economy class syndrome”.  

What is “economy class syndrome”?  

Extended periods of sitting without movement can increase risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, often in the legs. Sometimes if the clot (thrombus) gets dislodged, it can travel to the lungs and get stuck, which can be deadly since the lung tissue stops getting blood. This is called a pulmonary embolism.  

Symptoms of DVT include swelling, leg pain, warmth in the area, or discoloration of the skin. However, sometimes people have no symptoms. Check with your doctor from more warning signs and symptoms, or to see if you are at risk for blood clots.  


Depending on a person’s risk level, there are exercises and precautions that can be helpful. We’ve all heard we should get up and walk frequently in-flight, but that’s not always possible. What else do the experts say?  

1) Exercise the arms: Research shows that exercising the arms helps increase circulation, therefore decreasing risk of DVT. An example is shoulder rolls.

2) Most airlines suggest leg exercises such as foot pumps, ankle circles, and knee lifts. 

3) A research scientific study suggests frequent walking, ankle pumps, and heel lifts with toe raises 

While there are lots of preventative measures, it’s best to ask your Physician or Physical Therapist what is best for you. Physical Therapy can be helpful in the prevention and treatment phase of DVT. Call (352) 373-2116 or (352) 692-2131 to schedule your FREE 15min evaluation.