Traveling for long distances by car poses a number of challenges to individuals due to long periods of time sitting behind the wheel or cramped in the passenger seat. What if you're flying? Same thing - sitting in a cramped, upright position with little legroom. Both modes of travel make it difficult to get up to walk or stretch.
A few simple exercises you can do when traveling in a car, a plane, or a train can help reduce cramping, numbness, and even prevent a blood clot from forming. It's about awareness, planning ahead, and being proactive before you climb into that car, board that flight or train.
Prevent blood clots while traveling
Blood clots are formed when blood is sluggish or constricted, such as when seated in an upright position with the knees bent and the hips stuck at 90-degree angles for extended periods of time. This leads to slowing and even pooling of the blood especially in the abdomen and lower extremities.
While most individuals travel without any complications, some travelers are at an increased risk of developing blood clots. Those with a family history of clotting issues, obesity, smoking and immobility place a person at an increased risk for the formation of blood clots due to poor circulation, limited mobility, and strain to the heart muscle overall.
Prevention is key. If you're concerned about a long journey ahead of you, speak with your physician about exercise, hydration and activity that may be coordinated to your mode of transportation. For example, if you travel by bus or plane, it's often difficult to just get up and walk around. If driving, rest stops are the only way to get out and walk and stretch.
Several exercises to promote blood flow can be done in small or tight spaces, such as an airplane or bus seat to increase comfort and decrease the potential for pooling of blood. Some examples include:
- Slide your feet under the seat on front of you (or in the car floor well) and straighten your legs as much as you can, then circle your ankles
- Pressing your toes to the floor, lift your heels, contract, release, and repeat
- Seated 'marching in place' is a good way to keep the blood moving in the lower extremities
Perform exercises like these at least once an hour, more often if possible. When driving, frequent rest stops encourage walking and stretching that improve circulation.
Before traveling, be aware of dangers associated with blood clots. No matter what type of travel is planned, plan and prepare.