What a successful week. The business trip in Shanghai went off without a hitch. You made the sale, you ate a lot of fried noodles, and now it’s time to relax on the long flight home. Alas, the happiness that comes with victory is as fleeting as the streaming clouds passing by your tiny window. Soon, you realize you’re in Economy Class seated in a cramped, crusty airplane chair next to a sweaty, smelly ogre of a man. You get a cramp in your shoulder. Your arm falls asleep. Your legs are pinned uncomfortably under the seat in front of you. Mere moments pass before your ankles begin to throb, then your calves shudder, and soon, both your legs feel as though tiny needles are unmercifully poking them in rhythm.
If you continue to sit there motionless, dealing with the progressive pain, then you are putting yourself at risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a formation of a blood clot (thrombus) primarily in your deep leg veins. Don’t gasp in horror, yet. Through a variety of simple exercises, you can take the proper precautions to reduce the risk of DVT (also as known as “Economy Class Syndrome”).
Let’s start out with some seated exercises:
- Ankle Circles: Lift your feet off the floor and twirl them as if you’re drawing circles with your toes. Feel free to continue this for fifteen seconds and then to really entertain yourself, reverse direction. Repeat if desired, but don’t break a sweat. You just want to get the blood flowing, not perspire as much as the behemoth next to you
- Foot Pumps: This one’s really subtle. Take off those seven-inch stilettos, and press your feet flat on the ground. Okay, now keep your heels on the floor and lift your feet towards you as high as possible. Hold for a second or two and then flatten your feet. Then you got to reverse it, girl. Lift your heels as high up as possible, keeping the balls of your feet on the floor. Continue for thirty seconds, and repeat as desired.
- Knee Lifts: I’m not going to lie …this next one might draw a few peculiar glances. But, who gives a damn? Keeping your legs bent, lift your knee up as to your chest. Bring it back to the normal position and repeat with your other leg. Repeat twenty to thirty times for each leg.
- Shoulder Roll: For this next one, think of slow-motion shoulder shimmy. Lift your shoulders upward, and then pull them backward, downward, and forward, creating a gentle circular motion. Continue for thirty seconds. Then reverse direction if desired. Again, you must realize that anyone watching you will find what you’re doing to be strange. Just laugh it off. You know how to prevent DVT. Don’t tell them. They’ll suffer later.
- Arm curl: Start with arms on chair rests, bent at a 90-degree angle. Raise one hand up to your chest and back down. Alternate hands and continue for thirty seconds. Coincidentally, this exercise done simultaneously with the above “Shoulder Roll” could be your next favorite dance move next time you hit the clubs.
Okay, you can actually feel your right arm and that pain in your legs is gradually subsiding. You’re ready for some tomato juice and peanuts. Not so fast, Missy! You’re only half-way done!
Continue with these important seated stretches:
- Knee to Chest: With both hands clasped around your right knee, bend forward slightly and pull your knee to your chest. Hold the stretch for fifteen seconds; then slowly let your knee down. Repeat the same stretch with your left knee. Perform ten stretches for each leg. This stretch feels great and really should be performed daily, in-flight or not.
- Forward Flex: Keep both feet on the floor and slowly bend forward, reaching for your ankles. Hold that stretch for fifteen seconds. Stop. I know what you’re thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter. With that being said, don’t be surprised if you draw an adolescent boy’s stares. His perverted brain knows not of the great work you’re doing to prevent DVT from ravaging the lower half of your body.
- Overhead Stretch: Check your pits for sweat stains and if all is clear, raise both hands straight up over your head. Use one hand to grab the wrist of the opposite hand and gently pull to one side. Hold the stretch for fifteen seconds, and repeat with the other arm.
- Shoulder Stretch: Bring your right hand over your left shoulder. Then place your left hand behind your right elbow and gently pull your elbow toward your body. Hold the stretch for fifteen seconds and repeat with the other arm. This will look like your hugging yourself. And maybe you should more often. After all, you are a splendid human being.
- Neck Roll: Relax your neck and shoulders. Then drop your right ear to your right shoulder and gently roll your head forward and to the other side, holding each position about five seconds. Repeat five times. Try this at the dancehall as well.
- Try to keep your feet elevated whenever possible. Rest them on carry-on luggage. Rest them on the lap of a complete stranger. Whatever you’re comfortable with.
- Don’t be bashful about walking around the cabin. You or your company paid for Economy flight. It cost you or somebody money … not as much as first class where they massage your feet at the snap of a finger. No matter! Do what you want! Get your money’s worth! Walk around. Do lunges in the aisles. It’s your playground.
- Drink plenty of fluids. This in itself will make you get up and walk to the bathroom. Don’t worry about annoying people around you. Squawk at them angrily! You’ll never see them again.