Blood clots that occur within veins or arteries can cause serious health problems. Certain exercises and stretches can help prevent blood clots.

Blood clots typically affect veins in the arms, legs, or pelvis. If untreated, these blood clots can cause a pulmonary embolism. This involves a blockage of blood flow to the lungs.

However, there are many ways to reduce the chance of developing a blood clot. Staying hydrated and maintaining a moderate weight can both help.

Certain types of exercise, such as walking, can also decrease the likelihood of a blood clot.

This article reviews some of the best exercises for preventing blood clots.

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Blood clots occur more often in older individuals and those with underlying health conditions. For example, they may affect people recovering from surgery and are more common among individuals with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Staying active and maintaining a moderate weight are some of the most effective ways to prevent blood clots. Seated exercises can be a good option for individuals with all levels of mobility.

Read about the types of blood clots.

Ankle circles

Ankle circles can help promote blood flow to the feet and ankles. To perform this exercise:

  • Elevate one foot slightly off the ground.
  • Roll the ankle counterclockwise for 15 seconds, then clockwise.
  • Repeat as many times as desired.

Knee lifts

To do a knee lift, follow these steps:

  • Keep the knee bent.
  • Raise one knee to the chest.
  • Bring the leg back to the starting position.
  • Repeat with the other leg.
  • Try to do 20 to 30 repetitions for each leg.

Shoulder rolls

Rolling the shoulders can increase circulation throughout the upper body. To do this exercise:

  • Lift shoulders upward toward the ears
  • Gently move the shoulders backward, down, and forward to create a circular motion.
  • Continue this circular movement for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat in the other direction if desired.

Bicep curls

Performing bicep curls with body weight alone can also help reduce the chance of blood clots. For a bicep curl:

  • Begin with the arms in front of the torso at 90 degrees.
  • Lift one hand toward the chest.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Alternate arms and repeat.
  • Continue for 30 seconds.

Toe lifts

Toe lifts can decrease the risk of a blood clot by encouraging blood circulation in the calves.

For this exercise:

  • Keep the heels grounded on the floor.
  • Elevate the toes in an upward direction.
  • Return the toes to their starting position on the floor.
  • Repeat as desired.

Learn more about chair exercises.

Gentle stretching can encourage healthy blood circulation. There are many ways to stretch effectively while remaining seated.

Seated hamstring stretch

The hamstring muscles are on the back part of the leg above the knee. For a seated hamstring stretch:

  • Sit on the front half of a chair.
  • Keep one foot grounded on the floor with the knee bent.
  • Extend the other leg straight toward the ground, keeping the heel on the floor and toes pointed up.
  • Center the chest over the extended leg, keeping the back straight.
  • Slowly bend forward from the waist until there is a slight stretch in the back of the outstretched leg.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Switch legs.
  • Repeat 3 times on each leg.

Knee to chest stretch

Another leg stretch involves moving the knee toward the chest. To perform a knee to chest stretch, follow these steps:

  • Clasp both hands around one knee.
  • Bend forward slightly, gently pulling the knee to the chest.
  • Hold for 15 seconds.
  • Slowly lower the knee.
  • Repeat on the other leg.
  • Do 10 repetitions on each leg.

Neck stretches

Neck stretches are a great option for stretching while seated.

To perform a neck roll stretch:

  • Relax the shoulders and neck.
  • Drop one ear to the shoulder.
  • Gently roll the head forward and then to the other side.
  • Hold each position for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times.

In addition to seated exercises and stretches, there are a number of ways to prevent blood clots during a flight. These may include:

  • walking up and down the aisle every 2 to 3 hours
  • wearing compression stockings
  • exercising the calf muscles while seated:
    • Raise and lower the heels with the toes on the floor.
    • Raise and lower the toes with the heels on the floor.
    • Tighten and release the muscles.
    • Wear loose-fitting clothing.

Staying hydrated during a flight can also decrease the risk of blood clots. Gentle exercise before a flight, such as taking a brisk walk before boarding, can help promote circulation throughout the body.

Read about flying with a blood clot.

Taking proactive steps to prevent blood clots can help decrease the risk of serious health complications. Additional ways to prevent blood clots may include:

  • reducing salt consumption
  • elevating the feet while lying down
  • avoiding tight-fitting clothing
  • changing body positions frequently
  • avoiding crossing the legs

Certain prevention strategies may be more suitable for some people than for others. Speak with a healthcare professional to learn more about preventing blood clots.

Read about the symptoms of a blood clot.

How do you prevent blood clots naturally?

To prevent blood clots naturally, prioritize a healthy and balanced diet and exercise routine. Maintaining a moderate weight can reduce the risk of blood clots. Staying active and avoiding sitting or lying in the same position for long periods of time, can also help.

What is the best sleeping position to prevent blood clots?

Keeping the feet elevated over the heart may prevent blood clots. To achieve this, elevate the bottom of the bed about 4 to 6 inches. Avoid sleeping with a pillow under the knees.

How much exercise a day to prevent blood clots?

Taking breaks from sitting or lying down can help prevent blood clots. However, the appropriate amount of exercise can vary between individuals. The American Heart Association (AHA) states that most adults should try to get 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity.

An individual can speak with their healthcare professional for advice on ways to exercise safely.

Does moving your legs in bed help prevent blood clots?

For individuals with limited mobility, it may not be possible to perform seated or standing exercises. Moving the legs while lying down can help increase circulation and prevent blood clots.

Blood clots within veins or arteries can cause a range of health issues. One is pulmonary embolism, which is a blockage of blood to the lungs.

Many exercises can prevent blood clots for individuals with all levels of mobility. Seated exercises and stretches may be helpful options during a long plane or car ride. A range of exercises can also be effective while lying down in bed.

Taking proactive steps to promote healthy circulation is the best way to prevent blood clots and associated health conditions. To learn more about reducing the risk of blood clots, consult with a healthcare professional.