Deep Vein Thrombosis and Other Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle


People often view first-class seating on an airplane as a luxury purchase. But, first-class seating can actually prevent passengers from developing a serious health condition.

Economy seating on long-haul flights is one of several risk factors of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a health condition that occurs when a blood clot forms within a vein, deep in the body. DVT most commonly refers to blood clots the form in a person's legs.

A Brief History of DVT

DVT first became prevalent during WWII. An unprecedented number of people developed clots from long, immobile periods hiding in air-raid shelters.

When the war ended, international air travel became increasingly popular. Cases of DVT rose alongside the increasing number of long-haul flights.

In both situations, people were sitting for several hours, with limited room to stretch and readjust. Doctors would eventually connect the immobility in these situations to DVT.

What Is the Risk for DVT?

Sitting immobile for 90 minutes reduces blood flow in the leg by 40 per cent, predisposing it to DVT

Professor John PasiConsultant Haematologist at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry

Sitting down for long periods of time slows down blood flow in your legs. As blood flow is reduced, clots may begin to form.

Although DVT is a serious health risk, it isn't the thing that will likely kill you. The more fatal situation is when the blood clots in your legs break off and travel up to your lungs. If the traveling clot blocks an artery in the lungs, it can be fatal. This condition is known as a pulmonary embolism.

Today, DVT is commonly associated with frequent fliers and older adults. However, any sedentary lifestyle can contribute to blood clots forming in the body. Hours spent bingeing Netflix can be just as hazardous as an international flight. People in sedentary jobs are also at a higher risk because of the many hours they spent seating at a desk.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the average American spent about 70% of their waking time sitting. As COVID-19 restrictions limited movement and activities, this percentage may now be higher. Undoubtedly, more people spent the last six months at home and many may have been more sedentary because of this.

Risk factors of DVT include:

  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Surgery
  • Hormonal birth control pills
  • Long-distance travel

Patients with any of these risk factors may be prescribed an anticoagulant to help reduce clotting in the blood. Although blood thinners can reduce a person's risk of DVT, they can cause serious side effects. For example, the manufacturers of the blood thinner, Xarelto, have faced thousands of lawsuits filed by injured patients. Xarelto has caused serious and, in some cases, fatal bleeding injuries. Similarly, a $650 million fund was established to settle over 4,000 Pradaxa lawsuit claims.

Other Sedentary Lifestyle Risks

DVT isn't the only risk of a sedentary lifestyle. People who spend long periods sitting are acting in opposition to what evolution spent centuries molding our bodies to do: move.

We may no longer be on the run from wild animals, but the human body is designed for an active lifestyle. When we choose to spend our time sitting, our muscles can atrophy. Our bones can lose density, and we are at an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, a lack of physical activity can have a serious impact on mental health. Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a higher risk of depression.

Simple Solution: Get Moving!

There are some easy things you can do to decrease the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

The most obvious is to switch out some of your regular seated time with physical activity. If you are not normally active, it is best to start slow with a new exercise routine to avoid injuries. Start slow and gradually build up to a more active lifestyle.

Keep in mind that an hour of exercise doesn't negate eight hours sitting at work. Consider taking more breaks at work to stand up, stretch, and walk around. Try getting up at least once an hour to move. You might also try using a standing desk or visiting a nearby gym on your lunch break.

Small steps like these can make a dramatic difference in your overall health and help prevent a serious condition like DVT.

Authored by Katy Moncivais, Ph.D.Medical Editor
Photo of Katy Moncivais, Ph.D.
Katy Moncivais holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. She’s an experienced Regenerative Medicine Consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital & healthcare industry. Skilled in adult stem cells, medical devices, biomechanics, bacterial and mammalian cell culture, and regenerative medicine, she provides guidance on an array of topics affecting consumers. In her role at, Dr. Moncivais works alongside the writing and research staff to help deliver fact-based news stories to consumers. Her unique professional history alongside her rigorous educational background allows her to contribute to a variety of consumer-focused topics with a fresh perspective. In addition, Dr. Moncivais reviews portions of medically driven content to ensure scientific accuracy.
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