[Video] Lower leg exercises to prevent DVT

Profile picture of Michelle Njagi
Senior MSK Physiotherapist at Bupa UK
04 March 2021
Next review due March 2024

Many of us have been less active during the pandemic. This may be due to working from home or because of needing to shield. But being inactive for long periods of time is linked to an increased risk in developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Here, I share some simple lower leg exercises you can do daily from the comfort of your own home to help prevent DVT.

What is DVT?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which a blood clot forms in one of your deep veins, often because of reduced circulation. This is usually in one of the large veins in your leg, but you can also get it in your pelvis or abdomen.

What causes DVT?

Being inactive for long periods of time is a common cause of DVT. This may happen because:

  • you’re in hospital or recovering at home following surgery
  • you sit still during a long journey (ie, long-haul flight)
  • you spend long periods of time sitting down, maybe because you work at a computer or you’re elderly

There is a possible link between coronavirus (COVID-19) and DVT too. Doctors have noticed an increase of DVT in patients in hospital with coronavirus. But the data is still developing, and more research is needed.

There are other reasons you can develop DVT, but today I want to focus on reduced movement as a cause. Maybe because you work from home or can’t get out of the house much?

Lower leg exercises

Follow the exercises in the video if you’re spending long periods of time sitting down. They’re quick and easy to do, and suitable for everyone.

Where to do the exercises

  • If you work at a computer, you can easily perform these exercises at your desk.
  • If you’re elderly and spend a lot of time sitting down and being inactive, use a kitchen chair to do them.
  • If you’re recovering from surgery, you can do them sitting on the side of your bed with someone assisting you.

Exercise 1: Heel raise.

Lift up onto the balls of your feet and slowly come back down. Make sure you can feel your calf muscles working (engaging). You can do this either standing up or sitting down.

Perform for 30 seconds, three times a day.

Exercise 2: High knees.

In a standing position, lift one leg up at a time, trying to get your knee to a 90-degree angle or as close to that as you can manage. Move your arms to help you balance. To make it harder, rise onto your toe as you lift your opposite knee up.

Perform three sets of 10 reps.

Exercise 3: Leg extensions.

Sitting down with some space in front of you, raise one leg to straighten then lower it back down. Point your toes as you raise your leg, flex your foot as you bring it back down. To make it harder, extend both legs at the same time.

Perform three sets of 10 reps.

Exercise 4: Hamstring and calf stretch.

In a sitting position, lengthen one leg straight ahead of you, keeping the heel of that foot on the floor. Place your hands on your bend knee and flex your foot on the stretched leg. Keep your back straight as you hinge forward.

Perform for 30 seconds, three times a day.

Exercise 5: Sit to stand.

Place your arms across your chest as you stand up and sit down. Make it harder by doing this as a squat, without a chair.

Perform three sets of 10 reps.

If you have a muscle, bone or joint problem, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. If you’re covered by your health insurance, you’ll be able to get advice from a physiotherapist usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

Profile picture of Michelle Njagi
Michelle Njagi
Senior MSK Physiotherapist at Bupa UK

    • Deep vein thrombosis. Patient., last edited May 2020
    • Deep vein thrombosis . Medscape., updated June 2019
    • Deep vein thrombosis. MSD Manual – Professional Version., last full review/revision February 2021
    • Marone E, Rinaldi L. Upsurge of deep venous thrombosis in patients affected by COVID-19: Preliminary data and possible explanations J Vasc Surg Venous Lymphat Disord 2020; 8(4): 694–95. doi: 10.1016/j.jvsv.2020.04.004
    • Di Minno A, Ambrosino P, Calcaterra I, et al. COVID-19 and venous thromboembolism: a meta-analysis of literature studies. Semin Thromb Hemost 2020; 46(7):763–71. doi: 10.1055/s-0040-1715456
    • Baccellieri D, Bertoglio L, Apruzzi L, et al. Incidence of deep venous thrombosis in COVID-19 hospitalized patients during the first peak of the Italian outbreak. Phlebology 2020. doi: 10.1177/0268355520975592. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33241746

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