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Leg Exercises to Prevent Swelling of the Legs When Sitting for Long Periods of Time

author image Deborah Green
Deborah Green has been providing online content in the health and fitness industries since 2001. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English language teaching from Sussex University and is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science in health studies from The Open University.
Leg Exercises to Prevent Swelling of the Legs When Sitting for Long Periods of Time
Sitting for long periods can induce leg edema. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

If you work at a desk job that requires you to sit for long periods, or have been on a long-haul flight, it is quite likely you have experienced bloating and swelling in your feet and legs. Leg edema is the medical term for this condition, and it is due to a build-up of fluid. As the muscles become inactive, they are unable to pump the fluid back up towards the heart. There are several exercises you can use to get muscles working and reduce the quantity of fluid retained in the legs.


Although it can be awkward if you are in a confined space, during a long period of sitting try to take a short walk every hour. Even if this is just a short trip to the rest room, it can help reduce leg edema.

Ankle Circles

The Australian airline Qantas recommends drawing circles with your ankles to exercise the lower-leg muscles during a long-haul flight. This can also be performed during a long car journey or when sitting at a desk. Raise your feet of the floor and draw a circle with your toes. Simultaneously, move one foot clockwise and the other in a counter-clockwise direction. After rotating for around 15 seconds, reverse directions. Repeat for as long as desired.

Foot Pumping

Perform this exercise to get the foot muscles working in three stages. Position both heels on the floor and point your feet upward as high as possible without raising your heels. Hold for a second and return both feet to the floor. While keeping the balls of your feet flat on the floor, lift your heels as far as you can. Repeat the three movements in a continuous flow every 30 seconds.


The MayoClinic.com's Dr. Sheldon G. Sheps, says that when you are sitting in an airplane or another space where movement may be restricted, you should shift your position at regular intervals to avoid fluid build up. Avoid crossing your legs, as this will further constrict the flow of bodily fluids. Dr. Sheps also recommends that you wear loose clothing and flex your legs and ankles as often as possible.

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