Get office workers up and moving

Instead of "economy class syndrome," should deep vein thrombosis (DVT) be called "sitting at a desk all day syndrome?" According to new research, prolonged sitting at work is linked to double the risk of DVT and pulmonary embolism.1 And, the more hours you sit with out getting up, the higher your risk, say the researchers. Each additional hour spent sitting without getting up increased the likelihood of blood clots by 20%.

Encourage workers to get up from their desks at least every hour, avoid sitting in cramped conditions, and move their feet and legs while seated, says Richard Beasley, one of the study's authors and a researcher at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand.

"These measures should contribute to a significant reduction in risk of venous thromboembolism associated with prolonged seated immobility at work," says Beasley.

It stands to reason that any job which requires sedentary activity increases the risk of DVT, says Deborah V. DiBenedetto, MBA, RN, COHN-S/CM, FAAOHN, president of DVD Associates in Battle Creek, MI. "Have workers get up and leave their work stations to take a walk and stretch their legs, as well as [do] exercises to avoid carpal tunnel and tendonitis which are associated with desk tasks," she says.

Occupational health professionals need to make the workforce, their dependents, and retirees aware that sedentary activities increase risk of DVT and its complications, including pulmonary emboli, says DiBenedetto.

"Ergonomics programs for office workers should include 'get up and go' activities to spur individuals to change positions at least hourly and keep the circulation moving," says DiBenedetto. "Knowing that we work for longer periods of time, often 10 or 12 hours sitting at our desks, with three or four hours at a single stretch, we need to get moving and take a break from our sedentary positions."

To prevent DVTs, DiBenedetto says that workers should stand at their workstation and stretch their legs, arms, and torso, and take a short walk every 30 minutes. Ask workers to rotate their feet in small circles, or write the alphabet with their feet elevated in the air every hour.

"It is imperative to not cross your legs and impede blood flow," she says. "DVT is avoidable, as are ergonomic injuries in the workplace. Both require worker training and engagement, with organizational support to ensure success."


  1. West J, Perrin K, Aldington S, et al. A case–control study of seated immobility at work as a risk factor for venous thromboembolism. J Royal Med Soc 2008; 101:237-243.