All those with an elevated thrombosis risk, frequent flyers as well as elderly, may fare better with walking than with jogging. This is the conclusion of a study about exercise and thrombosis in the Netherlands.
Venous thrombosis, the formation of blood clots in the deep leg veins, has also been called economy class syndrome because it often has been observed after long-haul flights. Advanced age is another major risk factor for this disease. If the blood clots get loose, they may travel to the lungs and block arteries there, causing a life-threatening lung embolism.
In the Netherlands, more than five thousand women and men have been examined, asked about their exercise activities, and followed up to eleven years on average. During this time, 171 new cases of venous thrombosis have been observed. Linking these cases to the exercise activities, it came out that a moderate intensity, for instance walking, comes along with a lower thrombosis risk than high intensity, such as jogging. Jogging is also linked to a higher thrombosis risk than no exercise at all. The researchers admit that they did not expect such a result and that further studies are needed to explain this finding.
Small risk but you may want to keep it as low as possible
Given the small absolute risk of only three percent in this study, the findings are far from being alarming. Jogging has many benefits, so these may be more important than the small increase in thrombosis risk. On the other hand, for elderly people, time spent in physical activity is most important, and a higher intensity may not bring much more benefit.
For frequent flyers, the absolute risk of a deep vein thrombosis is about 0.3 percent a year, summing up to again three percent when compared to the eleven years of the Dutch study in the elderly. Thus, frequent flying seems to be about an equal risk factor for thrombosis as being elderly.
Frequent flyers who love jogging more than walking need not give up their hobby. Instead, on long flights, they can prevent thrombosis risk with leg and foot gymnastics, avoiding to freeze too long in a cramped position. But if your joints ache and your wife or partner would prefer your company going out for a walk together, then turning to walking may be the better decision anyway.
Additional risk factors
Other risk factors are female sex, the pill, smoking, but not varicose veins. If your physician has warned you against or has diagnosed a vein thrombosis, you may prefer walking to jogging.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/appaloosa/205091570/