Keeping healthy at your desk

My husband’s just been diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and has come home from the outpatient’s department with a well-designed, simply-written care and information pack.

Flicking through the Patient Information Booklet, I found the following DVT-prevention exercises, similar to the ones recommended for airline passengers. I thought they might be useful for all of us desk-workers. I’ve added some exercises for neck and shoulders, and a couple suggested by Vito himself (the irony of Vito getting DVT is that he’s a former sports coach and physically active!). These exercises can all be done sitting at your desk.


Paddle your feet up and down and circle them round and round.

Starting with feet flat on floor, raise your ankles (so pointing your feet, as if you’re standing on tiptoes). Lower your ankles and raise your toes (flexing your feet).


Brace your knees back so that you can feel the muscle tighten on the front of the thigh. Hold for a count of three and then gently relax. Your knee caps should move slightly.


Clench you buttock muscles together and hold for a count of 3 before relaxing.

Neck and shoulders

Sit up straight as you work. Shoulders back and down, chin down (not thrusting forward), back of neck long, imaginary string pulling up from crown of head.

Circle head slowly, first in one direction then the other, starting with small circles and gradually increasing. You might hear some crackling going on in your neck – don’t worry. Unless your head falls off, in which case call a doctor immediately.

Sitting up straight, turn your head to look first over your right shoulder, then your left.

Lower head first to one side, back to upright, then to other side (as though trying to rest your ear on your shoulder). Don’t raise your shoulder.

Circle your shoulders first in one direction then the other (shrugging them up towards your ears at the top of the circle and squeezing your shoulder-blades down and towards each other as you lower).


Keeping your upper arms close to your sides, raise your forearms so that your hands are level with your shoulders.

The DVT leaflet advises repeating the above exercises 10 times each and every hour. If that’s too much, select some from each category and alternate them between one session and the next. Some of these exercises are illustrated in this feature from Italy’s la Repubblica newspaper


Place your hands on the side of your rib cage. Take a deep breath and feel your ribs being pushed out to the side as you expand your lungs. Do this 3 or 4 times every hour. This will help ensure you get a good exchange of air in the bottom pockets of your lungs. (It sounds similar to the Pilates breath, where, as you breathe out by pushing ribs down and in, you also pull in the core muscles (abdomen and waist) and pull up the pelvic floor).


Get up from your desk every now and again and stretch or walk about.

We all know we should do these exercises – how many of us do?

Postscript 1: If you’d like more information on health and fitness, you can contact Vito directly: vito at informafitness co uk

Postscript 2: Our family’s having a National Health Service week of it, as my mother is also having health problems. She’s just out of hospital but may have to be re-admitted. I’d like to say here that I think our Health Service is truly wonderful – certainly here in Glasgow. We’ve had such wonderful help and care from all the staff concerned. We are very, very lucky. I love the NHS.

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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    1. Hi, I’ve had a look at your blog and the website – looks like a fairly specialist line of chocolate you have.
      I never eat chocolate at my desk but always have a couple of squares after dinner. Dark chocolate. I LOVE the stuff!

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