Vein Health & Exercise: Identifying the Right Activities

park-life-2251981_1280There’s one common tip given to everyone looking to be in better health: exercise. This tip is often given to those with varicose or spider veins. However, exercise comes in many forms and you may wonder, which exercises should I do? Which forms of physical activity will have the best impact on my veins and my overall health? The vascular physicians in Orlando at Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center suggest exercise for venous health but want to differentiate between exercises that can help or harm venous insufficiency.

What Makes an Exercise Good or Bad for Veins?

In order to answer this question, let’s first take a look at what causes venous insufficiency. Your veins have valves that work hard to circulate blood through your system. They are under the most pressure in your legs, where they must work against gravity in order to push blood upward through the leg. When these valves become weakened or damaged, they can no longer work efficiently. This causes blood to pool in the leg that can form into a varicose vein.

Exercise is often recommended for venous health because it helps strengthen those vein valves, giving them the extra help they need for proper circulation. However, not all exercise is the same. Some forms of exercise strengthen the valves while others put more strain on them, which can further irritate current vein problems or harm otherwise healthy veins.

It is important to remember that exercise is not a cure for varicose veins, nor will it entirely prevent them—other factors, such as genetics, also determine your risk of venous insufficiency. Actively mixing good exercise habits into your schedule will help your veins—and your overall health, and as an added bonus, some exercises won’t require you to radically reshape your schedule to make time for it.

So, what are the best and worst types of exercise for venous insufficiency?

Weight Lifting

Weight lifting is a popular form of strength training that tones and builds muscle. You don’t have to look far to see people talk about the benefits of weights and extra muscle. However, what is the effect on varicose veins? Weight lifting is, unfortunately, one form of exercise that puts extra, unnecessary stress on venous circulation. It increases abdominal pressure which prevents blood from flowing back to the heart.

Does this mean you can’t lift weights? Not entirely. If you do choose to lift weights, be careful about the type of lifting you do. Use lighter weights with more reps, and make sure you’re using proper form. You should also incorporate aerobic exercise after your weight lifting routine to help get your blood circulating properly afterward.

Lunges, Sit Ups, Crunches, and Yoga

Similar to weight lifting: lunges, sit ups, crunches, and yoga also increase the pressure put on your veins. As we’ve established, you should be aiming for exercises that improve circulation. Lunges, sit ups, crunches, and the prolonged abdominal posturing in yoga may build muscle but at the potential cost of your venous health. Again, if you choose to partake in these exercises, mix in aerobic exercise afterward to help your circulation.

After seeing these common exercises that can harm your veins, you may wonder: what can I do that helps my circulation? The goal is to opt for aerobic exercises, as these improve your circulation and help to strengthen your vein valves. Let’s look at some common forms of aerobic exercise that benefit your venous health.

Running

A popular aerobic exercise, running, strengthens your legs and your veins while also improving your circulation. You don’t have to run as though you’re preparing for a marathon—twenty or thirty minutes in the morning, while it’s still cool outside, will benefit your venous health while also helping you wake up before you start your work day. Just be careful during these hot Florida summers—heat can put additional pressure on your veins. Stay cool, and remember to drink enough water while you’re enjoying your run.

Despite its benefits, running may not be ideal for everyone, especially those with bad knees. This exercise is high-impact and can put additional stress on the joints. If you’re interested in running, try staying off concrete and finding softer terrains to run on. Grass or a synthetic track can soften the impact and lessen any stress on your joints.

Walking, Elliptical, and Stationary Bike

If you don’t like running, there’s no need to worry—there are other, more low-impact exercises that put minimal stress on your joints while still offering the full benefits to venous health. Taking a walk or spending thirty minutes on an elliptical or stationary bike can be an easy, low-stress way to take care of your veins and overall health. These exercises work to strengthen and stretch your calf muscles while also promoting healthy blood flow.

Walking can be the easiest exercise to incorporate in your schedule. A fifteen-minute walk around your neighborhood can be enough to help your circulation. If you work a desk job, it’s especially important to take occasional short walks around the office to offset the negative effects of prolonged sitting. You can also choose to pass up the closest parking spot at the grocery store for one a little further away—your legs will thank you for the extra walking time.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to raise your heart rate while exercising, you can use an elliptical or stationary bike. These great, low-impact exercises will be effective at working your muscles, raising your heart rate, and helping your veins. Just add 30 minutes of these exercises to your daily schedule and you will see a noticeable difference in your venous health and overall health.

With some changes to your exercise regimen, you can get full improvements in your venous health. If you’re worried about any issues you’re having with your veins, there are vascular physicians in Orlando who can help. You can schedule a consultation with them at the Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center today by calling 407-545-3385 or 352-658-5547. We would be happy to diagnose the current state of your venous health and create a treatment plan that would work best for getting your veins in top shape.