There’s one common tip given to everyone looking to be in better health: exercise. Regardless of whether you are an athlete or not, this tip is often given for vein health 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?
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.
What Makes an Exercise Good or Bad for Veins?
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.
Being overweight can also increase your risk for varicose veins. Managing that weight is another reason why exercising is good for varicose veins.
What Exercises Can Help Your Vein Health
When picking exercises to boost your circulation and help your veins, low-impact is usually the better route. There are many low-impact exercises that you can fit into your daily routine — and most of these can be done at home without any additional equipment. These include:
Walking is one of the best low-impact exercises you can do. This exercise stretches and strengthens the calves, which is great for boosting circulation in your legs. Try walking for 30 minutes a day, even if it needs to be broken up throughout the day. This can include taking short walks during your workday to break up long patterns of sitting (which is also bad for your veins!), or by parking further away from the grocery store to get those extra steps.
Either a regular or stationary bike can be beneficial for your leg health. Don’t have a bike? You can still benefit from mimicking the bicycling motion. Try lying on your back and putting your legs up in the air, bending them at the knee. Then, peddle your legs as if riding a bike. Perform this motion with both legs for a challenge, or do one leg at a time for an easier, yet still beneficial exercise.
Start by standing with both legs together. Then take one slow step forward and bend that same leg. Make sure your knee stays directly over your ankle. Hold this position before coming back to a neutral stand. Then repeat with the other leg.
This is a great one for those hot summer months. Being horizontal when swimming places your legs above your heart, which encourages blood to flow upward through the leg.
If these forms of exercise are unavailable, that’s okay, too. The simple act of rocking your feet can help circulation in the leg, where the calf muscles are. Just rock your feet back and forth from heel to toe. This can be done at any time during the day and is a great one to try if you’re frequently spending most of your day either sitting or standing.
Ellipticals and Stationary Bikes
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.
Yoga can be another great way to help you get moving without putting extra stress on your veins.
What Exercises Are Bad For Vein Health
These exercises may put a strain on your vein system, but they are still very important for overall health. They tend to put undue stress on your veins.
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.
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.
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Of course, it’s also important to remember that exercise isn’t the only thing that can help your vein health. Make sure you’re drinking lots of water and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Exercising can help your vein health, but it won’t entirely prevent varicose veins, nor will it cure existing ones. If you currently have concerns about your veins, schedule a consultation with the vein specialists in Orlando at Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center by today. We’ll assess the current state of your veins and create a treatment plan that will be best for you.