Article after article recommends that you exercise for a healthy heart, stronger muscles, or a smaller waistline. We get that. But what about for the health of your veins —and, specifically, what if you have varicose veins? At Premier Vein Clinics of Knoxville, exercise is an important topic we discuss with our varicose vein patients.
While it may be commonly known that regular exercise can help you lose weight and lower cholesterol and fat levels, it also reduces inflammation in the arteries, according to the American Heart Association. Exercise pumps blood through the arteries and veins, which helps keep them open and flexible. The veins in the legs are critical in that they pump blood back to the heart. During exercise, the calf muscle contracts and squeezes the deep veins, which aids circulation of blood to the heart.
It’s a lack of circulation in the leg veins, due to weak or damaged vein valves that are designed to keep the blood flowing upwards toward the heart, that causes varicose veins. Genetics, obesity, pregnancy, and other factors can cause the valves to weaken, which allows blood to pool in the veins. This is what creates the bulging, ropy appearance of varicose veins, and leads to symptoms that many patients suffer from such as swelling and dull, heavy leg ache or pain.
Varicose veins do not heal on their own, so exercise will not make them go away. However, exercise is one of the best things you can do alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of your varicose vein disease.
The American Heart Association recommends that individuals perform moderately intense exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. For those with varicose veins, certain exercises are better than others. Low-impact exercises — specifically walking, bicycling, and swimming — are ideal since all three exercises strengthen and stretch the calf muscles but don’t jar the joints.
Other exercises may not be recommended. Movements that increase abdominal pressure, such as weight-lifting, also increase venous pressure which may strain your varicose veins. Running can also increase venous pressure, and is more strenuous on your joints, so it may or may not be recommended based on your overall health. Talk to your vein specialist about which activity might be best suited to your body and lifestyle.
If swelling or pain from varicose veins makes it difficult to do weight-bearing exercises, there are other exercises that are beneficial to the health of your veins.
- Leg lifts: Lie on your back and lift one leg above heart level. Hold for 30 seconds to allow the blood to circulate toward your heart. Lower and lift the other leg, then repeat for five lifts each leg.
- Calf raises: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, legs straight. Lift your heels to balance on your tiptoes and hold. Lower and repeat as many times as comfortably possible.
Basically, any exercise which keeps your legs moving and stretching without heavy impact should benefit your varicose veins. You can incorporate many of these exercises into your daily routine — even if it’s as simple as parking farther from the store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator — for healthier veins and a stronger body.
If you are experiencing symptom of varicose veins request a consult with one of Premier Vein Clinic of Knoxville’s experienced vascular surgeons. We can help you determine the best course of action to manage your symptoms and maintain beautiful, healthy legs. Call (865) 588-8229 or schedule your initial consultation online today.