Improving circulation and heart health is a primary benefit of a regular exercise program. Exercise improves muscle tone in your legs, which helps to pump blood back to your heart. Regular, low impact, and cardiovascular exercise can even help reduce the appearance and alleviate symptoms of varicose veins.
If you have varicose veins, it is important to check with your doctor prior to starting an exercise program. Based on your individual case, your doctor will advise you on which types of exercises to avoid. As a general rule, people with varicose veins may benefit from regular exercises aimed at strengthening the calf muscles.
Which Types of Exercises Should I do?
Low impact cardiovascular or weight-bearing exercises are best if you have varicose veins.
Walking is both a very natural and low impact exercise for the heart and lower legs. Taking a brisk walk outside burns calories, strengthens the leg muscles associated with circulating venous blood, and provides fresh air and access to vitamin D producing sunlight. A brisk 30-minute walk daily may even reduce the appearance of varicose veins and prevent new ones.
Bike Riding, Cardio Machines, and Ellipticals are also good alternatives for low impact exercising. It is best to combine bike riding with other forms of exercise due to the sitting nature of the exercise, however, bike riding also strengthens the calves and buttocks increasing circulation in both the upper and lower legs. Resistance levels on cardio machines can also be adjusted for varying intensities. Caution should be taken with heavy resistance due to strain on the venous walls. If pain is experienced during the activity, you should decrease the resistance or stop the activity. If the pain does not improve or worsens, you should notify your doctor.
Recommended Static Exercises assist in building muscle tone and strength, which act as natural compression for swollen veins. Static exercises using the weight of your legs as leverage are generally enough to increase tone and circulation to the legs. Examples of these exercises include leg lifts and calf raises with no weights or light ankle weights. Bicycle legs performed by lying flat on your back and moving your legs in a bicycle type motion use the weight of your own legs to build strength and endurance.
Which Type of Exercises Should I Avoid?
Heavy Weight Lifting, Lunges, and Squats place an added strain and pressure on venous walls in the legs. You have probably noticed bulging veins on people that lift heavy weights. The same amount of strain placed on varicose veins can worsen the condition. Weight lifting does have benefits in an exercise program, such as increasing bone density, boosting metabolism, and increasing circulation. If you do weight lift, a circuit training program alternating cardio and lifting will reduce the strain on vein walls. Remember to use lighter weights or your own body weight as resistance and maintain proper breathing while lifting. Discontinue the activity if veins become worse or painful.
Running is excellent for cardiovascular health, however, it is treacherous on the joints and legs due to its high impact. Running on asphalt or concrete is even worse if you have varicose veins. If your veins aren’t painful and you prefer running, try running on softer surfaces, such as grass or rubberized tracks.
When to Consult a Specialist
Your vein specialist is your primary resource when choosing an exercise program appropriate for your needs. Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program and after vein procedures to determine your best course of action. Always consult your specialist for changes in pain or worsening of the condition.