Exercise is essential for vein health and overall health — just make sure you’re not putting extra stress on your varicose veins.
If you have varicose veins, you may be avoiding exercise out of fear that it will make your varicose veins worse or increase uncomfortable symptoms like swelling or aching. However, too much sitting or standing isn’t good for your veins — moving around and getting the heart pumping can activate your circulation and potentially improve your varicose vein health.
In fact, a sedentary lifestyle can cause leg muscles to have trouble sending blood back to the heart. That’s because the one-way valves in the veins weaken, leading to venous insufficiency, which can worsen varicose veins or cause new ones to appear.
Exercise, on the other hand, offers a range of health benefits. It won’t make your current varicose veins disappear, but it could prevent new varicose veins from forming, and even relieve some of the pressure, itching, and aching associated with poor vein health.
Exercises Safe for Varicose Veins
Gentle to moderate exercise is your best bet for healthier veins; if you experience discomfort or pain it’s important to stop promptly and talk to a doctor about what kinds of exercise might be a better fit for you. In addition to choosing the right type of exercise, it’s important to warm up ahead of time and drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
If you’re just starting out, it’s important to work out the calves and thighs, which can help keep the blood moving in your legs and build your strength. To focus on these muscles, try simple exercises like calf raises or leg lifts. As your legs grow stronger, other exercises will become easier and put less stress on your joints and veins.
Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercises, and surprisingly effective. Incorporating walking into your routine has many health benefits, including improved blood pressure and circulation. Running and jogging can be great exercises for varicose veins, but running on a hard surface can be too much for the legs, and can aggravate vein swelling. If you like jogging, try it on a softer surface like an indoor treadmill, or consider using an elliptical machine to get those cardio benefits.
Cycling and swimming are great cardio exercises that also utilize your leg muscles in a safe, low-impact way. Swimming can be an especially good option, as your legs are at your heart level, helping blood flow out of your leg veins. Either cycling and swimming for 20-30 minutes at a time is a good way to get started with exercising, as these exercises involve leg movement but don’t put undue stress on your limbs.
Some forms of weightlifting may not be a good option for patients with varicose veins, as the increased pressure and straining, especially using the abdominal muscles, can cause additional vein dilation. To stay safe, use less weight, don’t hold your breath as you lift, and perform exercises where your legs can be level with or higher than your heart, like bench presses.
Generally, be conscious of when you could be increasing pressure on your leg veins. Exercises like squats, lunches, or certain yoga poses may also put undue pressure on your veins.
Talk to Your Doctor
Before beginning a new exercise program, be sure to talk to your doctor to ensure that you can safely exercise. In addition, remember that while exercise can help prevent additional varicose veins, and may even provide relief from some discomfort associated with varicose veins, exercise alone can not make the veins disappear.
If you find that exercise isn’t sufficient to manage your symptoms, it’s time to talk to a doctor about a varicose vein procedure that can restore your vein health. The Desert Vein Institute provides the Las Vegas area with a range of straightforward, effective vein treatments. Ask our staff about the treatments that may be right for you.