Varicose veins may be common, but that doesn’t mean they are popular. Most people find those visible vessels to be unattractive and even uncomfortable at times. While you can’t entirely prevent varicose veins from forming, you can take steps to lower their likelihood of occurring. And steps in the form of exercise are exactly what the doctor ordered!
So what are those bulging, roping veins, and why do they always seem to occur on the legs?
Your veins carry blood from every point in your body back to your heart. It’s not an easy job, since, unlike the arteries, the veins don’t have the advantage of the heart pumping the blood through. Instead, veins are equipped with tiny valves that help move the blood in a single direction.
Lower leg veins have it especially tough since they have to work against gravity and your body weight to move blood up to the heart. Over time, those hard-working valves can weaken or become damaged, which allows blood to pool inside the vessel and a varicose vein to form. While varicose veins can occur in other areas of the body, the lower legs are the most common location for them.
Varicose veins can happen to anyone, with some people having a higher risk of getting them. These factors might make varicose veins more likely to form:
Age - Varicose veins are more likely after the age of 50.
Gender - Varicose veins occur in both men and women, but women are at higher risk.
Weight - Adding pounds adds pressure to the veins, increasing the risk of varicosity.
Inactivity - A sedentary lifestyle can lead to varicose veins at an earlier age.
Standing or Sitting - Standing or sitting for long hours can add strain to those lower leg veins.
Pregnancy - Your growing baby and expanding uterus also add pressure to your leg veins.
Getting a bit of daily movement can be one of the best ways to prevent varicose veins and keep your body in top condition at the same time. Check out these reasons to get up and get moving.
- Exercise to Boost Circulation
There’s nothing like a little physical activity to get the blood pumping. Activities like walking or cycling give lower leg veins a break by stimulating the calf muscle to contract and support the upward flow of blood to the heart. When the blood is moving, it is less likely to pool inside the vessels and cause varicose veins.
- Exercise to Strengthen Muscles
The more those leg muscles contract during your workout, the stronger they become. Strong muscles offer more support to the venous system, reducing pressure on your lower leg veins and preserving the valves inside.
- Exercise to Maintain a Healthy Weight
Your weight plays a pivotal role in the formation of varicose veins. The more weight you put on, the harder it is for the veins to pump blood back up to the heart. Fortunately, daily exercise is an effective way to manage your weight, keeping the extra pounds off and preventing varicose veins.
- Exercise to Improve Digestion
Gentle exercise, like daily walking, can do wonders for your digestive system, keeping things running smoothly through the intestinal tract. Since constipation puts stress on lower leg veins, a healthy digestive system helps prevent varicose veins.
- Exercise to Reduce Symptoms
Varicose veins can be more than a cosmetic concern. In some cases, those visible vessels can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like aching, swelling, and inflammation. Exercise triggers the body to release anti-inflammatory hormones that treat inflammation naturally. The activity also promotes lymphatic drainage to reduce swelling in the lower legs.
There are many reasons to get that workout program off the ground, but where do you start? The good news is it isn’t hard to get moving, and you don’t need a complicated exercise regimen for your veins to reap the benefits. Some of the best exercises for preventing varicose veins include:
Walking can be done anytime and anywhere and all that is required is a good pair of walking shoes. Aim for 30 minutes a day. You can break that up into shorter segments if necessary. If you work behind a desk all day, taking regular breaks to engage in a short walk can do wonders for your body, mental focus, and veins.
Pedaling, whether on a stationary bike indoors or on a mountain bike outdoors, is an effective way to work out those calf muscles. This low-impact activity can be a good alternative to walking if your feet and knees require a gentler approach. Keep an eye on your posture while you are riding to ensure you aren’t putting undue pressure on your back and reducing blood flow in the lower legs.
For low-impact workouts, swimming is one of your best choices. Moving through the water gives your muscles a comprehensive workout without taxing your joints. The water also provides natural compression to help move the blood through your lower leg veins. If you aren’t comfortable in the water, try kicking with a kickboard to get the legs in action.
Yoga poses that help elevate your legs above your heart are a healthy way to give lower leg veins a break. It is also an effective way to build flexibility and strength throughout the body, alleviating the discomfort varicose veins can cause. As you stretch and focus on breathing techniques, you also maximize healthy blood flow.
If mobility is a concern — or even if it isn’t — these two simple exercises can be a great way to prevent varicose veins. For calf raises, simply plant your toes on the ground and raise the rest of your foot as if you are wearing a pair of high-heeled shoes. This exercise can be done while standing or being seated.
Ankle rotations involve elevating your leg and slowly moving your foot in a circular direction. After making circles in one direction for a few minutes, switch directions and do it again. Like calf raises, ankle rotations can be performed standing or sitting.
While varicose veins may be an inevitable part of the aging process for many of us, we don’t have to take them lying down. We can get up and get moving to keep those unsightly vessels at bay. A small amount of daily exercise may do wonders in keeping our leg veins healthy and the rest of our body as well.