Varicose veins are the bulging, ropy veins that people associate primarily with their unattractive appearance. There is more to this form of venous insufficiency, though. Varicose veins form because valves in the legs become weak. These valves are essential to the upward movement of blood from the legs back to the heart. Just why some valves become faulty is a factor that may differ for everyone. Most commonly, the veins simply weaken over time. When the valves do not close properly, blood can move backward and stagnate in one section of the vein. Over time, the vein swells and twists as a result of the pooled blood. You may have heard that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading factors in the development of varicose veins. To offset the sitting that you may inevitably do, it is important to engage in exercise to decrease the risk of your varicose veins worsening. Proper exercise may also help reduce the risk of future varicose veins from forming. Here, we’ll discuss which exercises are recommended for people with varicose veins.
Proper Exercise Can Reduce Appearance and Discomfort of Varicose Veins
Depending on the severity of your varicose veins, proper exercise performed daily may improve their appearance. In most cases, exercise can help reduce the discomfort caused by these veins. The objective is to engage the calf muscles throughout the day with various movements. The calf muscles are what help pump blood upward from the feet, so we want them to be strong and flexible. To promote healthy calf muscles and circulation through the veins, doctors typically recommend low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, and biking.
Walking is a preferred activity for people with varicose veins for a few reasons. It is not only low-impact but it is simple and convenient. You need no special gear except a good pair of walking shoes. Walking strengthens the calf muscles and gets the heart rate up without causing strain or overexertion. To address the issue of varicose veins (and spider veins), walk at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If you have access to a gym, you may also choose to ride a stationary bike or “walk” on an elliptical machine. If you prefer to keep your exercise activities outdoors and in nature, you might go for a low-impact hike or ride a bicycle around your neighborhood for an hour or so each week.
Floor exercises are another simple yet effective way to strengthen your calf muscles and other muscles in the legs. Some suggested options include:
- Leg lifts. Lying on the back with legs straight, lift the right leg a few inches off the floor. Hold for a count of 5 to 10, then repeat using the left leg. Do this 12 to 15 times and repeat up to three times.
- Ankle rotations. Lying on the back, bring one knee toward the chest. The knee may be at about a 90-degree angle. In this position, flex and rotate the foot in circles to stretch the ankle. Repeat with the other leg.
- Bicycle legs. Lying on the back, lift both legs up with the feet toward the ceiling. With bent knees, slowly move in a pedaling motion as if riding a bicycle. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds or longer, as is comfortable.
- Lunges. Standing with legs about shoulder-width apart, step the right leg forward and bend the right knee, keeping it directly above the ankle. Slowly straighten the leg and step back into the original position. Perform 5 to 10 lunges on each leg. Lunges may be difficult for some people. As an alternative, it can be beneficial to simply stand up and sit down in a comfortable chair.
- Calf raises. Standing with straight legs, lift the heel and rise up on the tiptoes. Hold for a moment before lowering. Repeat 12 to 15 times.
In addition to walking and floor exercises, yoga is an excellent type of exercise for varicose veins. There are many yoga poses that stretch and strengthen the calf and ankle muscles. Poses in which the legs are elevated, such as those in which the legs are positioned up and against a wall at a 90-degree angle, are beneficial because they help move blood from the legs up toward the heart.
Exercise is a necessity for anyone dealing with varicose veins. While not a cure, proper exercise can work against the venous insufficiency that has developed. If you would like to say goodbye to your varicose veins, we can help. Contact Metropolitan Vascular Institute in Waldorf, MD at (301) 374-8540 for your consultation.