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What you need to know about varicose veins and exercise

Source: La Jolla Light, San Diego Vein Institute

Exercise is good for you, right? Yes, exercise in general is beneficial – not all exercises are recommended for someone living with varicose veins. Low-impact aerobic exercises, such as walking and cycling, are sound choices for anyone diagnosed with varicose veins but exercises that increase abdominal pressure are not recommended, including weightlifting, squats and specific yoga poses.

Typically, exercises that use the legs are highly recommended, because these exercises encourage your blood to pump from the legs back to the heart. Having strong calf muscles helps circulation and prevents venous insufficiency. Regular exercise help to keep weight, blood sugars and blood pressure in check – all of which can affect varicose veins. Additionally, people with varicose veins often report that their legs feel swollen, itchy or heavy. Regular exercise can lessen these symptoms, because exercise increase blood circulation.

Low-impact exercise is key

One of the key benefits of low impact exercise is that it benefits the circulatory system while protecting the joints. Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise to enjoy; it is as inexpensive as buying a pair of gym shoes, and it can be done outside or inside. Start by taking short regular walks around the neighborhood, at a park or around the local mall.

Another good low-impact choice is bicycling. The pedaling action strengthens calves and increases circulation. Either traditional or stationary bikes can be used and have the same benefits. Swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise, too. Swimming promotes circulation and healthy legs, and many people find the water to be soothing. If you aren’t a swimmer, consider investing in water walking gear so you can walk laps across the pool.

Stay away from high-impact exercises

High impact exercises, such as running and jogging, can aggravate the swelling of varicose veins. If you don’t want to give up running, try gentle jogging on a softer surface to reduce the stress on your joints and lessen the strain on your veins. Compression stockings can help reduce the impact of this form of exercise.

Weightlifting can increase abdominal pressure and can cause you to strain. The increased pressure can reduce the flow of blood from your legs to your heart. The blood can pool and increase pressure in the veins of your legs, causing vein dilation and damage to the valves.

If you want to lift weights, try adding more reps with lighter weights. Avoid holding your breath while lifting and try to keep your legs at the same level or higher than your heart.

Some other exercises that increase abdominal pressure and leg pressure include squats, sit-ups, crunches, lunges and yoga poses that require prolonged abdominal posturing.

When to seek a medical opinion

Always consult with your doctor before undertaking any exercise plan, especially if you are pregnant or you have another existing health concern.


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