Studies show that one-third of people have varicose veins. Although it affects some people more than others, vein disease can affect anyone. And yes, that includes even those who are young and healthy.
Varicose veins can be a symptom of insidious vein disorders. If left untreated, vein disorders can lead to pain, discomfort, and dangerous blood clots.
Thankfully, you don’t have to wait until problems occur to take care of your veins. Instead, you can make daily choices to boost your vein health. If you’re wondering how to improve heart health while you improve circulation, look no further: keep reading to learn about the five best wellness exercises you can do every day to keep your veins healthy and minimize vascular disease.
The best exercises to improve circulation:
Use repetitive muscle movement
Encourage gentle muscle compression
Walking checks all of these boxes. In fact, it’s one of the best wellness exercises that you can do for any health concern.
Walking is especially effective for varicose veins. It pumps your calf muscles, where most varicose veins occur.
Remember, varicose veins are caused when the valves in your leg veins stop functioning. This lets blood pool in the veins of your legs instead of flowing back to your heart. The pumping action of walking pushes blood upwards to your heart, so it doesn’t stay in your leg veins.
This is why walking can alleviate varicose vein discomfort, including:
A swollen feeling in legs and ankles
When blood stays stagnant instead of flowing as it should, it can develop blood clots. Walking keeps the blood moving through your leg veins so that it doesn’t stay stationary. This helps decrease your risk of dangerous blood clots.
Another benefit of walking for varicose veins? It’s completely free. You can walk around your home, stroll through the neighborhood, or take a longer walk through the park.
Adapt your walking plan to your fitness level. If you can only walk short distances, don’t get discouraged — consistent walking helps your health, even in small amounts. Begin with short walks and challenge yourself to increase your walking time.
Run With Caution
Although walking has lots of benefits for your overall health, you should be more cautious about running for exercise.
Of course, running is an excellent exercise for heart health. It also exercises your legs and can promote venous return.
However, running is not low-impact. As your feet strike the ground, it can jar and strain your veins. This can irritate your varicose veins and make symptoms worse.
This doesn’t mean that you should never run for exercise. Jogging can be a good way to promote vein wellness. Even if you already have problems with your veins, wearing compression stockings can help keep your veins healthy while you run.
However, be careful if you choose to run when you have vein problems. Monitor your symptoms and be prepared to stop if they get worse. Fortunately, there are many lower-intensity exercises that you can choose to support your vein health instead.
2. Calf Raises
Prolonged standing is one of the worst culprits for causing varicose veins and making your symptoms worse. Keeping your legs in the dependent position (i.e., lower than the rest of your body) forces the blood to pool in your legs, increasing your varicose vein discomfort. If you have a job that requires you to stand for most of your workday, you are likely looking for exercises to do during long periods of standing.
Calf raises are a perfect exercise for when you’re working a long shift. Do them by:
Standing straight, with good balance
Raising yourself onto your tiptoes
Lowering yourself back down to the ground
If you struggle with balance during this exercise, brace yourself on a desk or workstation to maintain balance.
Calf raises are an excellent exercise to break up a long period of standing, but they’re a perfect at-home exercise too. Hold on to a kitchen chair or doorframe for balance and do 10-20 repetitions at a time.
Bicycling is a relatively low-impact exercise. It’s an excellent cardio workout, so it’s a great exercise for heart health.
Not only that, but it also targets your calves, improving blood flow from your leg veins to your heart. The leg-pumping motion of bicycling makes it the perfect wellness exercise for vein health.
Biking outdoors is a great cardio challenge. However, you can get the benefits of biking at home by using a stationary bicycle as well.
No Bike? No Problem
No stationary bike at home? That’s ok. You can adapt the bicycle exercise so you can still get the benefits of bicycling to improve your circulation.
To do the “lying bicycle” exercise, lie down with your back on the floor. Raise your legs in the air with your knees bent. Move your legs in a pedaling motion as if you were riding a bicycle.
This exercise has the added benefit of keeping your legs elevated above your heart. This allows blood to flow back to your heart more easily. You’ll notice reduced swelling in your legs and less varicose vein fullness as well.
If the lying bicycle exercise is too strenuous, try the “sitting bicycle.” For this exercise, sit in a firm chair (like a kitchen chair). Raise your legs and cycle them as if you are pushing bike pedals.
4. Leg Lifts
This is a simple at-home exercise that you can do any time at home.
Simply sit in a firm chair (such as a kitchen chair). You may need to use your arms to brace yourself against the back of the chair.
Raise your legs until they are straight out in front of you. Then, lower them again. Repeat this exercise 10-20 times.
Once you are used to this exercise, try adding an extra challenge. With your legs raised in the air, draw circles with your toes. Do 10 circles in each direction with each foot.
These exercises make your calf muscles stretch and contract. This helps blood move up your leg, reducing swelling.
In addition, they improve your ankle’s range of motion. Swelling from vein disease can make your ankle stiff. Exercising your ankle keeps the joints healthy and reduces stiffness.
5. Toe Raises
This is another do-anywhere wellness exercise.
Start by standing with your legs parallel, hanging on to a wall or chair for support. Lift your toes off the ground as high as you can, hold them up for 1-3 seconds, and then lower them to the ground. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
If you can’t lift both feet off the floor at the same time, raise one toe at a time, 10 times for each foot.
Like leg lifts, this exercise stretches your calf muscles. It also helps keep your ankles limber and reduces swelling.
Honorable Mention: Swimming
Unless you have your own inground pool, swimming isn’t an “at home” exercise. However, no list of exercises to keep your veins healthy is complete without it. Swimming is one of the most comprehensively beneficial exercises available.
Its benefits include:
Reduced anxiety and depression
Effective weight loss due to high rates of calorie burning
Better sleep quality
Very low-impact exercise
If you’re wondering how to improve your heart health, swimming is an excellent answer. Your veins will benefit too. Whether you have vein problems already or you want to keep your veins healthy, swimming is an ideal exercise to maximize your vein health.
To get maximum benefits from swimming, don’t just splash around in the water. Do laps in the pool to build up your stamina.
Then, try a swim workout to challenge your muscles even more. If you want to shake up your workout routine, sign up for an Aquafit class for even more cardio conditioning. Your heart — and veins — will thank you!
Keep Your Veins Healthy With Wellness Exercises
When it comes to varicose veins, prevention is the best strategy. Don’t wait until you’re suffering from painful varicosities to look after your veins.
With these wellness exercises, you can care for your veins now, no matter how good or bad your vein health is. Even better, you can do so from the comfort of your home!
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to varicose vein discomfort. The Vein Institute of Pinellas is here to help you find the solution you need. Whether you need symptom management or are ready for a permanent solution to vein discomfort, contact us today to schedule your free consultation.
Mrs. Paige Bourbeau, ARNP is a distinguished graduate of the University of South Florida's Masters of Science in Nursing program from 2012. As one of the top achievers in her class, she was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honors Society and recognized by the American College of Phlebology for her expertise in treating venous insufficiency.