One of the most frequently asked questions of vein doctors is, "Will exercise affect my varicose veins?". In this article we'll answer this question, while providing some tips on how to exercise safely, if you have vein disease or are at risk of it.
In general, exercise helps to keep your veins healthy
Your veins actually take advantage of the contraction of muscles in your legs, to pump blood back to your heart. So most types of aerobic exercise are good for your veins, because they work your calf and leg muscles, improving blood flow. In theory, it should be true even if you have are at risk of vein disease. If you already have varicose veins, you'll know doctors recommend regular exercise because it improves your overall circulation. However, some types of exercise may not be helping your varicose veins.
Extreme exercise can put pressure on veins already damaged by disease
Because of damage caused by vein disease, the pressure in your blood vessels may already be high. Exercises that involve straining and lifting can increase that pressure even more, putting undue strain on your circulation. So there are certain types of exercise that your vein doctor may advise against, such as lifting weights, leg squats, crunches, sit-ups, and lunges.
If you enjoy lifting weights and have a risk of vein disease, you should ask your doctor about wearing compression socks or stockings while exercising, to help keep blood flowing towards your heart. If you already have varicose veins, ask your doctor about this and other forms of extreme exercise (including competitive running) and follow their advice.
Gentle exercise may be better for those with high risk of vein disease
In general, walking is the best exercise for most people. Walking works the muscles in your legs and calves, improving your circulation, but without the continual impact and pounding caused by running, especially on hard pavement. So if you want to establish a safe and healthy exercise regimen, a good start is walking at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Your veins and your overall health will thank you for it!
Many other forms of low-impact exercise are also safe if you have varicose veins, or at risk of vein disease. Gentle cycling or using an elliptical trainer works the calf muscles and improves venous blood flow without placing stress on your joints and bones.
Is cycling good for those with varicose veins?
Unfortunately this is a difficult question to answer, as it depends on how severe your symptoms are. From a general health perspective, cycling for healthy people is safe and encouraged. However, if you have varicose veins it is likely that intensive cycling will exacerbate your varicose vein symptoms. Compression stockings should initially be considered before more definitive treatment.
Exercise whilst sitting if need be
If you already have varicose veins that are causing severe pain, it is important to remember that you can perform healthy circulation exercises while sitting down. Flexing your calf muscles and rotating your ankles helps to maintain healthy blood flow. Also, while sitting or standing, rocking your feet on the ground from heel to toe activates the calf pumping mechanism and improves circulation. Mild exercise like this won't get rid of your varicose veins, but it can ease some of the uncomfortable symptoms.
Seek expert advice
Should you have any doubts about exercising you should ask your doctor for advice.
The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive treatment program to treat varicose veins, with non-surgical laser treatment techniques. The benefits of laser treatment to patients are;
- Walk-in walk-out treatment
- 98% success rate
- Extremely effective
- Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
- No general anaesthetic
- Medicare rebates apply
- No downtime or time away from work
To book your first consultation and to discuss our treatment program, call 1300 535 017. Complete the form below to receive a call back from one of The Vein Institute team.