Exercise and Varicose Veins: Here’s What you Need to Know

January 23, 2020 Dr Zil

Vein doctors are often asked by their patients about exercise – can exercise help reduce, or cure, varicose veins? Or does exercise make varicose veins even worse? To help answer those questions, exercise and varicose veins: here’s what you need to know.

If you already suffer from varicose veins then there are exercises which may ease your symptoms, however, unfortunately, exercise alone cannot cure varicose veins.

For those looking for prevention options, the good news is that regular physical activity can reduce your chances of developing varicose veins.

Generally, exercise will help keep veins healthy

Most types of aerobic exercise – particularly walking and running – are great for your veins because they work the calf and leg muscles, improving blood flow back up to the heart.

Walking is especially recommended for people who suffer from varicose veins, due to it being a low-impact workout. The simple movements help strengthen calf muscles without putting strain on your body.

Is lifting weights bad for varicose veins?

Exercise is one of the most effective measures of preventing vein disease however if you are worried that lifting weights will cause you to develop varicose veins then it is handy to know that unless you are lifting very heavyweight, or performing compound movements such as one-rep exercises, it’s unlikely that damage will occur.

For those who are experiencing extreme symptoms from vein disease or varicose veins, your doctor may advise you cut-back on lifting heavyweight as it could put additional pressure on your already weakened blood vessels. Compression socks and stockings are an option and should be discussed with your doctor.

Which exercises are good for varicose veins?

Although exercise cannot cure varicose veins, it can alleviate pain and improve circulation and overall vein health.

  1. Yoga: as well as strengthening muscles, there are many yoga poses which involve elevating your legs – by elevating your legs you are aiding your body in draining the blood back to your heart, this assists in improving vein health and also alleviates pain. Be advised that there are some prolonged abdominal yoga poses which may not be recommended.
  2. Walking: a low-impact exercise which allows you to stretch and strengthen calf muscles, walking is highly recommended both for the prevention and treatment of vein disease.
  3. Running: another way of stretching and strengthening calf muscles, running can be very beneficial for vein health.  However, running can also put a strain on your joints and make varicose vein symptoms worse.
  4. Cycling: stationary bikes provide a low-impact cardio option, nonetheless in some cases, intensive cycling or extended periods of time crouched over handlebars can increase abdominal pressure and reduce the blood flow to your legs, which can exacerbate varicose vein symptoms.
  5. Mountain Climbers: a simple exercise to do from home, Mountain Climbers build strength and endurance while improving blood flow between your heart and legs.
  6. Ankle rotations: these are a really easy exercise to do while sitting down, so are great for office workers and people who spend a lot of time travelling. 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. For more exercises, which you can do while sitting down, see our article 7 best exercises for vein health while travelling.

The above are examples of how exercise can assist in improving vein health, the information is general in nature. Please speak with your doctor before participating in any exercise.

As well as exercise, vitamins and supplements may help

A great way to bolster your circulation is by eating foods that support your veins. Certain fruits and veggies contain micronutrients that are vital to ensuring good vascular health, including:

  • Folic acid: helps the body repair cells and vascular tissue. Furthermore, folic acid is instrumental in promoting the creation of red blood cells, preventing anemia while promoting blood clotting. Make sure to include plenty of dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and beans in your diet.
  • Flavonoids: improve circulation by keeping the blood flowing, making it less likely to pool in your veins. Flavonoids also help to reduce blood pressure and relax blood vessels, all of which can reduce varicose veins. Foods that contain flavonoids include onions, garlic, cayenne pepper, bell peppers, spinach, broccoli, grapes, cherries and blueberries.

Avoid highly processed foods that contain high levels of sodium. These can cause your body to retain water and impair normal blood circulation. On the other hand, food rich in potassium (almonds, potatoes, salmon and white beans) tends to minimise water retention and bloating.

Flavonoids are found in certain fruits and vegetables which are pictured here - oranges, strawberries, cherries, pomegranate, capsicum, spinach, garlic and lemon.

For more information on varicose veins, check out these articles:

Seek expert 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 a consultation and discuss our treatment program, call 1300 535 017