What You Need to Know About Sports and Varicose Veins

June 30, 2022 The Vein Institute

As vein specialists, we always recommend keeping active to ensure your veins are strong and healthy. But, not every exercise is good for your veins. And some might even contribute to you developing varicose veins or exacerbating symptoms if you’re already affected.

So here’s everything you need to know about sports and varicose veins so you can keep your veins happy and healthy.

First, why stay active?

Woman doing yoga, one of the best sports to prevent varicose veins

Wide-shot of woman doing the cobra yoga pose with her child in her living room

Physical activity has a few benefits for your vein health. You see, your veins (especially those in your legs) constantly fight gravity to get your blood from your ankles all the way back to your heart. This constant pull takes its toll, weakening your vein walls and the valves responsible for stopping your blood from flowing backwards (refluxing).

Sport is key here or a few reasons:

  1. It keeps your muscles strong, which lets them work more efficiently as pumps to help your veins do their job.
  2. Toned muscles means less space for your veins to expand into, minimising the chance of them turning varicose.
  3. Staying active boosts your circulation, which takes some pressure off your veins.

Which sports are good for varicose veins?

While staying active is important, it’s also important to stay active in the right way. generally, we’d recommend sports and activities like:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Cycling

These are all relatively gentle, low-impact sports that will work your muscles and boost your circulation without putting too much pressure on your veins. For the best vein care, we’d advise you to do at least 30 minutes of any of these activities daily.

Which sports are bad for varicose veins?

Woman preparing to deadlift a weight, one of the sports that's likely to cause varicose veins

Woman in a gym squatting down and preparing to deadlift a heavy weight

As we mentioned, just as there are sports that are great for vein health, there are a few that aren’t. These include:

  • Weightlifting
  • Jogging (specifically on hard surfaces)
  • Tennis
  • Rugby
  • Skiing

Basically, sports that force you to make sudden movements and/or crash into opponents increase your likelihood of damaging a vein. And sports that stress the legs through impact or increased weight will strain your veins, making them work harder to pull blood back to your heart.

Is there a way I can keep doing the “bad” sports?

Man putting on medical compression stockings, one of the ways to keep veins safe during strenuous sports and activities

Man Putting On Medical Compression Stockings On Legs

Generally, yes. There are some precautions that can minimise your risk of developing varicose veins during sport or making them worse. First, wear compression stockings while doing strenuous activities like lifting weights or playing rugby. They’ll help keep your blood pressure in check and provide additional support for your stressed veins. In doing so, compression stockings can also improve your performance, as your blood can carry oxygen through your muscles more efficiently.

Second, invest in braces. Sports braces for your knees or lumbar provide additional support and lessen the risk of injury, which reduces the risk of vein damage. Additionally, good lumbar support for weightlifting will take some of the pressure off your core muscles and the veins there, making it easier for blood to travel between your legs and heart.

Are there any other precautions I should take?

Close-up shot of walking woman's legs. She is wearing comfortable sneakers and loose tracksuit pants, both good practices for keeping veins safe and preventing varicose veins during sports

Close-up shot of walking woman’s legs. She is wearing comfortable sneakers and loose tracksuit pants

Yes. Regardless of the sport you do, we’d advise you to wear the right apparel, including comfortable, supportive shoes (where relevant) and athletic clothing that’s not too tight. Supportive shoes will lessen the impact of your legs hitting the pavement, and looser clothing will make it easier for your blood to get around.

Additionally, things like a diet rich in flavonoids, fibre, and vitamin C, not sitting or standing or standing for too long, and elevating your legs for a few minutes a day are all good ways to provide your veins with extra support.

And lastly, always keep an eye on your vein health. Even if you do everything right, there is still a chance (however small) that you might develop varicose veins. So if you start to experience symptoms like swelling, pain, itching or burning sensations, or heaviness in your legs, it might be time to see a specialist.