Why do Veins Bulge During Strenuous Exercise?

July 28, 2022 The Vein Institute

If you’re a bodybuilder, recreational weightlifter, or play an intense, strenuous sport, you’ve probably thought; “why do veins bulge during strenuous exercise?” And subsequently, “should I be concerned?”

The answer is, generally, no. But there are some warning signs you need to look out for. 

First, why do veins bulge during strenuous exercise?

Strenuous activity makes veins bulge for two reasons; blood and muscles. When you exercise, your muscles demand a larger supply of oxygen. And as your blood is responsible for carrying that oxygen, it needs to move faster and in larger quantities around your body. 

Even though your blood pumps out of your heart faster, it still slows down significantly when it circles through your arteries and capillaries and is at its slowest when it hits the veins. And due to your blood moving back slower than it gets pumped out, it can build up a little in the veins. 

Additionally, the added pressure means plasma gets forced out of your capillaries into compartments in the surrounding muscles. This “filtration” process makes your muscles swell and harden, pushing cutaneous veins to the surface. 

So, with larger, more visible veins, you get that bulgy appearance. The effects will be even more pronounced if you have less fat and thinner skin. 

Is it dangerous?

No. Well, not in and of itself. Seeing your veins bulge when you’re lifting heavy weights, for example, is perfectly normal. It happens due to the natural processes taking place in your muscular and circulatory systems. 

However, weightlifting, in particular, puts significant strain on your leg muscles. And this, in turn, strains the veins, as they need to move larger quantities of blood back faster to keep up with the demand. 

Over time, this process can do a number on your vein walls and valves. It might even contribute to turning affected veins varicose

When should I be concerned?

While some bulging during strenuous exercise is normal, you must remember that it mostly happens due to a temporary shift in your bodily activity.

So if you notice that your veins aren’t behaving as they used to (for example, if the bulging doesn’t decrease as it should) and if you start experiencing symptoms like pain, burning/itching, and/or skin discolouration around the bulging vein, we’d strongly recommend seeing a vein specialist. 

Are there any precautions I should take?

While you can’t stop your veins from bulging, you can minimise the risk strenuous exercise poses to your vein health. You can do this by: 

  • Getting some compression stockings to help your veins do their job
  • Following proper lifting practices (including correct posture and not increasing your weight or reps too fast)
  • Wearing loose athletic apparel and investing in a lumbar belt to help your blood get around. 

And most importantly, keep an eye on your vein health. If you start experiencing the aforementioned symptoms, don’t delay in seeking expert advice. 

You can book a consultation with us by calling 13 VEINS (13 83467).