Written by: Emma Squillace
Varicose veins are uncomfortable and unsightly. They can cause aching legs, itchy skin, and a lack of confidence for those who want to wear summer clothing. These visible veins are often found in older adults, and are linked with obesity, pregnancy, and standing or sitting for long periods of time. Although there’s nothing you can do to absolutely prevent varicose veins, there are ways to lessen your chances of getting them.
Some ways to lower your chances of suffering from varicose veins include:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Take breaks during the day: if you sit a lot, go for brief walks. If you stand a lot, try to lie down and elevate your legs
- Eat a diet that is higher in fiber and lower in sodium
- Avoid high heeled shoes
Let’s talk more about the last item on this list: the idea of exercise to keep varicose veins at bay. It’s important to first understand that there are no exercises you can do that will heal a varicose vein. Once that vein has become compromised, only treatment like laser vein removal or sclerotherapy will cure it. However, there are some exercise that can help reduce your risk of getting varicose veins, and may help lessen the symptoms you feel if you have developed them.
Walking is one of the best exercises you can do. It can be done by people of all activity levels, does not require special equipment, and even a few minutes can bring benefit. One reason walking is particularly good for those worried about varicose veins, is that walking focuses on getting the blood circulating in your legs. Since varicose veins are a condition of compromised circulation, walking is excellent. Try walking for 10 minutes at least every 2 hours, or 5 minutes every hour. Some people find they do best when they set an alarm on their phone or computer to remind them. Multiple quick walks throughout your day can help counteract the problems desk-workers run into with varicose veins.
Exercising on an elliptical machine is another recommended exercise for people worried about varicose veins. The elliptical machine is good because it allows a range of motion in your legs, without the strong impact you can feel when running. Working out on an elliptical machine can also be an option for beginners to advanced exercisers, because the intensity setting can be changed. An elliptical machine can strengthen your legs and improve blood flow to your calves, which are good indicators that an exercise may help prevent varicose veins.
Cycling is similar to the elliptical machine, in that it can be a low impact exercise that encourages blood flow in your legs. Either exercising on a stationary bike or going for a bicycle ride around your neighborhood are good ways to improve your vein health. Riding a bike is preferable to running because it is easier on your joints.
Weight lifting has many benefits, but improving varicose veins is generally not one of them. While we would not tell you to avoid weight lifting altogether, it is important to make sure you understand the aspects of weight lifting that could cause you vein trouble. You’re most likely to have potential issues with weight lifting if you lift heavy weights. The effort involved in lifting heavy weights, slowly, can result in intense abdominal contraction. This combined with the potential for holding your breath while you lift the weight, is not conducive to improving blood flow in your legs. Instead, this effort can inhibit circulation. If you want to lift weights, you can reduce the risk of causing circulation issues by lifting lighter weights, breathing properly, and alternating reps with bursts of walking.
While exercise cannot prevent or cure varicose veins, it is one of several lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of getting these visible veins. If you are one of the many people who do have varicose veins, give West Medical a call. We can set up a private consultation with our vein experts to help you understand your treatment options. In many cases, varicose veins can be treated quickly, and with minimally invasive solutions. Our expert vein team can be reached at (855) 690-0565.