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December 26, 2009 at 8:41 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Swimming: An Excellent Choice For Varicose Vein Treatment

By Smarty More Blogs by This Author

Gnarled, blue, and bulging varicose veins can be a source of embarrassment and pain for many people. About 15% of men and 25% of women in the United States have varicose veins. Some get them from being overweight or eating a high-salt diet. Others get them simply from having weak veins. However you may have acquired varicose veins, the relaxing act of swimming could be incredibly helpful for shrinking them.

How Varicose Veins Form

Varicose veins are formed when a back flow of blood causes blood to pool. This pooled blood can, over time, cause veins to become distended and result in varicose veins. But when and why does blood flow backward? The one-way valves in your veins as well as skeletal muscle contractions help to keep blood moving forward. Valves can become worn as a result of age (from normal wear and tear) or from poor circulation from lack of exercise or excess weight. Veins in the legs are particularly prone to become varicose because they withstand so much pressure. Leg veins must often push blood against gravity; so when a person isn't moving enough and therefore not flexing their leg muscles, blood flow in the legs is restricted. This causes leg vein valves to wear out faster than most.

Risk Factors for Developing Varicose Veins

As mentioned above, excess weight and increasing age improve chances for developing varicose veins. However, there are other things which can contribute to varicose vein formation, including genetics (if either of your parents have varicose veins), eating a high-salt or high-sugar diet, and being pregnant. Pregnancy not only puts a lot of added pressure on leg veins due to weight gain but a woman's blood volume also increases significantly during this time, creating further strain on veins.

The Benefits of Swimming for Varicose Veins

Anything that lessens the effect of gravity and involves moving the legs can be helpful for diminishing varicose veins. Swimming offers both of these benefits. There's a reason astronauts practice procedures at the bottom of giant pools: it's the closest thing we have to the no-gravity environment of outer space. The slight pressure on the body, which conveniently changes as you change your depth in the water, is great for the circulation in your legs as it pushes on muscles. And the act of swimming requires the use of so many muscles that it almost immediately improves your overall circulation, taking pressure off of varicose veins.

Other Benefits of Swimming

Swimming provides an almost endless list of other benefits, some physical and some mental:

  • Low-risk for injury
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves oxygen use
  • Improves flexibility
  • Tones both upper and lower body
  • Low-impact exercises preserve joints

Swimming for Beginners

If you're not an avid swimmer or just need to take it easy there are plenty of water exercises available. Treading water is a great way to get your heart rate up and tone arm and leg muscles. Move your legs in a scissor motion while sweeping your arms back and forth as if wiping two tables at your sides. If this is too exhaustive, try using a kick board or doing leg lifts in shallow water. Anything to get your legs moving will improve venous circulation.


Photo Credit: Sanctuary photography

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