High Impact Exercises Can Contribute to Varicose Veins
The term "varicose" is derived from the Latin word "varix", meaning "twisted". Veins that become varicose are swollen, twisted, bluish, and usually appear on the back of the lower legs. If you're trying to shrink your varicose veins through exercise, there are a few exercises you should avoid as they could actually be making your varicose veins worse.
Understanding Varicose Veins
Veins become varicose when their one-way valves are weakened, allowing blood to flow backward and pool. Pooling blood causes veins to become distended, resulting in bluish, bulging varicose veins. Some people are at a greater risk of developing varicose veins because of the following factors:
- Age: The normal wear and tear on your vein valves causes them to naturally weaken over time.
- Gender: Women seem to be much more prone to developing varicose veins. This is thought to be the result of female sex hormones which cause vessels to relax.
- Heredity: Some people simply have weaker veins and can pass those genes onto their children.
- Weight: Being overweight puts excess pressure on veins, making them work harder and wear faster.
- Standing or sitting for long periods: Veins rely on the squeezing action of your muscles when you move in order to propel blood through them. When you sit or stand in the same position for long periods, venous circulation suffers.
Ways to Reduce the Appearance and Pain of Varicose Veins
Besides the previous factors, lack of exercise and poor diet can also contribute to varicose vein formation. Exercise helps blood to circulate and encourages your veins to become more toned, taking pressure off of their valves. Diets high in sugar, simple carbohydrates, and especially salt (all mainstays of the American diet, unfortunately) cause the retention of water, increasing blood volume and straining the circulatory system. By staying away from highly processed foods and watching your salt intake, you can help your varicose veins to shrink.
Burning Calories and Helping Your Varicose Veins
High-impact cardiovascular exercises like jogging, stair-stepping, and aerobics are great for getting your heart-rate up and quickly burning calories, but these exercises also put a lot of stress on veins. In order to keep blood moving against gravity, the blood pressure in your legs must increase. This puts pressure on varicose veins, which are already weak and damaged. If you're trying to shed some pounds with varicose veins, try low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, and walking.
Low-Impact Leg Exercises Are the Way to Go
If you're not so concerned with shedding weight, but still want to decrease the appearance of varicose veins, try these low-impact leg exercises:
- Wall Slides: Leaning on a wall with feet about one foot away from the wall, slowly lower your buttocks until your upper legs are parallel to the floor and hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 30 times.
- Desk Chair Workout: While sitting, rotate your ankles, making small circles. Change direction of rotations. Extend legs and point toes out straight, flexing back and forth at the ankle. Lastly, bend your legs back and forth at the knee 5 to 10 times. Repeat series 3 times.
Keep your veins healthy by exercising them regularly with low-impact leg exercises and eating a healthy diet.