San Diego Vein Institute

Summer Legs and Beyond: Exercising with Varicose Veins

It’s summer, there are record temperatures, and you want to be in shape for all those warm-weather clothes. But if you also suffer from varicose veins, not all exercises will be beneficial to fitness and your venous health.

The problem with varicose veins

When you see varicose veins, the big purplish ropes under the skin, that is blood buildup in veins due to weak venous valves. Varicose veins usually appear in the legs because the veins have to work harder to pump the blood from the feet back up to the heart. The heart, then, has to work harder to pump that blood through the weaker veins. Sometimes, high blood pressure can develop or be exacerbated by varicose veins.

Why not all workouts are ideal for people with varicose veins

The general rule of thumb is that exercise is a good way to improve venous health. So while varicose veins are mostly the result of genetics, keeping up proper blood flow will help the appearance of the varicose veins and improve your overall vascular health.The key is to use exercise to improve circulation, especially throughout the legs. There is even a chance that moderate exercise may reduce the chances of forming new varicose veins or worsening the already weakened veins.The veins in the calf muscle are especially useful in pumping blood back into the heart, so exercises that strengthen the calf muscles should be a part of your workout plan. Riding a bike, especially a stationary bike, is particularly effective.

Walk, don’t run

Walking stimulates circulation and burns plenty of calories, and the same applies for low-impact jogging. However, a high-impact run or workout can actually increase the swelling of the veins and add stress to your joints. If you are a runner, consider moving your workout to a soft surface and wearing compression stockings to stimulate blood flow.

That gut feeling

Blood flowing back up the leg veins to the heart passes through the vena cava in the abdomen. Increasing the abdominal pressure by such activities as heavy lifting or straining impedes blood from traveling back to the heart. That’s when venous blood pools in the leg veins, causing the unsightly—and sometimes harmful—spider and varicose veins. So weightlifting and lots of sit-ups can do more harm than good for varicose vein sufferers. However, if weightlifting is an important part of your workout regimen, consider less weight with more reps, and avoid putting too much strain on your abdomen.

The same is true for strenuous yoga; some poses can put extra pressure on the vena cava, impeding rather than improving circulation. Low-impact yoga that involves smooth transitions and lots of stretching is a better plan. Remember, you should stop immediately any exercise that causes leg pain or even discomfort. Exercises is about doing good, not harm, and there can be too much of a good thing, especially when your vascular health has been compromised by varicose veins.

There is no prevention for varicose veins, and no failproof cure. But a healthy, low-impact, cardiovascular-boosting routine is a great ally for healthy legs. And while varicose veins are common enough and may not always be life-threatening, a good solution to accompany exercise is removing those varicose veins with sclerotherapy, which can be done in just a short office visit.

If working out has given you symptomatic vein disease, and if you’re tired of your varicose veins and are ready for treatment or just want some more information on sclerotherapy, contact us at 760-944-9263 or visit our website.

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