Don’t Fill Your Stockings this Holiday: Take Care of Your Veins with a Holiday Workout


It’s one thing to say you won’t put on weight over the holiday season but quite another to keep off those pesky extra pounds that get harder to lose each year. The problem is that carrying too much weight, especially around your mid-section, can make it harder for blood to pump back up from your legs to your heart. Belly weight puts pressure on the vena cava, the vein that’s the main passageway to the right atrium where the blood gets oxygenated. When the vena cava is under pressure, blood can get trapped in the lower extremities. If you are prone to varicose veins, the weakening of the venous walls, blood will pool and lead to those thick, ropy veins in your legs.

However, if you’re prone to varicose veins, over-exercising, or performing exercises too rigorously, can also exacerbate the varicose veins.

Exercise is the best method for keeping your veins healthy. Stimulated calf muscles help blood pump back to the heart. Exercise improves your overall circulation. But during the holidays, schedules seem to fill up as quickly as the pile of candy in the office gift exchange. So what are the best ways to get exercise during the holidays that won’t be counterproductive to your venous health?

Go Low (Impact)

Walking is one of the best exercises you can do, and the best part is that it’s easy for most people to get their exercise in this way. Walking is the best activity at stretching and strengthening the calf pump to boost circulation. And even better, no gym or equipment are necessary. Running too many holiday errands? Park far away and get your steps in that way. Put a Fitbit or similar technology on your holiday wish list, one with an app that reminds you to get in your steps. You may be more likely to fit in your exercise when you actually think about doing it.

Stationary bikes are similarly low-impact, and they are especially good at not putting strain on bones and joints. Elliptical machines offer low-impact exercise with a similar effect. Designate 30 minutes for yourself with low-impact exercise a day, and your veins (and your waistline) will thank you.

Don’t Run Ragged

For many people, running is the preferred exercise. It offers a great aerobic workout, boosting your cardiovascular system. However, it may give your joints and bones a pounding. If you have a moderate or severe case of vein disease, the impact of running and the elevated blood pressure may even be counterproductive to your vein health, especially if the running is particularly fast and high-impact.

Don’t Crane and Strain

Yoga may be an ideal activity if you require an especially low-impact workout that primarily involves stretching. And the peacefulness you may find in practicing yoga may come in handy during the predictable end-of-year stress. However, watch for certain prolonged abdominal posturing, those poses that force pressure on the mid-section, cutting off flow of that all-important vena cava. This increases pressure and can even cause venous reflux, reversing the flow of blood back to the legs.

Similarly, weightlifting may be an enjoyable activity, and for women over 35, resistance training is recommended for muscle and bone health. However, pumping lots of iron strains the abdomen and that vena cava, as you tense up to push up that barbell. If you are a fan of weightlifting and want to protect your venous health, choose lower weight at higher reps, and then immediately follow up with a low-impact cardio workout to boost your circulation.

If you’re wondering whether sit ups are in the same category, then you would be on the right track. Sit ups definitely strain the abdomen and aren’t recommended if you have varicose veins. Instead, try lunges, squats, or balancing poses, which can strengthen the abdominal muscles without putting too much strain on the abdomen in the process.

Give it a Rest

Carrying around extra weight will also put added pressure on your feet and lower legs. Even with a solid workout plan in mind, you can still wind up in pain because of your fancy holiday shoes. To help your legs through a busy holiday, especially if you’re required to dress up for parties and other work events, have a spare pair of comfortable shoes handy, either under your desk or in your car, so you can slip them on when your feet start to hurt or your legs begin to ache. Afterward, as soon as you can, put on some compression stockings to help your legs recover. When you get home, elevate your legs to promote blood flow back to the heart.

For more information on vein health, or to schedule an appointment for an in-office visit for sclerotherapy to remove your varicose veins, contact us at SD Vein Institute by calling 760-944-9263 or visit us at