Do you have varicose or spider veins? Along with being unattractive, these undesirable veins can lead to a range of painful and uncomfortable symptoms. For instance, you may be experiencing or at risk for developing leg swelling, cramping, itching, heaviness, and fatigue.
Varicose and spider veins are signs of underlying vein disease, or venous insufficiency. This common health condition occurs when tiny vein valves malfunction and struggle to pump blood back to the heart. Instead, blood begins to pool in the legs, ankles, feet, and sometimes other areas of the body. When left unaddressed, vein disease can lead to dangerous health conditions like blood clots and venous ulcers.
You may be wondering what you can do to keep your venous symptoms from getting worse. We generally recommend managing your weight, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding prolonged periods of standing or sitting. Beyond that, implementing a daily exercise routine is one of the best ways to improve overall vein health.
Before embarking on any new exercise program, be sure to talk to your doctor. Most likely, they will applaud your efforts to get moving. They may, however, recommend avoiding strenuous activities like heavy weight lifting or marathon running.
Not sure how to get started? We suggest experimenting with a variety of activities to see what works best for you. You may find that you enjoy solitary workouts. If you decide that you want company, you can ask a friend or family member to join in. Ultimately, the best exercise program is the one that you can keep up over time.
Here are some easy and safe exercises to help you manage varicose and spider veins.
Exercises for Varicose and Spider Veins
Walking: One of the easiest and safest forms of exercise is walking. For most, this activity can be done right from the front door. All you really need to get started is a comfortable pair of shoes. Of course, you can choose to venture further away from home and explore scenic routes and hiking trails. You also have options if the weather is bad or if you don’t feel like going outside. For instance, you can walk on a treadmill, march in place at home, or go to an indoor shopping center.
Along with offering a range of physical health benefits, walking is also a great way to manage stress. This emotional health benefit can help reduce your blood pressure, which can also improve your vein health.
Biking: Riding a bike is another excellent, low-impact activity that can help boost your blood circulation. You can head out on nearby roads, go mountain biking, try stationary cycling at home, or join a high-energy spin class. Getting involved with a bike team or road cycling club may also be an option. If long bike rides put a strain on your legs, a good option would be a power-assisted motorized bicycle. You can ride one like a regular bike then turn on the power-assist feature when your legs start to get tired. This way, you can still enjoy long rides without causing pain or injury to yourself.
Just remember to always wear a helmet when you’re out and about on two wheels!
Swimming: If you love the water, go ahead and head to the pool, beach, or lake for a fun, fantastic workout. The horizontal position required alone can offer some relief for your sore legs. If you’re not a strong swimmer, start out with a kickboard or sign up for lessons. If you prefer a more social environment, look into group instruction, a masters swim program, or water aerobics classes.
Running: There are few exercises that get your heart pumping and blood flowing quite like running. It’s also a great leg strengthener and can therefore help with vein symptoms like leg weakness and fatigue. That said, the high-impact nature of running is not for everyone. If you want to give it a try, be sure to work up to longer runs carefully and over time.
Yoga and pilates: These lower-impact activities can help you develop strength and flexibility throughout your body. Some gentle forms of yoga also focus on relaxation, which may help reduce your blood pressure and boost vein health. Explore local studios and gyms for a full range of available options.
Calf stretches: If you spend most of the day standing or sitting in place, we recommend stretching your legs frequently. Calf stretches are particularly helpful if you have varicose and spider veins.
From a standing position, place both feet flat on the ground. While slightly bending both knees, set one foot about 1-2 feet behind the other. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then change legs. If desired, deepen the stretch by leaning forward slightly and resting your hands on your forward knee. You can also brace your hands against a chair or wall for additional support.
Calf flexors: Calf flexors are another quick and beneficial exercise that you can do almost anywhere. For these, place your feet flat on the floor, then slowly raise your toes. This will stretch and strengthen your calf muscles. Next, lower your toes to the floor and raise your heels, repeating for 30 seconds to one minute.
Toe flexes: The toe flex is also easy and safe to do in a variety of locations. Lie on the floor on your back with your legs stretched out in front of you. Point your toes forward as far as you can, then back. Repeat 20 times.
Leg squats: Strengthening your thighs can help with vein symptoms, even when your varicose veins are located further down your legs. Squats get the blood flowing in the legs and throughout your body. If you don’t like traditional squats, try this variation. Sit down and up in a chair repeatedly. Aim for 20-30 reps, with a break midway through.
Get Moving for Improved Vein Health!
Ideally, you will feel better, stronger, and in less pain once you start exercising regularly. However, if you experience additional pain or believe that physical activity is making any of your vein symptoms worse, stop. Then, contact your doctor as soon as possible. You may benefit from vein treatment to reduce painful symptoms and get you back to a more active lifestyle.