If you suffer with varicose veins then leg workouts can really help … but the golden rule is keep it low impact!
Exercise increases blood circulation and gets the blood pumping! Whilst it’s not going to cure varicose veins the right kind of leg workouts can help prevent further deterioration and reduce pain and discomfort.
We said the RIGHT kind of exercise and this is really important. We cannot stress enough that leg workouts for varicose veins should be moderate, not too strenuous and, most importantly, low impact. If it results in any pain or discomfort then it should be stopped right away of course.
So what are the best leg workouts for varicose veins and which ones should be avoided?
Best Leg Workouts For Varicose Veins
Below we’ll list some of the best exercise for varicose veins and highlight those to be wary of.
Walking is probably the best exercise for varicose veins. You can take it at your own pace, take a scenic route, accompany it with a practical chore or even utilise the treadmill at the gym. It’s low impact, stretches the calf muscles and strengthens the pump in the legs veins to optimise the bloods return journey back to the heart. The end result is improved blood flow – and this can only be good.
It seems so simple, but frequent walking is an aid for so many health complications, not least varicose veins. As with cycling and swimming it is a low impact exercise and is vital for good blood flow in our legs. It should be noted that the walking only needs to be a gentle pace to be effective, power-walking or slow jogging may put too much strain on your blood circulation and therefore have a negative effect. You should also try to avoid walking on uneven terrain. That can put too much pressure on your legs. Try to stick to softer or flatter surfaces. Use a treadmill instead if you prefer.
Of course, you don’t need to be told how to walk, so just be a regular as you can, 30 minutes a day for at least five days a week will be a huge benefit for you.
Cycling With Varicose Veins
This is another of the best leg workouts for varicose veins. Again, it has a low impact on your joints, but a big impact on the blood circulation in your legs and, in particular, your calves. There are no rules with how long you should cycle for, just as much as you are able to, at a pace that suits you best.
A stationary bike also works just as well. In fact, we suggest that a stationary exercise bike may be easier to control and hence prove more beneficial. These days they’re pretty compact and inexpensive so consider investing in a basic exercise bike that you can use at home for short regular bursts at your convenience.
Whilst not really an exercise you should avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time so, take the pressure off, keep moving regularly and keep the blood pumping.
Running – Be Careful
This is one to be wary of. Sure, it will really get the feet, calf muscles and legs going but pounding the roads and concrete can result in impact that could actually have an adverse effect and result in the condition worsening.
If this is the exercise for you keep it smooth and run on softer, flat surfaces to keep the stress to a minimum – the treadmill perhaps? Otherwise, not really amongst the best leg workouts for varicose veins … stick to walking!
Leg Exercise – Stick To The Right Ones
The best leg exercises for varicose veins and some to avoid:
1: Calf Raises
Exercising your calves is essential, and this is probably the easiest one you can do. Stand up straight with your feet facing forward and legs parallel, then slowly move your weight forward until you are on your tiptoes, hold this position for around 5 seconds, then again, slowly return to standing, and repeat for as many times as you want. As a slight alternative, you can roll your weight back and forth from your toes then back to your heel over and over in a slow rocking motion.
2: Leg Raises
Elevation of the legs is tremendously effective, which makes this one a highly recommended exercise that can also be performed at home. First, lay on your back, as always on a comfortable surface, raise one leg in the air keeping that leg as straight as possible and making sure your bum doesn’t lift off the floor. Hold this position for between 10-15 seconds, then bring your leg back down and repeat this with the other leg. It doesn’t matter if your leg isn’t completely perpendicular, your flexibility will improve with regular practice.
You can also try raising both legs at the same time and holing the position, or using a wall for leg support if needed. Additionally, keeping your legs elevated, using cushions to prop them up, for 30 minutes or so every evening when you are on the sofa or lying in bed reading a book will have a positive impact.
3: Ankle Rolls
It may not feel like much, but exercising your ankles can help a great deal with your circulation, and as a bonus, they can be done more or less anywhere you are. Wherever you are sitting, just raise your foot off the ground slightly and gently roll your ankle in a full 360-degree motion. Start off with doing 15-20 full movements counter-clockwise, then repeat as before but this time going counter-clockwise. It is better just to do one ankle at a time, and stop immediately if you have any joint pain.
4: Leg Extensions
Grab a chair, sit up straight and lift your legs out in front of you. Point your toes up to the ceiling and hold, after about 10-12 seconds, point your toes to the floor and hold for the same amount of time, repeat this exercise for as long as you are comfortable.
This is another exercise that is focusing on your ankles, so don’t worry too much about raising your legs up high, you can hold on to the chair for support, and do one leg at a time if necessary.
Lunges are highly effective at strengthening and increasing the muscles in your legs, and the stronger your muscles are, the better your blood circulation will be. However, you will be putting a little pressure on your knees, so if you have any pre-existing problems with your knees, it is advisable that you do not do this exercise.
To perform lunges you need to start in a standing position with your feet a little apart and feet facing forward, choose a leg, take one step forward and bend your knee; for maximum benefit, it is important that you keep your knee in line with your ankle. Keep this position for about 10 seconds, then return to standing and do the same with the other leg, performing around 10 lunges for each leg.
You can also incorporate side lunges, or do only side lunges if you prefer. For side lunges, again stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, take a side step as much as possible with your right leg, while also moving your left leg in the same direction, but ensuring you keep your left foot firmly on the ground. Your right knee should now be bent, your body weight shifted on your right side and your left leg extended. Hold this for between 5-7 seconds, then bring yourself back into your original position, repeat the action and alternate legs performing the lunge roughly 10 times for each leg.
Remember to keep both feet on the ground while in the holding position, keep your knee always lined up with your ankle and maintain a straight back.
6: Bicycling / Bicycle Legs
If you don’t have a bike, nor have access to a stationary bike, a good alternative is the do the cycling motion in the air; for this, you need to lie on your back, ensuring you are on a comfortable surface, bring your knees in toward your chest and make a peddling motion as if you were riding a bike. Do about 30 or so complete motions with each leg, giving yourself 30-second breaks after every set of ten. While it is not as effective as a real bike, spending 10-15 minutes each day doing this will go a long way to help.
7: Swimming – A Great Exercise In Many Ways
A really good all round exercise for general health. The jury is out on just how effective it is when it comes to varicose veins though. Some experts suggest it to be excellent but others are not quite as positive. There’s no risk of impact damage when it comes to splashing around in the water so it can only do good! Focus on strokes like breast stroke which utilises the legs to greater extent.
8: Weight Lifting And Varicose Veins – Be Very Careful
Believe it or not this is a really risky exercise when you suffer from varicose veins. It’s one of the most strenuous exercises that can put a huge stress on veins and circulation. It will increase abdominal pressure which can actually make it harder to pump the blood back to the heart – exactly what you don’t want! Proceed with caution and take advice from your trainer as it really can worsen the condition.
9: Yoga – Avoid Prolonged Posturing
The trick is to get the calves pumping. Yoga can help however you should avoid any prolonged abdominal posturing so it’s probably another one to avoid.
10: Aerobics Type Exercise – Avoid The Impact Moves
Aerobics and dance type exercise can often be high impact … especially if it involves lots of jumping around. Just be careful of this one too as high impact exercise can do further damage to varicose veins
Best Exercise For Varicose Veins – Conclusion
As we said earlier, even the best leg workouts for varicose veins are not going to cure the condition. But, they can really help improve the symptoms or at least stop them getting worse. Make sure you stay well clear of any form of high impact exercise which can have a detrimental effect on varicose veins which can result in a worsening of the condition.
If in doubt seek medical or professional advice before setting off on a new exercise regime and always stop immediately if the veins or legs start to hurt or feel uncomfortable.