Exercising regularly is beneficial to everyone as it enhances blood circulation which boosts the body’s oxygen levels, and strengthens the muscles. It also strengthens the heart, preventing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, excessive cholesterol, and coronary artery disease. Exercising on a regular basis may also help decrease triglycerides, blood pressure and reduce the progression and risk of occurrence of varicose veins.
Varicose veins are a condition that causes veins to swell, twist, or enlarge. It occurs when the vein’s suppleness is lost and when one or more of its valves are not optimal. As a result, blood accumulates in the veins, and the veins grow in size. This is a frequent issue that affects people who are overweight, the elderly, people who sit or stand for prolonged periods, and pregnant women. Varicose veins are sometimes painful, cause discomfort, and are a major cosmetic concern.
Leg Exercises for Varicose Veins
Exercises that directly involve the legs are the most beneficial to those with varicose veins. However, any form of exercise is advantageous to anyone’s overall health. If you suffer from varicose veins, or to help prevent the condition, make a habit of elevating your legs. This also helps to prevent aches and swelling.
Raising your legs is best done when lying on the sofa, bed, or floor and stretching out your feet in elevation. Maintaining the position for a couple of minutes, lowering the legs, and repeating the same several times a day can have great benefits. Other effective leg exercises for varicose veins include:
Varicose veins are often caused by staying in a stagnated position most of the day. This can be easily avoided by walking every morning or whatever time of day is most preferential. Walking is a good way to stretch and strengthen your muscles and bones without straining. It helps to prevent your muscles from becoming stiff hence eradicating the possibility of varicose veins. Walking briskly often helps to maintain healthy blood pressure levels, boosts immunity and blood circulation, and elevates mood. Try taking a walk when you’re upset and experience the positive impact walking will have on your mood. This simple exercise also helps to improve blood glucose levels and the quality of your sleep.
No matter your daily activities, it is important that you keep exercising and avoid a sedentary lifestyle. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to the gym; thus, walking is a good idea if you are looking to keep fit and avoid contracting unnecessary diseases. Those with varicose veins should avoid running on concrete or using a treadmill. If you must, jog on a soft, cushiony surface like the grass. Avoid running as it places significant strain on your legs and the blood flow increase may worsen the condition.
Alternatively, if you’re not up to walking, you can exercise your heels and toes in a stationary position. Put one foot in front of you and point your toes towards the sky, retaining your heel on the ground. Hold for 5 seconds. Put the same foot behind you and point your toes in the direction of the ground, toes touching the ground. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat ten times and do the same with the other foot.
2: Leg Lifts
Another simple exercise that doesn’t require equipment and can be done from the comfort of your home is leg lifts. There are several types of leg lifts – you can either do them kneeling on all fours, sitting with your back straight, standing, or lying on your back. The point is to elevate one leg and hold it parallel to the ground.
If kneeling on all fours, stretch out one leg backward and hold it parallel to the ground. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then slowly drop it and alternate legs. Repeat ten times. If seated, stretch out one leg, holding it parallel to the ground, and if standing, raise one leg to almost knee-length of the leg on the ground. Hold for 10 seconds, slowly drop, alternate legs, and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat so that you raise each leg ten times.
If lying on your back, elevate one leg to make your body form an L-shape. With one leg elevated, hold the position for 10 seconds, then slowly drop it and alternate legs. Repeat this exercise several times. Raising each leg at least ten times is adequate. Leg lifts help to increase muscle flexibility and improve blood circulation.
A lunge refers to any position in which one leg is in front with the foot placed on the ground, flat, and knee bent, keeping the other leg behind. To perform lunges, stand up straight, parting your feet slightly. Step your left foot forward and bend onto your right knee till it touches the ground. The bent knee should position itself directly above the ankle, and a few inches behind the foot, which is firmly flat on the ground. The toes of the bent knee should be facing the ground, almost like you are tiptoeing.
Hold the position for 5 seconds before getting back on your feet, straightening up, and repeating the same motion with the right foot forward and left knee bent. You can perform lunges carrying light weights to improve your balance and exercise your arms too. Lunges exercise your calf and feet muscles.
You can opt to use a stationary cycling machine or recreate the cycling motion while lying on a mat on the floor on your back. A machine will have you cycling with both legs increasing the blood flow to your legs. Lying on your back requires you to raise your feet and bend your knees, maintaining a 90° angle from the floor. Begin the cycling motion with one leg, keeping the other bent, and interchange them so that you are cycling in the air.
At the same time, you may opt to exercise your arms and abdominal muscles. Do this by crunching upwards and tapping your elbow to the opposite knee and interchange arms at the same time you are interchanging legs in the cycling motion. This means your left elbow will meet your bent right knee. Carry on until each elbow has met the opposite knee five times. Rest for 10 seconds and repeat five more times.
5: Calf Raises
Calf raises help to strengthen your calf muscles and improve blood circulation, which helps ease the discomfort varicose veins cause. To raise your calves, stand up with your back straight and position your legs parallel to each other. Raise your body to tiptoe. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly go back to the initial position with your feet flat on the ground. Repeat the motion ten times.
6: Rocking Your Feet
Rocking your feet puts your body in motion as if you were on a rocking chair, only that you are standing and not seated and you do not need a chair to perform this exercise. It is very similar to calf raises, only that you add a backward motion. Rocking your feet improves your balance and blood circulation, both beneficial to those with varicose veins and those without.
When standing with your back straight, bring your heels together and point your toes outward. Raise yourself using your toes so that you tiptoe. Hold the position for 5 seconds and slowly come back down on your feet. Rock yourself backward so that you are balancing on your heels with your toes pointing skyward. Hold the position for 5 seconds and slowly come back down on your feet. Repeat this motion ten times.
7: Toe Pull-Back
Pulling back your toes is a very simple exercise that you can do while seated watching TV, in a bus on transit, or on the subway just as long as you are seated. Position your legs straight downward to make your body form a chair-like stance. Raise your toes, ensuring to keep your heels pressed slightly on the floor, pulling your toes towards your body. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Rest for 2 seconds and repeat 15 times. Toe pull-backs exercise your hamstrings, quadriceps and strengthen your calves.
8: Ankle Rolls
Ankle rolls can be done either while sitting or standing. If seated, especially good for those who spend long hours seated in one position, stretch your feet in front of you and elevate them without raising your heels from the ground. Roll both feet clockwise and continue for 10 seconds. Rotate anticlockwise for another 10 seconds. Rest 5 seconds and repeat at least ten times.
When standing, raise one leg in front of you and do similar motions using your toes – like drawing a circle with your foot. Roll the raised foot clockwise and continue for 10 seconds. Rotate anticlockwise for another 10 seconds. Rest 5 seconds and alternate feet. Repeat at least 10 times.
9: Thigh Raises
The most frequent method of standing up from a sitting position is by thrusting forward using your arms. To exercise your legs and thigh muscles, sit in a chair and stand up using your feet with arms outstretched in front of you – position them parallel to the ground. With your back straight, lower yourself back into the chair, repeating the exercise several times – ten times is sufficient. This exercise exerts pressure on your feet and thighs instead of your arms, which helps to strengthen your leg muscles and improve blood circulation.
10: Knee Raises
Stand up, ensuring not to slouch and keep your back straight. Stretch your legs apart without exceeding your hips’ width. Stretch out your arms so that your body is T-shaped. You can start with either your right or left side by lowering your arm towards the opposite knee as you raise it. The right knee and left elbow or the left knee and right elbow should meet as you do this. Return to the initial position with arms outstretched and alternate sides so that you exercise both your right and left sides in equal measure. Repeating this exercise 10 times on each side is sufficient.
11: Step Ups
Climbing a set of stairs is beneficial for your blood circulation. As far as possible, take the stairs instead of the escalator or lift to keep your overall health in check and assist with your varicose veins symptoms. At home, you can practice a similar motion by putting out a steady chair in front of you, lifting one foot, and placing it flat on the already set-out chair. Count 5 seconds. Lower your foot back to the ground and alternate feet. Repeat the same, alternating feet, ten times. Ensure your back is straight throughout the exercise to avoid straining yourself.
Although most types of exercise are safe and helpful, not all of them are appropriate for everyone. While substantial relief from varicose veins is experienced as a result of exercising, it is not always sufficient on its own and you may still need medical intervention to treat your varicose veins. Be careful to only choose workouts that will not exert excessive pressure on your veins.
When in doubt regarding performing any of the exercises listed above, or if you have any other underlying conditions, consult your physician. Sometimes, despite the physical activity, you may still develop varicose veins, or existing ones can worsen despite regular exercising. If symptoms persist, seek medical treatment.
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