Does exercise cause varicose veins?
There is a myth that doing physical exercises could make the problem of varicose veins much worse or even cause varicose veins. However, varicose veins tend to be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, so exercise is actually a good way to avoid developing or exacerbating varicose veins. It’s best to avoid high impact exercises like running or weight training if you suffer from varicose veins already, as these can increase the pressure on your veins. But low impact exercises are good for avoiding and relieving varicose veins by pumping the blood around your body.
Which exercises help varicose veins?
Low impact exercises involving your legs can actually improve circulation and stimulate blood flow, which helps to keep your veins and legs strong. Any exercises involving your legs are good for preventing and treating spider veins, but those involving the lower calf muscles are the most efficient. Here are some suggestions of low impact exercises which could help to prevent or improve varicose veins:
- Walking – something as simple as walking is an ideal form of exercise to tone your legs and help varicose veins. Try walking about the block if you’ve been sitting at work all day, or get off the bus one or two stops earlier than usual and walk the rest of the way home. These short bursts of exercise can greatly improve the symptoms of varicose veins.
- Tip-toe and heel walking – try walking on your heels or tip-toes as you walk around the house or in the office to challenge your legs and work your calves. Using your calves in this way will get that blood pumping back upwards and help to avoid blood pooling.
- Cycling – this is another great exercise that will improve your overall health and fitness, thus reducing the stress on your veins. You can cycle outdoors in the summer months, or try stationary bikes in your local gym if the weather outside isn't very appealing.
For more suggestions, read my blog on the best exercises to prevent varicose veins.
Leg exercises you can do while sitting
You don’t even need to be standing up to do leg exercises! There are also exercises that you can do while sitting at your desk or at home. These can help to stimulate blood flow and can be easily fitted into your routine.
- Circle one ankle clockwise for 30 seconds, and then circle the same ankle anti-clockwise for another 30 seconds. Repeat with your other ankle.
- Keep your toes on the floor and lift your heels. Hold this position for 3 seconds then put your feet flat on the floor. Then, keep your heels on the floor and point your toes up at the ceiling. Hold for 3 seconds then put your feet flat on the floor. Repeat a few times until you can feel your calf muscles working.
- Tense the front of your thigh, bend your knee and lift your leg upwards so your foot comes off the floor. Bring your leg back down again and relax the muscle. Repeat 10 times and then do the same with your other leg.
- Lie down on your back, bend your knees and raise your legs up so your knees come to your chest. Move one leg forward in a circular motion and then bring it back to your chest, as if you are cycling in mid-air. Repeat with the other leg and keep this going for a count of 20 seconds.
Horse chestnut for your varicose veins
Horse chestnut has traditionally been used to help relieve the symptoms of varicose veins and legs which are heavy, aching and/or painful. Research has reviewed the safety and efficacy of horse chestnut seed extract and found that participants in 6/7 studies found that horse chestnut significantly reduced their leg pain.1
A.Vogel’s Venagel contains extract of horse chestnut seeds in the form of a cooling gel. Here’s why Venagel is good for your varicose veins:
- It has the ability to improve the tone of veins, reducing leakage into the surrounding tissues. Horse chestnut extracts in gels have a soothing effect on the legs.
- It acts as a handy topical treatment which provides cooling relief to legs that feel weary, painful and uncomfortable – it’s fantastic after a night out or a long day of walking.
- It can be useful for travelling, because varicose veins can be exacerbated by hot weather or sitting still for long periods of time, such as long haul flights.
- It can be used during pregnancy as topical relief for uncomfortable varicose veins, as horse chestnut in tablet form is not suitable for pregnant women.
- It is easy to apply – simply massage a small amount onto the skin 2 to 3 times daily, using an upwards motion. Pay special attention to the ankles and the areas that feel most uncomfortable. Try to keep your legs raised for 20 minutes afterwards.
1Pittler MH, Ernst E. Horse chestnut seed extract for chronic venous insufficiency. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Nov 14;11:CD003230. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003230.pub4.
Originally written on 29/05/2015, updated on 04/12/2018.