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Exercise and varicose veins: What's to know?

Posted at 8:32 AM, Dec 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-09 12:19:46-05

Morrison Vein Institute is a paid advertiser of Sonoran Living Live

Do you have varicose or spider veins? If you do, you most likely have questions about exercise and varicose veins.

Varicose veins are caused by a lack of circulation in the veins, resulting in pressure that causes the veins to bulge and look cord-like. Exercising helps to improve the circulation in your legs and arm, stimulate blood flow, and build strength - while also reducing pain and discomfort.  Diseased veins are most commonly associated with prolonged sitting or standing, hereditary factors, and pregnancy. However, even if you are at high risk for vein disease, there are principles you can follow to help maintain healthy veins.

Exercise is key.

There are certain exercises that are better for your veins than others. As you exercise, blood is pumped back to the heart from the foot veins and calf muscles. Strong foot and leg muscles promote healthy blood circulation and minimizes vein disease.


The best exercise is walking. Walking is a great low-impact activity that stretches and strengthens your calf muscles, thereby improving your blood flow.

Stationary Bike & Elliptical

Other low-impact exercises like riding a stationary bike or using the elliptical are great for exercising the calf muscle and improving calf pump blood flow without placing stress on your joints and bones.


Strenuous exercise can put a strain on the venous circulation. As blood flows up the leg veins back to the heart, it flows through the vena cava in the abdomen. Increasing the abdominal pressure by heavy lifting and straining impedes blood from traveling back to the heart. The venous blood then pools in the leg veins increasing the venous pressure and venous reflux or reversal of flow in the leg veins into varicose veins in the legs.

If you do lift weights, use good lifting techniques: lower weight and high rep routines, exhale when you lift, and incorporate aerobic activity such as walking or riding a stationary bike immediately afterward in order to get the blood circulating again. Remember to wear compression socks while weightlifting and directly after to assist with moving the blood upward towards the heart.


Running or jogging is a fantastic aerobic exercise that gets the calf muscles and feet moving.   It is suggested if you are an avid runner, try running on grass or a synthetic track to minimize the high-impact of hard surfaces like cement or pavement.

Exercise Not an Option

We understand that there are circumstances that make frequent exercise impossible. So, whether its an illness or schedule conflicts, there are other measures which promote healthy veins for life.
·    While sitting or standing, rock your feet back and forth on the ground from heel to toe activating the calf pump.
·    Wear graduated compression hose especially while sitting, standing or traveling for an extended period, and during pregnancy.
 Leg Exercises for Varicose Veins
·    Leg Lifts - Sit on the floor/mat or lie on your back with your feet straight out. Slowly, lift one leg at a time from the floor. Hold your leg in the air, letting the blood run down and back up your leg. Slowly, lower your leg back down to the floor. Repeat on the opposite leg.
·    Calf Raises - Stand with your legs straight. Slowly, rise on to your tiptoes and then lower back down.
·    Bicycle Legs - Lie on your back, bringing your legs in the air and bending them at the knee. Slowly, begin to pedal your legs as if you were riding a bicycle. You can also do the same motion one leg at a time, alternating your legs between sets.
·    Side Lunges - Stand with your legs hip-width apart. Step to the side with your right leg, bending your right knee at a 90-degree-angle. Your left leg should be at a slight ankle. To resume your starting position, slowly begin to straighten your right leg, bringing your leg back into hip-width stance. Repeat on the left leg. Remember to make sure your knee stays directly over your ankle when performing the side lunge.

As you can see, exercise is important in preventing venous disease and maintaining healthy legs and veins for life. Just be sure that you're doing the right exercises! Learn more at
or call Morrison Vein Institute to schedule your initial consultation at 480-860-6455.

Morrison Vein Institute is a paid advertiser of Sonoran Living Live