Varicose veins -- that unsightly maze of blue and purple cords protruding from beneath your skin. They most commonly terrorize your lower legs, ankles and feet, and can be both embarrassing and painful. While some people are genetically predisposed to them -- you can thank grandma later -- there are workouts you can do to reduce their appearance and exercises you should avoid to prevent them from getting worse.
Your heart pumps blood to your body through your arteries. Your veins carry blood from your body back to your heart so it can be recirculated. The veins in your legs have to fight against gravity to pump blood up to your heart, which can become difficult if your veins start to lose elasticity and their upward pumping power. When this occurs, blood that should be pumping up starts to flow back down and pool in the veins of your lower legs, ankles and feet. This causes varicose veins. Heredity, age, sex, weight, diet and health disorders can also contribute to their development.
Weights on Ankles and Circulation
Since varicose veins occur when the veins in your legs have trouble circulating blood back up to your heart, any activity or exercise that interferes with the circulation in your legs should be avoided. This includes wearing ankle weights, which could restrict the flow of blood from your feet and ankles. It also includes using exercise machines that require weight to rest on your shins or ankles, as is the case with some knee extension machines. Also avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time, wearing high-heels and tight hosery, gaining too much weight and eating salty foods, as these will all affect circulation and can cause varicose veins to form or worsen.
Exercise and Varicose Veins
Although certain exercises should be avoided to prevent the formation or worsening of varicose veins, exercise in general promotes circulation, so should be done regularly. Engage in exercises like walking, pedaling, leg lifts and knee bends with ankle flexion, according to Dr. Michael J. Kassouf of VeinMedic.com. These exercises get your legs moving and encourage circulation. This can relieve blood pooling in the lower parts of your legs that cause varicose veins and help reduce some of the pain associated with them.
While varicose veins can cause general discomfort, they should not be excessively painful. Seek medical attention right away if they become swollen, tender or begin to bleed, if your skin gets dark around the veins, itches or develops a rash, if pain gets worse after sitting or standing for a long time, or if your legs feel achy, sore or start cramping or burning. Complications, like the formation of blood clots or ulcers, can occur with severe vericose veins. So get evaluated by your doctor if you notice varicose veins forming or getting worse.
Based in the Los Angeles area, Brandi Junious specializes in health-related articles. Her writing reflects her expertise in fitness and education. Junious is the author of children's book "A World Without Trees" and her work has appeared on Modern Mom, The Nest Woman, Chron Healthy Living and at Loseweightandlivehealthy.blogspot.com. Junious holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Southern California and a master's degree in Education.