Exercising in vein? Is exercise good for varicose veins?

exercise and varicose veinsVaricose veins are a common condition in UK adults and are thought to present in one in three individuals to some degree. Although it’s often thought of as a health concern that only affects the elderly, many young men and women can also suffer from this unsightly and often uncomfortable problem.

There are many myths and misconceptions about what can cause varicose veins and, although some factors are proven, such as a genetic predisposition or pregnancy, others are less clear-cut. One common concern of patients visiting our Cornwall Vein Clinic is whether exercise caused their varicose veins?

Does exercise cause varicose veins?

Patients have often seen pictures of athletes with bulging veins and think that exercise could have been the cause of their own vein problems, but all the evidence suggests that exercise will not cause varicose veins. The enlarged veins sported by athletes are a combination of less subcutaneous fat present in the arms and legs and veins that have dilated due to the increased demands from the muscles.

The bad news is that though exercise doesn’t cause varicose veins and will strengthen the calf muscles that help pump blood back up to the heart, it also doesn’t protect you from them developing them entirely.

Exercising with varicose veins

Another common question we receive is whether it’s safe to continue exercising once you’ve developed varicose veins. The condition occurs when the valves malfunction and blood flows the wrong way through the veins. During heavy exercise, the amount of blood pumping through the veins increases greatly and damaged veins may not be able to deal will this as easily as they could before.

Particular forms of exercise, such as running and cycling, demand more from our legs, so it might be time to swap the gym for the pool. Although blood flow to the legs increases as with other sporting activities, the legs are supported by the water and also elevated which minimises the effects of gravity.

If you want to continue running or cycling, then it might be time to invest in some compression stockings which squeeze the calf and prevent blood pooling in the lower extremities.

The benefits of exercise for your overall health mean it is essential that you don’t let varicose veins prevent you from keeping fit and active. For advice on how to manage your existing condition or to find out more about your varicose vein treatment options, call 01872 308 520 to arrange a consultation.