Is it true that what goes up must always come down? For a ball, yes – but not for blood in the veins of your legs! There, blood returning to the heart is never meant to reverse its course, and one-way valves within them are meant to police the flow of ‘traffic.’ Over the years, though, the valves can become weakened and allow some blood to flow back – obeying the laws of gravity instead of those of the circulation. The result is the development of one or more swollen, varicose veins – or, in milder cases, spider veins – on the legs.
Those valves don’t become weaker from too much exercise, but from too little – just like the muscles themselves. Varicose and spider veins reflect diminishing efficiency of blood circulation, especially in the veins where blood is returning to the heart and is under much less pressure than it is in the arteries. The legs are naturally more vulnerable to backflow in the veins, where blood’s normal movement is against the force of gravity.
The best preventative action you can take against these unsightly types of veins is simply to exercise. In fact, some early and mild cases of varicose or spider veins may respond to exercise alone – but an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure. Being active makes the heart pump a little faster and stronger, increasing blood pressure in a good way. Furthermore, contractions of the leg muscles help move blood through the veins. Regular exercise strengthens and tones not just the muscles but all of our tissues.
Fortunately, our veins aren’t choosey about the type of exercise they respond to. This is truly a case where “it’s all good”! Especially if one hasn’t been active for a while, starting off simply with regular, brisk walks is perfect. Although walking a couple times a week will begin to help, getting in a good walk nearly every day will be that much better. One’s regular walking pace may be slow and leisurely, and again this is fine for starters. Making the walk just a bit faster, though, will pay benefits over time. Walk proudly and like you really want to get some place!
If a person is in pretty good shape to begin with, then lots of other exercises become possible options: jogging, swimming, and using exercise machines for leg-lifts and other movements. If you know you are out of shape, check in with the doctor first, and start off easy – don’t try to be an instant athlete. Give it time. It’s fine to be ambitious, but don’t bite off more than you can chew – it can lead to discouragement rather than progress.
Although it’s great to join a gym if you want to, it’s far from a requirement. Find a friend to go on regular walks or bicycle rides with. Give the elevator a break and take the stairs more often, especially if it’s just a couple floors. Park the car a little further from the office or store and walk the extra distance – assuming it’s not raining cats and dogs. And speaking of pets, what dog doesn’t love to go out for a walk? It’s good for both of you!
When back home, sit more often with your legs up and not crossed. If you have to sit all day for your job, make sure to get up regularly to just walk around for a minute or two. You’ll make up for the little bit of time away from the desk by being fresher and more efficient when you return. Keep those legs active on a regular basis and you can keep varicose veins at bay for years, possibly even for an entire lifetime.