Healthy Veins for a Healthy Heart

Nearly sixty percent of men suffer from varicose veins, so it’s not just a problem for women. These ballooned veins develop a gnarled bluish/brown appearance, but they’re not just a cosmetic concern.

Varicose veins afflict young men as well as grandmas
Varicose veins afflict young men as well as grandmas

These weak bulging vessels can rupture and bleed as well as cause swelling and throbbing which can cut into your daily activities.

To avoid varicose veins, exercise. It’ll keep your vessels strong which will promote healthy venous return and cardiac output. Poor cardiac output results in an inadequate delivery of oxygen to your muscles and vital organs.

Be sure your exercise routine involves working out the often neglected, but very important, calf muscles. Gravity causes blood to pool in your legs which expands the vein walls. Sitting or standing for long periods exaggerates this problem and over time, the veins don’t return to their taut condition.

When your calf muscles contract, they actually act as a ‘pump’ and are essential for maintaining blood flow from your legs back up to your heart. Keep the blood vessels in your lower extremities in optimal condition with the following six exercises:  

1. Sit and Move: When sitting, point, flex and rotate your feet and also straighten your legs or take a walk.

2. Stand and Move: When standing, sway from side to side, stand on your toes/heels, stand on the ball of only one foot (with or without a dumbbell in each hand), and do knee lifts and standing leg curls.

3. Do Standing Calf Raises: Perform this exercise on a set of stairs to both strengthen and stretch your calf muscles and back of the ankle (Achilles tendon).

  • Stand on a stair (always use the bottom stair!) with one hand holding onto the railing and/or wall for support.
  • Keep your toes on the edge of a stair and let your heels hang freely off the step (starting position).
  • Balance in this position, then slowly lift up onto your toes as high as you can, then slowly lower your heels down as much as your ankle flexibility allows.
  • Slowly lift up onto the toes, then lower the heels 10 times for 2-3 sets for a total of 20-30 lifts.

4. Do Seated Calf Raises:

  • Sit up straight and tall at the edge of a chair with both feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest on each knee.
  • Slowly lift the weight by lifting both heels off the floor while pushing down on the balls of your feet.
  • Then lower your heels back to the floor. Repeat 10 times for 2-3 sets for a total of 20-30 lifts.

5. Walk on Your Toes: Stand on your tip toes and slowly walk forward and backwards taking slow small steps. Stand very tall and keep your hands at your side.

6. Walk and Roll: Walk by rolling your weight onto your toes and striking the ground with your heel. If you have poor balance and weak calf muscles, walk alongside a wall or railing for support.

  • Take a 10-12 inch step with your right heel on the ground with the toes pointed up.
  • Then shift your weight from both feet to just the toes of your right foot as you swing your left foot forward.
  • Balance on the toes of your right foot for 2 seconds.
  • Then strike the ground with your left heel with toes pointed up. Just as you did with the right foot, rise up on the toes of your left foot for 2 seconds as you swing the right foot forward.
  • Repeat this exaggerated stride for 10 steps (5 on each foot). See how many 10-12 inch steps you can take forward, then rest and repeat.

In addition to exercise, wear knee-high compression socks — even if you don’t have varicose veins. The tension pushes the blood from the ankle and up your leg. Also, to reduce all pressure on your veins, elevate your legs or lie down twice a day for 15 minutes.

Fortunately, if you already have ballooned veins, there are now pain-free, non-invasive ways to treat them, such as with chemical injections that destroy the damaged vein (schlerotherapy) and with lasers. But exercise is the easiest way to avoid this condition. Not only will you maintain healthy venous structures, but you’ll strengthen the functional and stabilization muscles of your calves and feet.

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: Strong stabilization muscles will lessen stress on the tendons and ligaments in your feet and legs. They will help improve your stride when walking, correct pronation and prevent/cure plantar fasciitis and other types of heel/foot pain.

One thought on “Healthy Veins for a Healthy Heart

  1. I am a distance cyclist and every time I have to stand in line at a store I have a tendency to look at the calf muscles of the other people in line (and I doubt if I am the only cyclist to do this!). Anyway, so many times I’ve seen people with great upper body strength (obviously gym rats), but their legs are just disgusting — maybe they are under the delusion that other people can only see their biceps!


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