can workouts lead to varicose veins

Can Your Workouts Lead to Varicose Veins?

Although exercises, like running, biking, hiking, and soccer rely more heavily on the legs than other workouts, they do not cause varicose veins. If they did, every athlete would, at some point, develop them. But they don’t. However, that’s not to say that certain workouts or exercises won’t exacerbate varicose veins or increase your odds of developing them if you’re prone to vein diseases.

That said, for those who already have varicose veins, may have a genetic predisposition to developing them, or who are simply concerned about becoming one of the roughly 25 million Americans who have varicose veins, there are some exercises you should be wary of, including:

  • Running. If you’re an aggressive runner who tends to “pounds the pavement,” your go-to workout can not only cause damage to your joints and cartilage, but it can also cause your veins to swell, which can aggravate varicose veins. If you don’t want to give up running, try to jog gently on softer surfaces, like dirt trails or a local track, rather than asphalt or concrete. It will reduce the overall strain on your legs and your veins.
  • Weightlifting. Any workout that increases abdominal pressure can restrict the blood flow from your legs to your heart and increase pressure on the veins in your legs. To mitigate the issue, try doing more reps and lifting lighter weights. And avoid holding your breath during the movements.
  • Biking. If you tend to spend an extended period of time crouched over your handlebars, you can increase abdominal pressure and reduce the blood flow to your legs. So, if you bike, be mindful of your posture.
  • Bodyweight exercises: Squats, sit-ups, crunches, lunges, and even yoga and Pilates (when practicing certain postures) can exacerbate varicose veins due to prolonged abdominal pressure. If they’re part of your daily workout, do more rounds of fewer reps or hold postures for less time, and take a break between sets.  

Although many forms of exercise can cause increased pressure on your legs, working out is part of a healthy lifestyle and is good for your veins. So, don’t stop working out – just be mindful and stretch your legs and abs regularly. And, if you can, wear compression socks while working out. They will help squeeze the calf muscles around the veins, and help blood move more easily back toward the heart.