Exercise for Better Circulation
A regular exercise routine has all kinds of health benefits that help you feel better and stay healthier. One of these is a stronger, healthier heart and better circulation throughout your body. If you are a healthy person, the right exercises can keep your body functioning properly and actually prevent you from getting certain heart and circulatory diseases.
This is because circulatory diseases are particularly affected by the lack of regular exercise. Exercising has a direct impact on your heart, arteries, veins and the amount of fat your body stores. All of these working together are essentially what determines how healthy your circulatory system is. When these aren't as working as well as they should, you become susceptible to vascular diseases like peripheral artery disease, or "PAD."
PAD is a vascular condition in which the arteries in your legs and feet become clogged with arterial plaque. When this happens, it increases your blood pressure and can lead to several other serious medical conditions such as a heart attack, stroke or neuropathy in your feet, which is when they completely lose feeling. Neuropathy is especially dangerous because it can ultimately lead to the foot needing to be amputated if it is left untreated.
Can exercise prevent or treat PAD?
Yes! Your body is an interconnected system. Your arteries, veins and heart all work together to get fresh oxygenated blood to your body where it is needed. The healthier your heart is, the better it is able to work. A strong heart doesn't need to pump as hard or as often to function. Also, when you exercise you are increasing the amount of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) in your blood, which serve to remove some of the arterial plaque that builds up in the veins.
When people exercise they also tend to lose fat. Too much fat puts exterior pressure on vein walls, which again increases blood pressure and compounds the problem of having a plaque buildup. With all this in mind, it is easy to see that regular exercise can have a huge benefit on improving the entire cardiovascular system, which includes the veins in the legs that can develop PAD.
Regular exercise keeps the heart and veins healthy by strengthening them and eliminating extra cholesterol in the bloodstream, all of which drastically reduces the chances of developing PAD. If you already have PAD, it is treatable and reversible. A steady exercise regimen will equip your body with what it needs to remove plaque from your arteries and reduce the pressure on them from excess fat.
What kinds of exercises can help with PAD?
While there is nothing wrong with lifting weights or doing sit ups, the best exercises for people who are concerned about their vascular health are aerobic exercises. You might also hear these kinds of exercises referred to as "cardio". Aerobic exercises are those that train your body to be more efficient at delivering oxygen to your system. They aren't necessarily designed to build muscle mass or shred fat, although they can accomplish that as well. These exercises will strengthen your heart and your lungs, as well as equip your body to unclog any arterial buildup you may have developed.
There are lots of different aerobic exercises out there, and they all are going to be beneficial for your system. Most people opt for activities they find (at least somewhat) enjoyable. If you are constantly dreading your workout, you're going to look for excuses not to do it. However, if you can find an activity you enjoy, it will make working out that much more fun — and therefore effective. Here are some ideas for some exercises you can start working into your routine.
This is the most obvious, and popular, of the aerobic exercises. There is a marathon or 5k happening virtually every weekend once springtime hits. Running is great because all it takes is a decent pair of shoes and you are all set. You can run outside on nice days or, if you prefer, use a treadmill to run inside. The only downside is that running can be a high-impact activity that is hard on the knees over time. If you are experiencing joint pain, just bringing it down to a brisk walk is still a great way to stay active, especially if you are navigating hills and inclines.
Biking is wonderful because, unlike, running, it can be much easier on the joints. Bikes also allow you to cover a lot more ground during your exercise, making them a great, healthy way to get from point A to point B. If you have stores or restaurants near your home, you can always think about biking to them instead of driving. Even if you don't want to buy a bike, almost all gyms will have a stationary bike you can use. Most of these even have resistance options that will allow you to simulate riding uphill and downhill.
Swimming is perfect for people who love the water. Another low-impact activity, swimming exercises the whole body and is great for the lungs and heart. Certain gyms, like the YMCA, have pools available for people to swim laps in, but even neighborhood pools are a great way to get some exercise. If you aren't up to swimming dedicated laps, just getting in the water and swimming around is a great way to get started.
If you are the kind of person who prefers to work out with others, aerobics classes are a great choice. These are workout classes that you can sign up through a gym or personal trainer. What's great about these classes is that they are usually tailored specifically to a certain group of people. There are aerobics classes specifically for women, seniors, men, and even those dedicated to dancing or martial arts. The sheer variety of aerobics classes means there is bound to be one you'll enjoy. It also adds some extra motivation having something planned for you a few times a week instead of finding the time to work out on your own.
Which exercises are best for treating and preventing PAD?
The best exercise to help with PAD is the one that works for you. The reality is that many people with PAD have to deal with leg pain. With this in mind, low-impact workouts are going to be best. Running is most likely going to be too painful to do consistently. However, just walking on a treadmill is a great place to start. Swimming will be very easy on the legs and knees as well. The most important thing is to start small and stay consistent. As you work out, your body will become stronger and you'll be able to do more and more.
Keep in mind that all of the exercises listed above will help, and there are many more we didn't list as well. The most important thing is to stay active. Living a sedentary lifestyle will weaken the heart, make it easier to gain weight, and increase cholesterol in your bloodstream. Regular exercise fixes all of that and has been shown to improve your mental health as well. It can be hard to start new habits, but it is never too late to lead a more active, healthier life.
Want to know your risk for PAD?
If you'd like to know where your health stands with regard to your risk for peripheral artery disease, Life Line Screening offers a quick, noninvasive test with immediate results. A trained technician uses an ultrasound machine to scan the arteries in your legs for cholesterol buildup. They can show you, right there in the appointment, any trouble areas and assess your risk for developing PAD. The whole process takes around 15 minutes.
Scheduling an appointment is easy, with convenient locations all across the United States. Click below to find the Life Line Screening location closest to you.
This article has been reviewed by the Life Line Screening clinical team. You can learn more about this team of experts HERE.