Poor circulation can be triggered by many root causes, ranging from underlying conditions like diabetes or heart disease to obesity. This affects your arms, feet, and legs with tingling, numbing, and even painful sensations. In very bad cases, ulcerations of the skin will develop from a lack of blood flow and consequently no oxygenation of the skin.
One of the hallmarks of poor arterial circulation is leg pain with activity that improves with rest; another is pain at night in the legs that feels better if the legs hand off the side of the bed. Drinking water, cutting out unhealthy foods and habits like smoking, and wearing compression garments can help to boost your circulation – but exercise is also a great tool to improve circulation!
Poor circulation is a medical condition that generally requires treatment, and we recommend that you receive an evaluation if you feel that you have peripheral arterial disease. But, there are some basic things everyone can and should do to try to prevent this problem.
Here are 5 exercises that you should incorporate into your day.
This is one of the simplest and easiest exercises for improving circulation. No matter where you are walking - either on a treadmill, outdoors, or around the grocery store – walking for at least 30 minutes a day can go a long way in helping your blood flow. Not only does walking improve aerobic conditioning and force more arterial blood to the limbs it also helps venous return to the heart. By the muscles contracting in the legs, the venous blood is literally pumped back up to the heart through the complex valve-based system of venous circulation.
Swimming targets your whole body with low-impact exercise but also incorporates resistance. Whether you swim laps or simply walk around in your pool, this form of exercise can help to increase your heart rate to burn calories and increase circulation. Remember to rest periodically, especially if you experience any pain. Generally, waist-high water is thought to reduce the bodyweight on feet to 60% and chest/neck-high water to 80%.
3. CALF RAISES
You can do this exercise freestanding or while holding on to a table or chair for added stability. Start by standing flat on your feet and then lift yourself up onto your toes, holding for just a few seconds before returning to a standing position. Repeat this 15 times or as many times as you can. This flexing and stretching of the toe muscles will help to alleviate muscle pain and increase blood flow in the feet and ankles.
Beware that although the ability to do 25 single leg calf raises is technically considered normal, many will develop cramps while doing this. Do not be ashamed to rest. Stretch your heel cords after this as well for added benefit.
4. TOE LIFTS
Much like the calf raise exercise, you begin by standing flat on your feet. Instead of rocking forward up onto your toes, roll back onto your calves and lift your toes. You will feel a stretch run through the back of your leg. Remember that you can hold onto a surface to help remain balanced. Repeat this exercise 15 times as well. This may cause you to develop ‘shin splints’ due to overexertion of the muscle that brings the ‘toes-to-nose’ (tibialis anterior). Gentle massage and stretch will help that problem.
5. KNEE RAISES
Begin by standing straight with your shoulders back. If you would like, hold on to a chair for balance. Starting with your right leg, lift your knee as high as you can before returning your foot to the ground. Repeat with your left leg. Think of this as if you are walking in place with exaggerated steps. Repeat this as many times as you can, or at least 10 times on each leg with a total of 3 repetitions.
Try mixing these exercises into your daily routine to promote circulation and overall health of the body.
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