7 Exercises to Improve Circulation in Your Legs and Feet
No matter what you’re doing: walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, you can use exercises to improve the circulation in your legs and feet. Why is this important? It’s crucial because if you don’t get your legs and feet moving around, your blood can pool in your lower extremities, bringing all kinds of (avoidable) health risks.
What’s Wrong with Being Sedentary?
What’s the big deal about lying and sitting around? Why does it really matter? You might be asking yourself why it’s so important to get that daily exercise to get your blood flowing through your body on the regular. Science has shown us that sitting for extended periods is not only bad for circulation, but it also puts you at a higher risk for early death from many means, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and more.
To avoid the dangers of being sedentary, make sure to move around every 30 minutes to an hour at the very minimum. You can even use apps on your phone or watch to help remind you to get up and move about. Ideally, moving your body regularly will be part of an overall healthy lifestyle that is a lifelong commitment. Just get up—it’s such an easy fix to a list of potential health problems. And while you’re up, why not get that circulation moving to boot?
What is Circulation and why Is It Important?
What is circulation? Circulation is the flow of blood throughout your body. The purpose is to keep tissues fed and healthy as the blood both provides needed nutrients and helps remove toxins.
What happens when you improve your circulation and get your blood moving? Besides properly feeding your extremities with nutrient-rich blood, you help reduce inflammation, expand your blood vessels, and build new ones, so your tissues can receive more of the oxygen and nutrients they need. And getting a fresh source of blood into your legs and feet is better than allowing the blood to pool for long periods.
Use These Exercises to Improve Circulation
Which exercises will help you improve circulation in your legs and feet? Well, that’s a bit of a trick question because the real answer is that all exercise will help. But, if you really want to focus in on the areas of your body where blood can easily pool, try adding these exercises to your day-to-day routine.
This just might be the most perfect exercise ever created. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 30 minutes of walking per day—with good reason. Walking helps improve your cardiovascular fitness, can help you burn extra calories and stave off weight gain, will help strengthen and tone legs, calves, feet, hips, glutes, and core, and last but certainly not least, will get your blood flowing.
2. Walking Lunges
These are a great combo of walking and resistance training, both of which will have your blood flowing in no time! Start by standing normally. You can keep your hands at your sides, on your hips, or clasp in front of you. Take a giant step forward with your right foot, allowing your left leg to straighten out as your right knee bends, bringing your body forward. Next, push through your right heel to propel yourself up and forward, swinging your left leg through and out front (a giant step forward) to continue the lunging movement. Keep “walking” in this manner until you have completed ten “steps” for each leg.
This joint-friendly yet cardiovascularly challenging exercise is an incredible add to your workout program. In fact, vein specialists even recommend swimming for people with issues like varicose veins. The pressure of the water on your legs and feet is almost like a compression stocking and helps force the blood back up toward your heart. That, coupled with the movement required to swim, is a win-win when it comes to getting your circulation in gear. While this may not be an exercise you can do every few hours, you can definitely help stay healthy by including swimming a few times a week as part of your overall fitness program.
4. Ankle Circles
This may sound simple, and it is. Simply lift one foot (or both feet if sitting) and move them around in circles (up, down, forward, back). Switch directions and repeat.
5. Leg Curls
This can be done while standing or on a leg curl machine. If standing, hold onto something for balance (like a chair back or countertop). With your feet together, keeping thighs parallel, lift your right foot off the ground and bend your leg, bringing your heel up toward your glutes. Raise and lower ten times slowly, squeezing the muscles at the top of the movement. You can also try looping a fitness band around your heel while stepping on the other end or placing it around your ankles to increase tension.
6. Leg Extensions
These will also get the blood flowing freely through your legs. Use a leg extension machine or sit in a chair with both feet flat on the ground. Pick your right foot up off the ground slightly and straighten your leg, squeezing the quadriceps muscles for a moment at the top of the movement. Next, slowly bend your knee to lower your leg back to the start. Repeat ten times on one side and then switch to the opposite leg. You could also try looping a fitness band around your ankle while stepping on the other end to increase tension.
7. Body Squats
Squats of any variety will also help with blood circulation in your lower body. Simply pick a stance you like and that feels comfortable for you. Often, folks will opt for a slightly wide stance with feet pointed outward. Next, push your hips back as you bend at the knees to lower your body toward the ground. Keep your torso and head upright as you do the movement. Finally, push back up to standing through your heels.
Of course, any type of exercise is going to be helpful when it comes to improving your circulation. So, try adding some other fun types of activity as well, like biking, hiking, dancing, yoga, or group classes—any way you prefer to move your body.