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Using Exercise To Improve Circulation

While there are a variety of ailments that can lead to problems with your legs and feet, some of the most common are directly related to your circulatory system. The circulation of your blood is key to the health of your legs and feet – actually, to the health of every cell in your body.

Your circulatory system is responsible for feeding your bones and tissues, delivering the nutrients and oxygen that let your cells function properly and stay healthy. But due to the distance from your heart to your feet, and the pull of gravity that makes the return circulation from your feet back to your lungs and heart even more difficult, circulation problems often show up first in your legs and feet.

The healthier you can keep your circulatory system, the better your chances of avoiding or minimizing the illnesses and problems that come with poor circulation. Or, if you are already facing circulatory problems, taking action to improve your circulation may help avoid a worsening of existing problems, and can sometimes even lead to improved health.

Strengthening Your Heart and Lungs

One of the best defenses against both arterial and venous disease is regular aerobic exercise. This simply means virtually any exercise that elevates your heart rate and gets your blood pumping faster for a period of time. Aerobic exercise is key to improved circulation.

There are two principal ways in which aerobic exercise benefits your circulatory system. The first is simply that it helps to strengthen your lungs and heart. Whether it's walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, stair climbing or any other type of physical activity that raises your heart rate and gets you breathing a little heavier over a period of time, it's a form of aerobic exercise and is helping your heart and lungs to be stronger and to function more efficiently.

Your Muscles and Circulation

The second benefit of aerobic exercise is that it strengthens your muscles, and muscles play an important role in our circulatory system. The contractions of our muscles, especially in the far reaches of our circulatory system – like the legs and feet – assist both arteries and veins in helping our blood movement. As your muscles contract and relax as you move, they are also squeezing the nearby blood vessels, helping to move the blood more quickly and efficiently back to the heart and lungs.

Regular exercise conditions your muscles, making them more efficient and stronger. That not only means that they help move your blood faster, but the stronger, denser muscles also keep your veins under more pressure, helping them to avoid the sagging and widening that often comes with aging and that marks the beginning of circulatory problems.

Do You Need More Exercise?

The answer for most of us is usually "yes." Numerous studies show that the average American gets far too little physical activity. As a society, we have come to rely on cars and a variety of labor saving devices. Compared to only a generation or two ago, our daily lives, both at home and at our jobs, require significantly less physical activity.

That may make life easier, but the fact is that our bodies require a fair amount of daily physical activity for good health. For countless generations, our ancestors had to expend large amounts of physical energy every day to have food and shelter, or even to travel from one place to another. The bodies we have inherited, in other words, were used to working hard every day.

Yet today, our daily lives make few physical demands upon our bodies. That's why even low or moderate levels of daily exercise -- exercise that need not take a great deal of time or effort -- can bring significant health benefits for most people.

Start by considering how active you are right now. Do you get at least thirty minutes of moderate activity most days of the week? Most people don't, yet the U.S. Surgeon General recommends at least that much exercise as a means of maintaining good health.

Even if you are fairly active, there may be other factors that should influence when and how much you exercise. If, for example, you spend long periods of time sitting down, you can cause what is called a "vasospasm," a closing off of the blood vessels and a diminishing of the circulation to the legs and feet. Getting up and walking around the room, even for just 30 seconds every fifteen or twenty minutes, is one way to avoid this problem and improve circulation to your legs and feet.n.

Never Too Old To Exercise

While age or less-than-optimal health are excuses often used to avoid exercise, the truth is that regular exercise is vital as we grow older, and it's usually easy to do in some form, regardless of our age or physical condition.

It's a natural part of the aging process, for example, that reduces the efficiency of the circulation in our legs and feet. But that doesn't mean it's an inevitable process. By maintaining a program of regular exercise that emphasizes the use of your legs and feet, you can help slow down that process and ensure that your circulatory system remains as efficient and healthy as possible.

Researchers say regular exercise actually can have more benefits for seniors than for younger people. One study focused on a group whose average age was 85. It found that regular exercise, including appropriate strength training, not only had them feeling healthier and happier, but that it actually reversed some health conditions. One woman, who had been wheelchair-bound for a year after hip surgery, ended up walking to her exercise class each day.

Getting Started

An important first step before increasing your level of exercise, if you have been sedentary for some time or have an existing health problem, is to talk to your physician.

It's essential to start on an exercise program that is appropriate for you and that will help you achieve an improved level of conditioning and health, not leave you feeling worse than when you started or that will put your health at risk. Your doctor should be able to offer advice or point you in the right direction for outside help.

You may find that getting involved with a personal trainer or an appropriate program at a local gym, YMCA or YWCA, is an easy and safe way to increase your level of exercise. Or, you might want to consult some Internet sources, or books from your local library or bookstore, for advice on how to get started on increasing your level of exercise safely.

However you begin, make sure to avoid the biggest mistake made by most people – trying to do too much too fast. If you are out of shape, it most likely took you quite a bit of time to get to this point. Don't expect to totally change things overnight.

The end result, regardless of the approach you use, is to get more active. Even a slight increase in your daily exercise can bring health benefits and help fight the leg and foot problems that come from poor circulation.

Taking a daily 5 minute walk may not seem like much of an exercise program, but if you currently get almost no exercise, it's an important step in the right direction. While even that short walk may seem difficult at first, by next week you'll find it getting easier and easier. And by next month, you may find you're walking 15 minutes, a half hour or even more each day, enjoying it, and feeling healthier and livelier than ever.

The bottom line? Get started on getting more exercise. Whatever the amount, you'll feel the better for it, and your circulatory system will most definitely thank you.

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