Your heart works to pump blood forcefully enough to push it all the way to the end of your toes and back up your veins to return to the heart. This is known as circulation. Activity and keeping your arteries and veins clear for blood to pump through can help improve your circulation. By performing regular leg exercises, you can promote good blood return to prevent blood clots and leg pain. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns your circulation may be affected.
Walking is an aerobic exercise that helps you burn calories and also promotes circulation to your lower legs. If you experience walking pain because of a condition such as peripheral artery disease, walk only to when it hurts, then take a rest break, recommends MedlinePlus. As a bonus, walking can help you maintain a healthy weight, which places less pressure on your veins and promotes circulation.
If you are bed-bound from an injury or surgery, you can perform physical therapy exercises to encourage circulation in your lower extremities. These include ankle pumps, which involve pointing and flexing the feet in quick succession, according to Krames Patient Education. Repeat 10 to 20 times on each foot. Straight leg raises are another circulation-encouraging exercise. To perform, place one foot on the floor or bed with the other leg extended. Flex the foot of your extended leg and slowly raise the leg no more than 12 inches off the floor. Hold this position for two to three seconds, then lower the leg. Repeat 10 times on this leg, then perform on the opposite side.
Regularly performing exercises while you are seated at a desk or chair can help to encourage circulation in your lower legs. Examples include keeping your heels on the floor and lifting your toes off the floor to flex your feet. Tap your toes on the ground five times quickly in a row and repeat on the other side. You also can straighten your bent legs five times, pointing and flexing your feet when you straighten your legs.
Poor circulation can be a dangerous condition, increasing the risk that blood will pool in your veins and lead to a life-threatening blood clot. Some signs you may have circulation problems include frequent pain and cramping in your legs, tingling or numbness in your feet, slow-healing wounds and thickened toenails, according to MedlinePlus. If you experience these symptoms, speak to your physician before performing exercises to ensure you do not have a blood clot that could be loosened with exercise.