Top 10 exercises and tips to relieve swollen legs
1. Get it checked out
Swelling - the technical term is edema - can happen for lots of reasons. Most of them are innocent but in some cases, swollen legs are a sign that something more serious is going on. That aside, those swollen ankles are probably down to sitting in one position too long, premenstrual changes, pregnancy or eating too much salt. If you’ve noticed anything unusual get it checked out to rule out any major issues and get some peace of mind.
Physically, that annoying puffiness is caused by your tiny blood vessels (known as capillaries) leaking fluid. The fluid builds up in the surrounding tissues and there’s your swelling.
Edema puts an extra burden on your heart and kidneys - and that can take a toll in the long term so it’s worth taking control of the situation as early as possible.
2. Get active
Once you’ve checked with your doctor, it’s time to get on your feet.The best weapon in the fight against swollen legs is a simple one: walking.
Getting your legs moving means circulation is improved which will sweep up that collected fluid and get it shifted.
Using a cross trainer or treadmill has a number of advantages, or you can alternate a structured walk in the gym with walking outside. In the gym you can track your distances and control of the number of inclines you use. We suggest starting at 30 minutes three or four times a week and adding on 5 minutes (and increase the inclines) each week to build up slowly.
3. Give yourself physio
Walking aside, these couple of smart exercises are brilliant at preventing fluid from pooling. Do them a few times a day until you see an improvement.
• Leg lifts: Holding the back of a chair for support, lift one leg off the floor and move it backwards, keeping your knee straight. Repeat as advised by your doctor.
• Calf stretches: Still holding the chair, go onto tiptoes, hold for a couple of seconds and lower. The stretch you can feel in your calf will help squeeze the fluid up and away from your lower leg.
Yes, we are encouraging you to start walking more - but you also have our permission to put your feet up. When you’re resting, raise your feet above the level of your heart. This will help the fluid drain - and give you a nice rest too. Bliss.
Check with your doctor first but if you’ve got the all-clear, a massage is wonderful for boosting your lymphatic system.
It doesn’t need to be deep or painful - just a simple, gentle movement will sweep fluid towards lymph nodes, activating the system. Surely you don’t need any more reasons to get booked in?
6. Lose the salt
Too much salt could be causing those puffy ankles. If you suspect you might be a salt fiend, cut down on the table salt and check the ingredients of any prepared food for hidden levels. Opt for freshly-prepared meals and keep the salt cellar in the cupboard.
7. Drink more water
It might sound counterintuitive but drinking more water actually puts a rocket into the body’s elimination system - and it will pick up lots of waste products as it goes. It will help with the fluid, but also you will see other benefits - greater focus, more energy. Aim to drink eight to ten large glasses a day. A good tip is to store a day’s water in a jug in the fridge (add in lemon, orange, lime or cucumber for taste) so you know how much you need to get through.
8. Use plant power
Natural diuretics are a gentle, healthy way of encouraging fluid to drain away.
Try diuretic herbs such as dandelion, licorice root and elderberry. Or boost your intake of celery, artichokes, grapes and parsley. Green tea and cranberry juice are great alternative drinks if you get bored of water.
9. Up your potassium levels
Diuretics can whip some of your potassium away along with the excess fluid, so while you’re taking them, add potassium supplements or boost your intake of bananas, raisins and kidney beans, all of which have high, natural, levels of potassium.
10. Soak in the bath
Epsom salts are a brilliant old-fashioned remedy that’s more than just an old wives’ tale. Run a warm (not hot) bath, chuck in a handful of Epsom salts and relax.
Swelling can be caused by a lack of magnesium and soaking is a great way of absorbing this precious mineral. You will be able to admire your newly-slender ankles as you lay in the tub.