One of the best ways to improve circulation is through exercise. This is because:
- Exercise is good for you anyway – it helps every bodily function.
- You will live longer if you exercise – there is a clear connection between exercise and heart and artery disease
- Exercise is cheap – it can even be free!
- Exercise can be sociable – and we all could do with more friends!
- Exercise reduces stress. Stress is a big factor in disease. Particularly when exercising to improve the arterial system – one of the top reasons to exercise – reducing stress is a big help.
So – what sort of exercise will really help blood circulation?
Basically, any exercise is better than none. (And don’t worry: walking round the house really does not qualify as exercise, if that’s your reasoning!) However, some types of exercise are better than others.
Exercise can be split into three categories;
- Aerobic exercise
- Weight training exercise
- General exercise
All these types of exercise are good. But the exercise to use to improve blood circulation is aerobic exercise.
What is Aerobic Exercise?
“Aerobic” means “with oxygen”. Aerobic exercise is exercise which involves the breakdown of sugar with the use of oxygen. The sugar is derived either from the liver’s glycogen stores (a form of sugar), and then when these are used up, from fats.
When the body starts using fats, this is a slower process; and this swap-over causes a temporary slowing of the body’s energy, which sports people call “hitting the wall”.
Weight training, on the other hand, is a form of “anaerobic” exercise, in which sugar is broken down for energy without the use of oxygen. This is vital to maintain muscles bulk as well as certain hormones in the blood – eg testosterone for men. However, it does not benefit the arteries and heart as much as aerobic exercise.
The reason to use aerobic exercise to improve blood circulation is that aerobic exercise is known to strengthen and enlarge the heart muscle, which improves the efficiency with which it pumps. This alone, carried out regularly, will increase circulation.
There are other advantages of using aerobic exercise to improve blood circulation:
- By improving blood circulation, it tends to lower blood pressure
- It tones the muscles throughout the body
- It strengthens the lungs, which means that more life-giving oxygen can be absorbed
- The number and quality of red blood cells are increased – the cells which carry oxygen to our body tissues
- The brain receives more oxygen – maintaining and improving memory and thought processes
Some herbs to help blood circulation
Cayenne is a great herb which improves circulation wonderfully. Cayenne has an affinity with the circulation, the heart and the blood. Cayenne does what is needed; if you need safely to increase the circulation, it helps. (But see the caution below.)
Eg – varicose veins; try taking 1 Cayenne Capsule 3 times a day.
Mrs P, Seaford, Sussex: I was having trouble standing for more than 15 minutes. I got aching legs. I took 1 cayenne capsule 3 times a day and after 2 weeks could stand all morning without a problem!. It was like magic.
Ginkgo is well known for helping to improve the circulation. It is mainly known for its effect on the brain – especially with regard to memory. However, Ginkgo does improve circulation for the whole body.
Garlic has been used for many years to help the circulation and arteries. It can be used in cooking; but many people prefer to use low odour garlic – which is more sociable (your breath does not smell!) This is available as Garlic Capsules. 1-3 capsules a day is the usual amount taken.
Hawthorn berry is a well known, safe, herb for improving heart function and helping to improve blood circulation. It is favoured by many herbalists. If you search around it can be found to buy on the Internet. One good type of hawthorn to buy is as Hawthorn Drops.
Circulation herbal formulas
Proprietary formulations are available to help circulation. These are combinations of herbs which help to improve blood circulation.
The best aerobic exercises to improve circulation
Any exercise during which you keep moving fairly rapidly for 20 minutes is aerobic. However, any resting takes away the aerobic element. So, singles tennis is borderline aerobic – but don’t rely on it. Doubles tennis definitely not. Squash – again, borderline; even though it is very demanding when playing the points.
Running is clearly aerobic if kept up for 20 minutes plus. However, damage to knee joints is the risk. Do certainly use the correct shoes if you do this.
Swimming is a pretty good aerobic exercise.
My favourite aerobic exercise is easy to do; can be done by nearly anyone; is safe; is free!. That is… WALKING.
Fast walking is a great aerobic exercise, and I strongly recommend it.
Go for a fast walk at 3-5 times a week for 25-30 minutes. Get off the train or bus early and walk. Or walk around the block or up a hill.
Just get out there and walk – but not slowly now; set a good pace, and walk.
Certainly, play racquet sports too, and certainly carry out weight training exercises 2-3 times a week for 40 minutes. But fast walking can be the key for you for serious cardio-vascular (heart and artery) flexibility and strength.