There are a lot of things people talk about when discussing the little signs of aging. Maybe it’s the first sighting of gray hair, the wrinkles that seemingly pop up overnight, sunspots that appear from long ago days spent at the beach. Another subtle difference? Our legs and feet get tired. And hurt! If you were a D1 athlete in your youth, along with aging comes legs and feet that are less robust. A day at Disneyland isn’t as easy as it used to be!
But why, exactly, do our legs and feet fatigue as we age?
First off, there can be serious reasons you have leg and foot fatigue and/or pain, so it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor if you think you may be dealing with more than the normal signs of aging. But - if a gradual change has come on with age, the likely culprit is circulation. It’s very common for our circulation to get more inefficient as we get older. One simple explanation: it’s easier as you age for the blood pumped from your heart to go down instead of up. It’s more work for your heart and the veins and valves in your legs to pump the blood back up to your heart. How does it make you feel? You likely have tired legs, sore feet, swelling, and a feeling of heaviness. You might also notice spider veins on your legs or varicose veins when blood tends to pool and stay stagnant in parts of your legs.
The good news? There are steps you can take to help your circulation, so you can more easily exercise, work, spend the day at Disney, or go wherever the day takes you.
Tips for Tired, Aging Legs and Feet:
1. Trim off the Extra Pounds
This is always easier said than done, but it comes down to the pretty basic premise that extra weight is putting more pressure on your legs and feet. In addition, extreme excess weight has a significant impact on circulation. It can raise triglycerides in the blood system (they are the fats distributed throughout the body), and the more there are, the harder it is for blood to flow to the heart and other organs. Lots of extra weight can also lower the HDL - aka the “good cholesterol” - that helps keep arteries clear. None of that is good when you are trying to keep circulation humming along in the feet and legs - and all the other parts of the body as well! So just making an effort to lose even a little bit of extra weight helps your heart, circulation, and whole body.
2. Try Compression Technology
Lots of doctors suggest compression socks for feet and leg pain due to circulation. And no wonder: studies show compression can be helpful. For those who spend long hours standing at work, a study concurred that compression technology did aid standing fatigue in women. Why? They can help support improved circulation and improve the flow of freshly oxygenated blood.
This helps to reduce swelling and inflammation - which intensify the pain. Many swear by them to ease discomfort from everyday movement or even strenuous exercise. Compression socks are an easy and low-cost way to help with circulation; as Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Georgeanne Botek, DPM, states, “It’s a very practical and common thing. But, at the same time, it’s a very underutilized option.”
3. Move Your Body
If you are suffering from foot pain, this may be the last thing you want to do. Still, we know that exercise is key to keeping fit and healthy and lifting our moods. For circulatory reasons, regular exercise, even mild exercise, is one of the best things you can do to improve circulation. But if the exercise is causing pain, try not to give up, maybe try something else, like swimming instead of running, or a gentle walk to start. Another great option to help sore feet during exercise is a sock with added compression and support. Some studies indicate athletes can run longer with less pain and recover faster with compression socks. They may support improved circulation and oxygenation of working muscles with compression technology. In addition, added support and cushioning in a sock aids all-day wear like Copper Fit Energy graduated compression socks - which have high terry loop footbed for plush cushioning at all the key pressure points and special compression arch support.
Elevating your legs above your heart for at least 20 minutes a day can help circulation and reduce the swelling you might have. It takes pressure away from your feet and also is a great opportunity just to chill out!
5. A Good Soak
If foot pain comes from circulatory problems, the power of warm water on your feet, with some soothing Epsom salt thrown in, can stimulate circulation. (A cold water soak, on the other hand, would be used for foot pain due to muscle discomfort.) Not only will 10-15 minutes on warm water help with circulation, but it will bring guaranteed relaxation. Treat yourself!
So, if you notice that “spring in your step” isn’t quite pain-free anymore, hopefully, this list of easy, economical tips will help! Little things we can do every day can make a significant impact on our health and happiness.