Did you improve your circulation with exercise?
February 17, 2021 6:47 PM   Subscribe

I am curious if anyone has experience trying to improve their circulation through cardio, and, because I am miserable and impatient, how long did it take? How intensely did you have to exercise to make a difference?

I am ALWAYS cold and developed chilblains for the first time last Fall. (Boy are they awful) I had blood work done and it came back normal, so the nurse practitioner recommended that I try getting more cardio. I do YouTube yoga daily and take the occasional walk but that’s it right now. Getting more exercise seems pretty reasonable.

Other information: I think my diet is pretty good and I am what the trainer at my old gym calls “skinnyfat”, so I don’t have much fat to keep me warm. I have a standing desk and do the cooking and cleaning so I’m not totally sedentary.
posted by chocotaco to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you also want “no” answers? (Sorry.) I have low BP, am always cold, and regular (even excessive) exercise has not improved this one bit. The only thing that did was being overweight.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 7:10 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

I do plenty of cardio and still get chillblains. In fact sometimes I experience that while doing cardio in the cold. I am a healthy weight.

I have Reynaud syndrome- as far as I know that's not diagnosed via blood test. I take amlodipine in the winter - solved.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:34 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]

Only short term. I'm a fairly cold frog, and I find that cardio after work can lead to me being warmer for most of the evening in winter. A few star jumps helps warm up cold feet and hands. But I'll be cold again soon after.
posted by kjs4 at 7:37 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

Didn’t work for me, either. Not cardio, not lifting, not yoga. If I stay moving outside, I won’t get cold, but once I’m cold it’s hard to warm up again / I need an outside heat source.
posted by momus_window at 8:12 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]

Around the time I started going on long hikes regularly I also started getting unpleasantly overheated at night, and a friend suggested it may be a result of improved circulation, but I’m not sure I got notably more cold-tolerant otherwise.

Are you aware of the (controversial, I think) phenomenon of “covid toe”? Some people seem to get something that looks like chilblains after recovering from covid.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:22 PM on February 17

Another low BP chronically cold-handed-and-footed person here. I've done a fair amount of cardio my entire life and it hasn't fundamentally made me warmer. However, being sedentary, like sitting at a computer working all day, leads to me feeling extra-cold unless I incorporate plenty of movement breaks during the day.
posted by stowaway at 8:28 PM on February 17

Yes, I have found that exercise helps my circulation. I am a tall lady, and have had cold fingers and toes my whole life. I’m also on a beta blocker for migraines.
Prior to COVID, I was swimming 1 mile 3-4x/week, and that definitely had an impact. I would say within 2 months I noticed a difference: I was warmer overall and my toes were able to maintain a much more even temperature. Then, before the winter cold hit, I was running about 30 min several times a week and was able to sustain my progress. (Now it is very cold and we are still isolating, so cold feet are slowly returning.)

Total anecdata: I’ve found that being active (for me, walking a lot, being on my feet) has not been enough to either improve or maintain better circulation. The only thing that has worked for me is regular cardio, like swimming, running or biking (that’s all I’ve tried so far) several times a week. Ymmv.
posted by queseyo at 8:53 PM on February 17

I'm going to weight in on the 'Yes' side. I'm still on the cold-natured side (I have been my entire life), but before I started exercising regularly (most weekdays, even if only for a few minutes) I could be wearing multiple layers and be under a blanket and still be frezing where as of now if I get cold a sweater is enough. And I actually get hot in sedentary situations often now, where it never happened before.
posted by mochi_cat at 9:14 PM on February 17

Hi. My sister developed chilblains whilst completing a cross-country, international bike trip. Cardio did not improve the problem.

She now wears a battery powered, heated vest. It works!
posted by Temeraria at 9:30 PM on February 17

I absolutely improved my circulation. I used to get blue hands and chillblains all the time before I started doing regular cardio and general fitness. Now I basically never do. However, this change happened over a long period of time - a number of years. (Also, I live in a colder place now than I did when I used to have bad circulation).

I think it was the running that did it for me, if I had to pinpoint anything.
posted by thereader at 10:21 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

I have low BP, fairly low body fat, and I work out (mostly weight training) regularly, but I’m also always cold and have Reynaud’s. It was getting to the point where I dreaded going for mid-day walks with friends when it was in the 40s because my feet would be totally numb by the end- even with battery-powered heated socks on. I was thinking about asking this same question on here but then my doc prescribed me nifedipine (another med for high BP as with Tandem Affinity) to take when I’m going to be outside. The problem is totally solved by meds for me. I can comfortably be outside now even in the evening. I’m hoping that continuing to exercise and do cardio in particular means that eventually I won’t have to take the meds as much. So maybe it could help while you’re waiting for exercise to improve your circulation?
posted by quiet coyote at 10:40 PM on February 17

Slow-moving flowing yoga (basically if they talk about 'ujjayi breath') is about prana, the name for the energy of your body heat and circulation. C)asses that focus on this can be found in the Hstha, Iyengar and/or Ashtanga schools, and you should look specifically for ones that mention 'ujjayi breath'.
posted by k3ninho at 11:10 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

I notice that my perpetually cold hands and feet warm up almost precisely 1.5 miles into my dog walks, which is about the distance it takes me to start sweating when the weather is warm. The effect's staying power is somewhat limited, but I'm definitely somewhat warmer than I used to be. Sitting here, several hours after my afternoon walk, my hands are ok, but my feet are coldish. It used to be my hands were perpetually frozen, to the point of wearing hand warmers at my desk.

I walk six to seven miles on average per day, every day, sometimes as much as ten.
posted by maxwelton at 11:30 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

I used to be perpetually cold. What most contributed, I think, to feeling "normal" and even hot at times was getting regular challenging exercise. This in turn helped me put on muscle and fat. In my case these days, this takes the form of vinyasa yoga three to six times a week. I'm not athletic but I love having exercise as part of my routine. As they say, the key is finding the type of exercise that you enjoy - that makes it sustainable.
posted by charcoals at 4:37 AM on February 18

My partner's doctor recommended getting two tubs of water, filling one with ice water and the other with water as hot as he can stand and putting his feet into one until they acclimatize, then instantly into the other, and then when they have adjusted a few moments back into the original tub, back and forth repeatedly.

I do not know if this would work as we got the tubs but he never did it.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:31 AM on February 18

Response by poster: Thank you all! There are too many good answers to select best ones. I feel all warm inside (um, metaphorically) and a lot less alone. I am going to give serious exercise a serious try, since it’s good for me anyhow, but this thread gave me a lot of coping ideas to try. Maybe I’ll get a heated vest. And I’ll go back to the NP to talk meds if I don’t get anywhere with exercise. My BP is usually at the low end of normal but I am often dizzy on standing...
posted by chocotaco at 8:28 AM on February 18

Throughout my teens, 20, and early 30s I had blue toes and icy fingers and blood pressure that was at the rock-bottom end of normal. This was during years when I was getting 2-4 hours of daily vigorous exercise and years when I worked out once a week at most. It wasn't until I was in my very late 30s and gained a bit of weight that it changed. Now, at 20 pounds heavier than my previous average weight, I have a normal BP and warm hands and feet. No doctor ever suggested I was underweight or malnourished when I complained all those years, but I don't know what else to conclude now.
posted by minervous at 10:41 AM on February 18

the CHOP protocol for POTS (pdf link) is aimed at improving circulation by working on the lower body/core muscles with cardio and strength training in a gradual and recumbent way, but i imagine you could extrapolate that to whatever level of lower body/core workout you're capable of? they want patients to try it for at least 3-5 months, some people see results and some don't, i haven't managed to stick with it long enough yet to say
posted by gaybobbie at 7:57 PM on February 18

Saw your update and glad you got such a range of answers to try and look into! I just wanted to clarify that though amlodipine is used for high blood pressure, i take 1/2 to 1/4 what is prescribed for high blood pressure (and I only take it in cold winter months). as I understand, the drug is being used for Reynauds to modulate vessel dilation rather than trying to affect blood pressure (although of course affecting your vessels is a mechanism for high blood pressure drugs to work). Anyway just wanted to clarify I don’t have high blood pressure. Hope you find what works for you!
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:15 PM on February 18

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