Have you ever experienced that post-walk sensation where your legs feel heavy, almost as if they’re dragging? It’s a common occurrence, and while it might be tempting to brush it off as mere fatigue, various factors 一 including vascular issues 一 contribute to this sensation.
Read on as Muthu Velusamy, MD, FACC, ABVM, shares the top reasons your legs might feel heavy after walking and how we can help you get relief here at the Cardiovascular Institute of America.
When you walk or engage in physical activity, your muscles work hard. If you push yourself beyond your usual limits or engage in an intense workout, your muscles may experience fatigue.
If you've recently intensified your workout routine or increased the duration and intensity of your walks too quickly, you might be overtraining. Overtraining can lead to muscle strain, fatigue, and heavy legs.
Aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week, and don’t hesitate to slow down if you need to do so. Listen to your body. You can split up your workout and walk in several 10-minute segments.
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
Inadequate fluid intake can result in dehydration and affect blood circulation and nutrient transport to your muscles, contributing to heaviness and discomfort in your legs after walking.
In addition to muscle discomfort, dehydration can lead to electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to muscle cramping, twitching, and discomfort. Cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and high blood pressure can also increase your risk of electrolyte imbalance.
Impaired blood circulation is a common culprit behind heavy legs. Sitting or standing for prolonged periods can lead to poor circulation and cause blood to pool in your lower extremities. When you start walking, your muscles require more oxygen and nutrients, exacerbating the feeling of heaviness.
Underlying vascular conditions
Venous insufficiency, peripheral artery disease, and nerve compression can also contribute to the sensation of heavy legs after walking. It’s easy to disregard varicose veins as a cosmetic issue, but they can also cause physical symptoms, such as leg cramps and a heavy, aching sensation in your legs.
Each of these vascular conditions requires different treatments, and the only way to know for sure which condition you’re dealing with is through a comprehensive exam.
During your appointment, Dr. Velusamy examines your legs, reviews your ultrasound results, and determines the source of leg heaviness before formulating a treatment plan.
For example, if varicose veins contribute to your leg discomfort after walking, Dr. Velusamy may recommend lifestyle changes, compression stockings, sclerotherapy, or endovenous ablation.
What can you do about heavy legs?
If your legs feel heavy after every walk, there are some strategies you can implement to support your leg muscles:
- Hydrate properly
- Stretch before and after you walk
- Wear supportive shoes while you walk
- Wear compression stockings if prescribed
- Massage your legs after your walk
- Address any underlying circulation or vascular problems
- Implement lifestyle modifications recommended by Dr. Velusamy
Don’t let leg discomfort stop you from reaping the benefits of walking. If you're experiencing leg cramping, swelling, or heaviness, schedule your appointment with Dr. Velusamy in Tampa or Lutz, Florida. Call the Cardiovascular Institute of America or request an appointment using our online scheduling tool.