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The Outdoor Athlete Book by Courtenay and Doug Schurman



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More Training Info > Improving Circulation

Improving Circulation

Q: I've noticed that I have poor circulation in my hands. Last night when I was playing soccer, I was sweating but my hands were freezing and my arms started tingling. Are there any types of daily exercises I can do to improve circulation?

It could be due to several things. Check through the following for more information, and call your local physician or nurse if you have any further concerns.

1) Blood transport -- are you prone to dizzy spells? If so, you might want to get your blood pressure checked, as low blood pressure may be contributing to your poor circulation.

2) Blood components -- do you have a history of anemia? Then you might want to get the iron content of your blood checked. If you are slightly anemic, you'll want to be sure to include a multi-vitamin or high iron food source in your daily diet (such as Total cereal, lean red meats, spinach.

3) Blood disorder -- there is one that may be the culprit, known as Raynaud's Disease, symptoms for which include a) changes in skin color (white to blue to red) and skin temperature (the affected area feels cooler); and b) numb or prickly feeling in hands, feet, nose or ears, as if the affected part has fallen asleep temporarily. During an attack of Raynaud's, your surficial arteries contract briefly, limiting blood flow to the skin, causing it to turn white, then blue, then red as the arteries relax and blood flows again. Episodes are usually brief, lasting only a few minutes. Raynaud's most often affects women and usually sets in before the age of 40. Click here for additional medical information about Raynaud's disease.

4) Lack of movement -- try one of the following to increase blood flow to the arms and fingers. (A) While you are standing, rotate the shoulders forward, up and back in a circular motion for about 15-30 seconds. (B) Rotate the wrists in both directions for 15- 30 seconds. (C) Make a fist without digging the nails into your palm. (The final joint of your fingers is not bent.) Alternatively tense and relax the hands in this position for about 15-30 seconds.

5) High altitude -- if you are planning on participating in any high altitude endeavors such as climbing Denali or Rainier, you may need to be extra cautious in order to avoid hypothermia and frost bite. Keep mini hand and feet warmers handy at the first signs of prolonged tingling; keep a few pairs of down or fleece mittens or booties in your backpack in case of emergency; periodically flex and extend your fingers to increase circulation; keep fluids and food in you at all times; and let others in your group know that you may require a little assistance with crampons and the like, as fingers tend to swell at altitude--do not remove your mittens if you know you are at increased risk for problems!



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