How To Support Healthy Circulation On A Daily Basis, From Experts
You've probably heard the saying "sitting is the new smoking," and while it may be true, it can also be pretty infuriating to hear. What if your job requires you to be seated, or you simply need a day to unwind on the couch? Trust us, we hear you!
But the thing is, the very vital job of the heart is to pump (aka circulate) blood and oxygen throughout the body1. When you're sitting for prolonged periods of time, whole-body blood flow isn't optimal. Over time, this can affect cardiovascular health outcomes, but it doesn't mean you're doomed if you work a desk job.
Thankfully, there are plenty of easy-to-adopt habits to sprinkle into your day for better blood flow, like these three expert-backed recommendations:
Good news: Heart health isn't predicated on intense cardio alone. In fact, Scott Braunstein, M.D., emergency medicine physician and medical director at Sollis Health, says walking "is undoubtedly the best way to increase your circulation." Whether you're working a desk job, have a long day of travel, or are bingeing your favorite shows over the weekend, be sure to get up and walk around every few hours.
"Whether you're taking the time to go for a mile-long walk outside, moving up and down the stairs, or walking a few laps around your kitchen, those micro-movements throughout the day add up for the better," integrative medicine doctor and mbg Collective member Amy Shah, M.D., previously suggested.
In between your walking breaks, there are a few seated stretches that Braunstein recommends for healthy vascular function:
- Ankle and wrist rotations: "Rotating your ankle [or wrist] 360 degrees repeatedly is very effective to circulate blood through to your feet and hands," he says.
- Ankle pumps: "These can be done standing (heel/toe lifts) or seated," Braunstein notes, "and are a great way to stretch your calves and increase circulation to your feet and toes."
- Knee flexion and extension: If you've got enough room in front of you, he says flexing and extending your knee is a great way to increase circulation to your lower extremities.
And if you're in the comfort of your own home, here are a few stretches and flows that require a bit more space and mobility:
- Legs up the wall: "When the legs are stretched up the wall and are higher than the heart, gravity can help the circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid," yoga instructor Hope Knosher previously told mbg about the pose. You can also use the moment to rest your mind after a long day.
- 5-pose yoga flow: This five-pose yoga flow demonstrated by registered yoga teacher Claire Grieve promotes, well, blood flow. "Increasing your blood flow can help you feel energized and increase physical and mental performance," she writes, "and yoga can be a simple, effective tool for increasing your circulation."
3. Eating heart-healthy foods
There are certain foods that can promote healthy vascular function—and many of them are likely already in your kitchen.
First up: citrus fruits. These contain antioxidants, including flavonoids, which Braunstein explains deliver antioxidant benefits, support a healthy inflammatory response, and increase nitric oxide—which helps improve blood flow. Garlic and onion, which have similar intrinsic anti-inflammatory properties2, have also been shown to "improve the efficiency of blood flow," he adds.
If you're not on a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can benefit from adding more fatty fish to your plate, Braunstein says. Research suggests omega-3 fatty acids in fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring (aka SMASH) may support vascular function and improve cardiovascular health outcomes.*
In case you're not eating the recommended intake of two 3.5-ounce servings of fish per week (and let's face it, most of us aren't), adding other food sources of omega-3s to your diet and taking a high-quality fish oil supplement can help address key nutrient gaps and provide cardioprotective benefits.* (Our favorite omega-3 supplements here, if you're curious.)
There are plenty of simple, yet meaningful, ways to prioritize your heart health on a daily basis. Walking, along with incorporating certain stretches and certain foods into your well-being routine can really go the extra mile.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.