Beat the Heat: 6 Ways to Improve Circulation During the Summer
Summer is the season of picnics and pools—and also of swelling and poor circulation. This happens for several reasons: First of all, heat causes blood vessels to dilate (or widen), which increases the chances that blood will pool in the lower legs rather than keeping flowing. Hot weather also contributes to dehydration since you sweat so much, and your body tends to retain fluid (or swell) when you lose too much water.
Since we’re heading into summer, we’ve rounded up six ways to improve circulation and manage swelling during even the hottest months.
1. Stay inside during the hottest hours.
You’re most likely to get sunburned between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is at its highest point in the sky—but that’s not actually the hottest part of the day. The earth continues absorbing heat from the sun even after it passes the highest point, so the hottest time of the day is in the afternoon (often around 3 p.m., but it changes depending on where you are in the world). Plan to be inside as much as you can during the heat of the day and, if you have to be outside, seek out shade.
2. Stay hydrated.
This may seem counterintuitive, but, if you don’t drink enough water, your body will start to retain fluid to counteract impending dehydration, which, in turn, leads to swelling. You also tend to lose more water in the summer because the hot weather makes you sweat more, so staying hydrated is extra important once the temperature heats up. The amount of water you need to stay hydrated varies from person to person but drinking when you’re thirsty will usually keep you hydrated well enough. If plain old water isn’t exciting enough for you, jazz it up with some fruit or vegetable infusions to give it flavor without added sugar.
3. Wear compression socks.
How do compression socks work for swelling, you ask? Well, if you put them on at the beginning of the day right before you get out of bed (which is what most doctors recommend) the tight, specially woven fabric will help to keep your skin from expanding to retain fluid. In turn, this encourages blood, lymph and other fluids to keep moving rather than pooling in your lower legs.
If you must spend a lot of time in the heat, you should definitely wear compression socks to help fight swelling. Compression socks are also a great idea if you’re traveling for vacation during the summer, which usually requires sitting for hours on end (bad for your circulation!).
4. Avoid tight-fitting clothes.
That being said, compression socks are the only tight garments you should be wearing during the summer (or really anytime). Unlike graduated compression socks, regular clothing isn't engineered to prevent swelling and improve circulation. Tight clothes can cut off your circulation and lead to swelling, especially if you have to sit for long periods of time in an office or during travel. Consider this your excuse to wear your loosest, breeziest clothes all summer long, and even all year round if you want to.
5. Wear the right shoes.
Summer is sandal season, but, unfortunately, most sandals on the market are flat, uncomfortable and unsupportive. While a sandal might seem like a good choice to combat swelling—after all, sandals are quite breathable—if your feet aren’t properly supported, all that walking can aggravate them and cause them to swell. Walking and running shoes are a good choice if you’re going to be on your feet a lot in the summer and, if you really want to wear sandals, there are many orthopedic options out there as well.
6. Elevate your legs.
If you’re still dealing with swelling and tired, aching legs no matter what you do, a quick leg elevation session at the end of the day could be just the trick. To get maximum results, you’ll want to lie down on your back on a couch or bed and elevate your legs above the heart; make sure your ankles are higher than your knees so blood will flow from your feet to your core.
In order to elevate your legs properly and for maximum results, consider investing in a leg elevation pillow. Then you won’t even have to think about how to properly elevate your legs, so you can just put up your feet and chill out.
If your feet swell and your circulation slows as the days grow longer, a proactive preventive approach can go a long way toward keeping your symptoms in check. Try one or more of these six strategies to stay cool and collected in the summer heat.
Kaki Zell - Vice President of Sales, Marketing, eCommerce at Legs-4-Life LLC Kaki holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She’s been working in the medical device industry for over 11 years and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greensboro Science Center.
Written May 2019 | Page last updated April 2022
Ask an Astronomer. “What is the Hottest Time of Day?” http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/our-solar-system/40-our-solar-system/the-earth/climate-and-weather/76-what-is-the-hottest-time-of-day-beginner
Cleveland Clinic. “Dehydration: Causes & Symptoms” https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/9013-dehydration
Edward-Elmhurst Health. “When Clothing Becomes a Health Risk” https://www.eehealth.org/blog/2017/08/when-clothing-becomes-a-health-risk/
Irish Examiner. “Did You Know That Wearing Flat Shoes Can Actually Damage Your Feet?” https://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/arid-20276566.html
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Medical News Today. “Vasodilation” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327402