Why Do My Hands Swell When Walking?


I have noticed that when I go for a walk, quite often my hands swell up. Whilst I don’t think it’s a major issue, I did wonder if I should see a doctor about it. But I have done some research to try to get to the possible reasons.

There could be various reasons for my hands swelling when walking. Here are some of the possible reasons:

  • Blood flow
  • Lack or arm motion
  • Bites or stings
  • Water
  • Minerals
Swollen hands

Do you also suffer from swollen hands when out walking, running, or any other form of other exercise? Maybe it is down to one of these things?

Blood flow

When walking your hands and feet start to warm up as you exercise more. Especially when you start out on a cold day. This is because your heart is beating more vigorously, and so you get warmer. You need to sweat some of that heat away, and so the heart will pump blood out to the body’s extremities.

I did read that your feet can swell a whole size when exercising, so it is important to ensure you don’t buy walking shoes or boots that are too tight, and allow for some growth.

Lack of arm motion

If you are walking with your arms down by your side all the time, you can quite easily get swollen hands. I think this is my main reason as it happens more when I am not pumping my arms. The heart pumps more blood to your arms, hand, legs and feet whilst exercising, as explained above. But if your arms are just down by your side and you aren’t using your arm muscles then the blood will not pump back away from your hands so quickly, and so it is gathering in your fingers and hands.

Try raising your hands above the level of your heart for a while. I remember when I first started walking seeing a couple of people in the distance with their arms raised above their heads – now I know they were probably trying to get the blood pumping away out of their arms more, but at the time it did make me wonder what they were doing.

You may want to keep rotating your arms every half mile or so in small circles. thsi will keep your hands moving and assist.

However probably the best thing you could do is to adopt the power walking position of keeping your arms bent at about 90 degrees and pumping them back and forth as you walk. This will not only keep your arm muscles working and pumping the blood away, but will also raise your arms to the level of your heart or more.

Bites or stings

It is possible that you have been bitten or stung by an insect, bee or wasp. If you have been bitten by an insect it tends to inject something called formic acid. As well as swelling this can also cause redness, itching and possibly even blisters. These should calm down after a few hours but if you find they are still causing you issues the following day then it’s probably best to head to a pharmacy and ask their advice.

If you do find that you are attractive to insects then it may well be worth talking to a pharmacist who should be able to recommend a repellent spray to keep the insects at bay whilst you exercise outdoors.

I remember walking at Bewl Water near Lamberhurst once. It was a nice autumn day, not too hot but certainly not cold. I had decided to wear a polo shirt that I have, but as it was bright yellow it was covered in insects as we walked past the wooded sections around the reservoir. Poor Nicky had to brush me clear every 50 yards or so. So my own bonus tip is don’t wear yellow!

Hydration levels

It is possible that you are dehydrating, although I have also heard that water retention can be a cause. Did you drink enough water before you left for your walk, and have you been topping up by regularly sipping water as you walk?

Ensure you keep drinking water regularly whilst you do any exercise. When walking it is so easy to not realise the amount of fluid that your body is losing, so please keep sipping before you feel thirsty. You can read more about water and walking here.Opens in a new tab.

Minerals

When you sweat you lose some of your minerals, mainly salt, from your body. So as well as drinking water you may find that drinking an eloctrolyte sports drink may assist you in redressing this imbalance.

If you have seen any of the marathons on TV you will the top runners darting towards their own bottles at the drinks stations. These are sports drinks that they have tested to match their own unique requirements when it comes to replacing the minerals and electrolytes in their body.

Whilst you probably won’t need to specifically getting your own unique drink, a general sports drink will benefit you and may help with swollen hands.

What else can you do to prevent swollen hands?

Try to keep your arms relaxed – don’t clench your hands, keep them slightly open. Regularly stretch your hands and as suggested above rotate your hands in small circles. Don’t forget to raise your hands above your heart or even your head. Movement is the key thing here.

Have you considered using walking poles? Holding the poles will help you by using your muscles, and the action required will also raise your hands high, thus helping to keep your blood flowing. It is said that walking with poles is a great workout – much better for you than it looks.

If walking with poles is not an attractive alternative to you, why not carry a small stress ball, and gently squeeze it from time to time, swapping hands as you go. This will assist your muscles working too.

Make sure you remove rings before you set off if your hands swell often. You don’t want to cause circulation issues to the tips of your fingers. If you do insist on wearing them, will they fit snugly on one of your other fingers? Or why not attach them to a chain?

You may want to also wear watches and any smart fitness bands slightly higher on your arm. You will probably have to loosen them a notch to do so.

Of course the easiest thing you can do is to go out at a cooler part of the day, although this may not always be practical. But if the heat does cause you an issue, would you be able to rise an hour earlier each day during the warmer months in order to get your walks in at a time that will cause you the least discomfort? A bit of change in your daily routine could go a long way to help you.

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