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Why Are My Hands Swollen After I Exercise?

Real Simple answers your questions.

Inflated rubber gloveJames Wojcik

Q. After exercising, I often notice that my hands are swollen. Should I be worried?
Christine Fitzgerald

San Antonio

A. No—especially if you’ve been on a treadmill.“ Swelling of the hands is a common reaction to exercising, and it’s even more common when your hands are swinging at your sides,” says Rochelle Rosian, a rheumatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. When we work out, blood vessels expand to rush oxygen to the muscles; in response, muscles pump blood back to the heart. For larger, active extremities (like your eight-minute-mile legs), this process goes off without a hitch. But arms and hands have smaller muscles, which are less efficient for circulating extra blood—especially when they have to fight gravity. The result: Blood pools in the veins of your fingers, and when you finish running, you can’t take off your wedding band. “In most cases, the puffiness goes away within an hour, once you cool down,” says Rosian. To avoid the problem, here’s a handy tip: “Raising your arms over-head and pumping your fists can help keep blood flowing as you jog,” says Sosena Kebede, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore. You’ll look a little funny, but your hands will feel swell.

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