Do you experience swollen hands when walking outdoors? Hand swelling can be a problem – especially if you walk outdoors on a hot day. The swelling and fluid retention makes your hands feel uncomfortably stiff, and your rings too tight. What causes swollen hands when walking, and what can you do to prevent this problem?
What Causes Swollen Hands When Walking?
Many walkers experience hand swelling when they walk outdoors in the summer. The good news? Swollen hands when walking doesn’t usually indicate a serious health problem.
When most people walk, they allow their hands to hang down beside their body, so they’re below the level of the heart. This makes it difficult for blood to return to the heart and leads to fluid pooling in the hands. This is very similar to the foot and ankle swelling that people experience when they stand in one place too long, particularly on a hot day. In this case, blood pools in the feet rather than the hands. Also, during exercise, blood vessels near the surface of the skin dilate to release heat, which can contribute to swelling in the hands.
The problem of swollen hands when walking is usually more pronounced in people who eat a high-sodium diet, because salt causes fluid to be retained by the body. This is made worse by not drinking enough water – especially on a hot day.
On the other hand, drinking too much water when exercising outdoors in hot weather causes sodium levels to drop – so it’s best to drink electrolyte-rich fluid before exercising in hot weather. Swollen hands can also indicate low sodium levels, a condition called hyponatremia.
How Do You Prevent Swollen Hands When Walking?
Before exercising, remove rings, bracelets, and watchbands since they can impede the flow of fluid back to the heart. Instead of leaving your hands hanging down by your sides, open and close your hands and lift them above your heart periodically – to encourage fluid return to the heart. Bring along two soft balls and squeeze them in each hand as you walk. Lastly, be sure to drink enough electrolyte-rich fluid before heading out the door to walk or exercise in hot weather.
If the hand swelling doesn’t go down after returning home, or if you experience hand swelling at other times, see a doctor. Some medical conditions, such as heart, kidney, or liver disease, can cause persistent hand swelling. In most cases, hand swelling when walking is annoying – but harmless.
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.