Why are exercise and movement so important in managing lymphedema?

How does exercise help my swelling?

Unlike the blood circulatory system which has the heart to pump blood around the body, the lymphatic system is a one-way drainage system and relies on other things to help it to drain, such as exercise. The superficial lymphatics are positioned just underneath the skin. When exercising or moving, the muscles contract and relax against the skin. This increases lymphatic activity thereby helping to reduce swelling. Wearing a compression garment or bandages during exercise and movement provides increased resistance for the muscles to work against and can therefore improve the results.

Are there other ways exercise can help?

Exercise can do even more than just improve swelling. It helps maintain and optimize your joint flexibility and bone strength which becomes even more important as one ages. Exercise helps improve posture, balance and gait which are often severely affected if you have lymphedema on one side of the body. It can help with other conditions or disorders too. For example, it may improve your blood pressure as well as your blood sugar and fat levels. Exercise can improve your emotional well-being making you feel happier because during exercise more endorphins are released. These are the body’s "feel-good" chemicals and the body's natural painkiller.

Exercise and generally being more active help maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases the risk of developing lymphedema and makes it more difficult to treat the lymphedema. So, keeping weight within normal limits helps to ensure successful lymphedema management.

 

Now that we have a better understanding of how movement and exercise can help manage lymphedema, what type of exercise or movement should we be doing? Look out for the next BLOG on this topic!

In the meantime, visit exercise and movement for more information. Or click here to listen to Deborah Cordner Carson’s story about how she overcame the odds to become a top CrossFit athlete with Lymphedema.

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