Why is Exercise and Movement So Important in Managing Lymphoedema?
It’s the New Year and the time when many people are focused on improving their health and general well-being. This is helpful for everyone and not least for those suffering from lymphoedema. So, why not take a few minutes to focus on exercise and read this blog to understand how it may help you better manage your lymphoedema. Exercise is one of the main components of lymphoedema management but one that is often neglected.
Exercise with lymphoedema does not have to mean running a marathon or taking part in a triathlon (though you may want to think about this in the future!) but it does mean moving. Even gentle, regular movement helps and if done when wearing a compression garment or bandages, it can really help to control swelling.
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, for example exercise. The superficial lymphatics are positioned just underneath the skin. When exercising or moving, the muscles contract and relax against the skin and this in turn 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 optimise your joint flexibility and bone strength which becomes even more important as we get older. Exercise helps improve posture, balance and gait which are often severely affected if you have lymphoedema 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 helps maintain a healthy weight which in turn is also important in managing lymphoedema. Being overweight increases the risk of developing lymphoedema and makes it more difficult to treat the lymphoedema. So, keeping weight within normal limits helps to ensure successful lymphoedema management.
So, we now have a better understanding of how movement and exercise can help manage lymphoedema, what type of exercise or movement should we be doing? Look out for the next BLOG on this topic!