Lipoedema and Exercise

Being active is beneficial for your lipoedema: it reduces pain, helps to manage your weight and improves your overall well-being. Exercises for lipoedema should focus on building muscle strength and incorporate aerobic exercises.

Lipoedema and Exercise

Painful limbs are a typical symptom of lipoedema. This can make it hard to stay active and manage your weight, especially if you are already overweight. This, in turn, can result in a loss of muscle strength. However, exercise or being active in general, positively influences your body and mind and can also improve your lipoedema symptoms. Together with balanced nutrition, exercise helps you to maintain a healthy weight. In contrast, a lot of diets focus on short-term effects but fail in the end. This can result in even more weight gain and should be avoided.

Increase your activity step-by-step

“Graded activity” is part of the holistic treatment of lipoedema. It combines exercise with psychological support. The goal is to increase your activity gradually following a step-by-step personal plan. In the beginning, exercise can be done in the presence of pain, but in the long-term, regular exercise improves your lipoedema symptoms.

How exercise improves your lipoedema symptoms

The reason why lipoedema causes pain is not entirely understood. Experts explain that inflammation within your fatty tissue is the most likely reason for your pain. Regular exercise reduces inflammation, increases your blood flow, and supplies your body with oxygen. Being active is also beneficial for your emotional well-being; it acts as a natural antidepressant.

What kind of exercise works best?

Your healthcare professional (HCP) can help you to create an exercise plan. Lipoedema exercise programs include a mixture of building muscle strength and incorporates aerobic exercise.

Good examples of aerobic exercises are Yoga, Pilates, Nordic Walking, cycling, or exercise in water. Swimming or water aerobics reduces the strain on your joints and muscles and also improves lymphatic flow. Although you may be concerned or feel uncomfortable wearing a swimsuit, you should give it a try. Yoga and Pilates are perfect for improving your flexibility.

Another part of your lipoedema exercise program should focus on building muscle strength. You can start using resistance bands in your training which can gradually increase your strength. After a while, you can also use weights, but you should only increase gradually the weight and number of repetitions.

You should always wear your compression garments during exercising. One exception is swimming which will damage the material. Wear an old garment if possible.

Need some motivation?

Here are a few tips on how you can motivate yourself:

  1. Set realistic goals and increase your activity step-by-step
  2. Make a plan – schedule your exercise at the beginning of each week and stick to it
  3. Share your plan with your family and friends. If possible, exercise together with a friend
  4. Listen to music that motivates you when you exercise
  5. Change activities when you don’t like them. If it is not swimming, maybe Nordic Walking or Yoga works for you
  6. Look back at what you have achieved at the end of each week and think of new goals for the upcoming week
  7. Treat yourself – enjoy a massage or facial mask as a reward

Besides exercise, balanced nutrition is another key element of a healthy lifestyle.

Check out our nutrition guide for some healthy eating tips

The role of Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) in lipoedema treatment

If you break down the word ‘lipoedema’, it means ‘fat swelling’. In contrast to lymphoedema, there is no fluid accumulation in the tissue of lipoedema patients that causes swelling. Therefore, MLD has no proven effect for treating lipoedema. Nevertheless, MLD can be beneficial for other reasons: the massage may reduce stress or anxiety. However, MLD is not a regular part of lipoedema treatment.

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