You can help to manage and reduce lymphoedema by exercising and keeping physically active. Exercising helps you feel better and maintain a healthy weight. It also reduces your risk of developing other health problems and is a good way to reduce stress and anxiety.
Exercise can improve lymphoedema because it:
- increases the flow of lymph fluid by working your muscles and reducing swelling
- encourages fluid to move away from the swollen area
- strengthens your muscles
- keeps your joints flexible, maintaining and improving your range of movement
- improves your posture.
Gentle stretching exercises can help to reduce and control lymphoedema. Your lymphoedema specialist will explain the best exercises for you, and how many times a day you should do them. We describe some simple exercises to reduce arm and leg swelling at the end of this section.
If you have been fitted with a compression garment you need to wear it when you exercise. Try to include deep breathing in any daily exercise routines to improve your circulation. Do your exercises gradually and regularly, as advised by your specialist, so that you build up a regular routine.
Exercises for lymphoedema should be gentle and feel comfortable. The right amount of exercise or activity will vary from person to person. Swelling may increase if you exercise too quickly, for long periods or too often. If you’re doing too much, your skin will become red, sticky and hot.
Keeping physically active
Carry on using your affected limb for all your normal activities. Keeping yourself physically active by doing things around the house or in the garden is also another form of exercise.
Start gently with most activities and gradually increase. You may have to avoid some activities that place stress on the affected limb, for example, moving heavy pieces of furniture or mowing the lawn with your affected arm.
It’s also important to break up long, busy days with times of rest with your limb supported. If your arm is affected, be careful not to carry anything too heavy. If you need to go shopping, use a trolley. If you can, do your shopping online and have it delivered to avoid carrying heavy bags.