Exercise and Lymphedema

Top Tips for Incorporating Exercise into Your Life with Lymphedema by Jen Boyce:

  1. Find a certified lymphedema therapist you like and trust for ongoing lymphedema care and developing an appropriate exercise program
  2.  Take into consideration what kind of exercise you have done in the past, how long it has been since you had a regular exercise program, what physical limitations you have and what your doctor and/or therapist are recommending.
  3. Start EASY (easier than you think you can do).
  4. Do MLD—before exercise “primes the pump”, after exercise or both.
  5. Remember that increased swelling is not the only indicator of lymphedema flare ups.
  6. Pay attention to your symptoms after exercise (and for several days after): increased swelling, pain, tightness, heaviness, clumsiness. If any increased symptoms—consider backing down (less time or slower).
  7. Increase intensity and frequency SLOWLY, continuing to pay attention to your symptoms.
  8. Consider keeping track of your exercise and associated symptoms in a journal/calendar. Over time, you will notice patterns.
  9. Pay attention to other factors and how these may impact your swelling: heat, extreme cold, change in lymphedema garments (maybe you need new garments or perhaps new garments do not fit properly), illness, other activities (typing, increased use of arms for UE lymphedema, on your feet more than usual for LE lymphedema), stress, diet, changes in sleep.
  10. If you like to swim or do water exercise, this is a great option for lymphedema—you don’t have to wear compression and you get natural compression provided by the water.
  11. Find some type of exercise that works for you and stick with it—for your overall physical and mental health and your lymphedema. Any time you restart, you are more at risk for a flare.
  12. Don’t be afraid to try new things but just be cautious; get to know your body.
  13. Have fun!