Lymphoedema exercises: Fun and effective
If you’re looking for a way to keep fit and help your lymphoedema at the same time, you might consider rebounding.
One of the most significant and lingering side effects of breast cancer treatment can be the risk of lymphoedema. However, there are exercises you can do to help prevent and manage the condition.
Rebounding —a workout that uses a mini-trampoline – is regaining popularity. You may remember the mini-trampoline, that classic weight-loss tool of the 1980s (along with leg warmers and headbands). Well, it’s enjoying a revival, bolstered in part by doctors’ increased understanding of the lymphatic system. Some experts say that rebounding is one of the best lymphoedema exercises you can do because it moves lymph fluid vertically, due to the gravitational force and rhythmic motion.
Jump to it!
Fitness centres and athletic clubs worldwide have added rebounding classes to their timetables and with higher-quality home trampolines on the market, consumers are buying their own rebounders to use at home.
“I think rebounding is making a come-back because it addresses so many fitness and health issues in a single, enjoyable, and convenient workout,” explains John Hines of Bellicon USA, one of the premier manufacturers of high-end rebounders. “In many ways, people are less healthy now than they were before the fitness boom of the ’70s and ’80s. Our lifestyle has changed a lot in the last 40 years – people are more inactive than ever before, which makes us vulnerable to a host of health problems.”
Lymphoedema exercises need to be enjoyable if they are to become a healthy habit, which is why rebounding classes are filling up. Women around the world agree that bouncing on a trampoline is a great way to keep fit because it’s so much fun!
The benefit of lymphoedema exercises
Your lymphatic system is a part of your circulatory system, carrying fluid from tissues to lymph nodes via a network of vessels. Lymph fluid is very similar to blood plasma but contains disease-fighting white blood cells (lymphocytes), waste products and cellular debris, along with protein and bacteria.
The major difference between the cardiovascular system and the lymph system is that the lymph system doesn’t use the heart to pump its fluid. Motion is typically slow and lacks pressure. Lymphatic circulation can be stimulated by manual drainage (massage), muscle contraction and aerobic exercise. Walking, dancing, swimming, hiking and Pilates are great lymphoedema exercises to try, but according to popular literature (note that there haven’t been any definitive scientific studies to date), the rhythmic bounce of rebounding, which allows lymph valves to open and close simultaneously, can increase lymph flow significantly.
“People with any existing health issues need to talk to their doctor first before beginning any new type of workout,” advises Hines. It’s also recommended that people with lymphoedema wear compression garments when exercising. Advocates of rebounding and its resultant lymph-moving say the benefits include:
- Cleans out toxins such as dead and cancerous cells, other wastes, infectious viruses and metals
- Strengthens the immune system by removing antigens
- Protects the joints from hard landings and fatigue (after swimming it’s one of the best lymphoedema exercises you can do)
- Improves balance and co-ordination
- Works the heart more efficiently – 20 minutes on a rebounder is said to compare to one hour of running
- Brings out your inner child – jumping is a fun workout!