Water exercise is one of the best exercises for people with lipedema and lymphedema. And if you’re not already doing water exercise, summer is a great time to try it!
Benefits of Water Exercise for Lipedema and Lymphedema
Gravity Elimination – Water provides support and decreases the effects of gravity. This helps smooth movements that might be jarring outside of water and enables more movement.
Ease of movement – Water surrounds your limbs and joints and provides support that can decrease pain and help relax muscles.
Promotes Lymph Flow – The movement of water combined with the pumping of muscles assists in the flow of lymph fluid and blood.
Salt Water – The use of salt water has the added benefits of increasing buoyancy of the limbs and killing bacteria on skin. This helps reduce risk for infection or cellulitis.
Resistance – the hydrostatic pressure from the water provides resistance that strengthens muscles and improves cardiac and respiratory conditioning
Things to Know About Water Exercise for Lipedema and Lymphedema
Do I wear compression? – No, the water acts as compression so it is unnecessary to wear compression. If limb is mostly out of the water during the exercise wear a worn-out compression that you wouldn’t mind getting wet
Can I Use Hot water Pools? – Use heated pools or Jacuzzis with caution. If the water is more than 94 degrees there is a potential it will make your affected limb swell up.
Do I Need to Protect My Affected Limb? – If affected limb in in water too long it has the potential to dry out so make sure to apply lotion to protect after water exercise.
Is it Safe to Go Barefoot? – You will want to protect your affected legs and feet from scratches or punctures when walking on the beach or in salt water. Use footwear that is easy to put on and take off but still provides support (see Shoe Recommendations for People with Lymphedema for more information).
Arm and Leg Water Exercise for Lipedema and Lymphedema
Water Exercise For Legs
Water exercise promotes lymph drainage by activating lymph nodes in the legs – the inguinal nodes in the groin and the popliteal nodes in the knee. In addition, it provides a light massage across the skin encouraging lymph flow. Water exercises for the legs include:
Walking – This is a great warm up activity to relax the muscles and start lymph drainage. Recommended walk time is 3 to 10 min.
Knee Bouncing – Alternate bending one knee towards chest, then the other. Lean on the wall to provide support if needed. Repeat 10 times
Water Exercise for Arms
These exercises will activate axillary lymph nodes in the armpit and provide a light massage across the skin that promotes lymph flow.
Arm Loops – Let your arms float on water, then turn affected arm down and bend elbow so forearm is under water. Bring arm to front of body while retaining position, then bring it as far back as you can. Repeat full cycle 10 times.
Hand Press – Press hands together on surface of water and release 10 times
Shoulder Rolls – Let your arms float on water and then roll shoulders clockwise and counterclockwise 10 times.
Water Exercises With Pool Noodles or Balls
In addition to promoting lymph flow, these exercises help improve balance, abdominal breathing, strength and flexibility.
Sitting on Noodle – Sit on the noodle and bring your knees up towards your chest and down again. Repeat 10 times.
Pushing Down a Noodle – Push the noodle into water until arms are fully extended. Repeat 10 times.
Standing on Noodle – Start by sitting on the noodle. Then bring knees up and push noodle down until you are standing on it. Repeat 10 times.
Push Noodle Down – Stand on the noddle for 30 sec.
Swimming strokes can help improve muscle tone and encourage deep breathing.
The breast stroke is one of the better strokes because it applies a deep stretch to all limbs and is not too strenuous. The Butterfly stroke uses strenuous movements in arms that might worsen swelling and should be used with caution.
So how about it? Are you ready to take the plunge and try water exercise for lipedema and lymphedema? If you need any help to get you started, let your lymphedema therapist know. She will answer any questions you have and help connect you to others who use water exercise for lipedema and lymphedema to help control their pain and swelling.