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Lymphoedema & Exercise

Basics of Movement, Activity and Exercise

Gentle movement, exercise and activities will help the muscles pump lymph fluid through your body. Exercise can help you improve and maintain flexibility and keeps the bones strong. Being more active supports a healthy weight too, and it may even improve how you feel emotionally.



  • If you have been provided with a compression garment, wear it when exercising to help keep the muscles pumping 
  • Do a little every day and build up to about 30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week
  • Little and often is best
  • It is important to pace yourself and listen to your body. Use common sense 
  • Remember: being slightly out of breath is okay, rest a little and then start again
  • Set yourself achievable goals. Don’t think of running a marathon when you can’t walk down the road! Start slowly and do a bit more every day
  • Sometimes writing down what you have done can be helpful
  • Drink plenty of water and wear sensible clothing and shoes
  • Do not exercise if you feel unwell
  • To be healthy we just need to move our bodies


Ideas for Moving:

  • Walking on the spot, walk to a friend’s home, walk to the local shop, take the dog for a walk, join a walking group
  • Parking further away from the shop entrance; getting off at an earlier bus stop
  • Cleaning the house, gardening, shopping
  • Activities like cycling, bowling, even running are good
  • Water activities such as walking in the water, aqua aerobics, swimming
  • Vibration plates such as the power plate and VibroGym
  • Play with the children or grandchildren – throw or kick a ball around, go for a walk to the park
  • Hide the remote control for the television - don’t sit for long periods, move your legs and arms
  • Join a local exercise class or gym
  • Ask your GP to refer you the National Exercise Referral Scheme

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises help to move lymph fluid around the body. This is an easy activity and helps with relaxation and reducing stress levels.

  • Sit or lie down with your shoulders relaxed and hands resting below your ribs
  • Breathe in and feel your stomach rising (imagine a balloon inflating under your hands)
  • Slowly breathe out and press gently inwards with your hands
  • Repeat five times

If your mobility is limited, start small and try the following:

Move your arms when in bed or on the chair: Repeat 5 times on both sides. You can increase the number of repetitions as you get stronger.

Bend and straighten your arm Lift your arm up towards the ceiling then lower gently Raise your arms from your side up above your head then lower down gently

Move your legs when in bed or on the chair. Repeat 10 times on both sides. You can increase the number of repetitions as you get stronger.

Roll your foot in a circle.  Repeat in the opposite direction. Place your foot flat on the floor.  Tap your heels. Sit with your feet down.  Straighten and bend your knee.

Ask your therapist for more exercise leaflets.