Exercising and lymphedema is a very controversial subject. Once again I would like to say that since lymphedema varies so much from person to person everyone seems to have their own opinion so I am just going to be giving my own experience and opinions.
Personally, I know that I feel better when I am moving. Sitting or standing for long periods of time hurts me a lot more than walking or going to a class at the gym. For the last 10 years or so I had a great excuse not to exercise….I had no sneakers or shoes that were suitable for going to the gym or walking for any extended periods. Every gym I wanted to join refused me due to my lack of appropriate footwear or they believed a person with lymphedema should not do strenuous workouts. If you have read my other blog posts you know that I finally found a gym and a trainer that would work with me at the beginning of this year. It has been great. My trainer and the other people in my classes have been amazingly supportive. Is it helping my lymphedema? Probably not, but it is not hurting it either. It is helping my overall health and my self confidence.
A lot of people recommend swimming or water aerobics for people with lymphedema and actually those are really good forms of exercise if it wasn’t for the fact that they would involve putting on a bathing suit and having people stare at and make rude comments about my legs (this has happened to me numerous times). I know that I should ignore it but it is a lot easier to say than to do. I actually plan to try it again when the weather warms up. I have been looking at bathing suits… I am hoping that the confidence that I have gained through going to the gym will help me ignore the comments and the stares.
People with lymphedema who can walk, should walk. Get a pedometer and compete against yourself every day. If you were able to walk 100 steps today then try to walk 101 steps tomorrow and continue to increase your steps every day.
If you are a person who can’t walk but you can move your arms, then move them (wave them in the air like you just don’t care 🙂 ) Try to do any type of movement every day. Do whatever you can do and try and do a bit more each day.
I know I titled this post as Lymphedema and Exercise but in reality I could have called it Everybody and Exercise because what I said actually relates to everyone. My friend Starr loves the quote “No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch”. She does not have lymphedema but she has been dealing with some other health issues. Her exercise of choice is the treadmill and this quote helps her realize that every time she does it, she is accomplishing something.
Exercising is a very personal thing. Find something that you like to do (or can do) and do it!!! Don’t compare yourself to others…compare yourself today to yourself yesterday.