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Primary & Secondary Lymphoedema Online & in the Community

Get Moving

This page is all about not letting your lymphoedema define who you are.  I understand that many of us don't like exercising, we don't like being told that we should be doing something because it's good for us. The lymphatic system doesn't have a pump of its own therefore, gentle movements are important so that lymphatic fluid does not stagnate and ultimately cause infection.  I have shown simple exercises that we can all do, plus photographs of the outdoor pursuits of our members who enjoy being active.

Lymphoedema Awareness Day May 2018


Having fun, blowing bubbles doing our deep breathing with Healthy-Steps.

Take a look at the Healthy-Steps Facebook page, run by our friends Janet & Jackie who are the UK & Europe license holders for 

Healthy-Steps Moving You to Better Health with the Lebed Method

Movement not Exercise

I took a conscious decision in 2015 not to use the word ‘exercise’ and this has been quite a challenge because everyone else uses the word ‘exercise’.  Why did I do this?  Many of our members who have leg or foot lymphoedema really struggle with getting around and telling them if they exercise more would help to improve their condition, does not help their mental health and creates more stress. I found the word 'exercise' led to hostile reactions and excuses as to why they can’t exercise.

This also applies to anyone who has osteoarthritis, I have this throughout by body and have been fortunate to have two new knees.

Whenever I can on L-W-O sites I use the word ‘movement’ it doesn’t conjure up the horror of doing a marathon or attending one of those super human aerobics classes but instead allows you to start off with small movements that can be increased step by step every day.

Get moving

My nightmare scenario would be to join a gym, been there, done that and hated every moment.  Not for me!

Now financially it would be outside my pocket range as it would be for many of our members.  So how can I reach those who live with lymphoedema and who have repeatedly been told they need to keep moving.  Conversations such as “my legs are so heavy, I can’t get off the sofa” or “I am exhausted, I have no strength” are frequent in social media conversations.  Living with lymphoedema is exhausting but whatever excuses we make unless we get moving our condition will not get any better.

Moving around is as important as our daily showers, moisturising our skin and drinking water.

Why Move?

There are many sensitive issues around telling those living with lymphoedema about needing to exercise. Mobility problems for lower limbs with lymphoedema create all sorts of problems and constantly telling someone they must exercise is depressing and causes further stress.  

Talking more about movement and encouraging our members not to sit or lie still for hours but to shift position every 30 minutes, doing a little more each day.

Movement helps move the lymph fluid around your body.  The lymphatic system does not have its own pump.  The only way to stop it stagnating and causing problems is to keep the fluid moving.

The suggestions on this page are designed to do at your own pace and level.  In the beginning only do what you feel able to do.  When you feel more confident you can increase the amount you do.  Use your favourite music to help with your exercise as this will also help towards you feeling good. 

Make sure you drink water in between each different exercise.  Always warm up first and cool down at the end of your routine. 

No recent exercise

There are lots of reasons why we stop moving around, sometimes you are in a lot of pain, or you have been ill.  Getting back into moving around might seem daunting.  Your lymphatic fluid cannot move itself, its up to you to get it moving.

Everyone has a different level of fitness and ability to move around.  It is important to find the right balance of exercise that suits you.  If you are returning to exercise that you have not done for some time, start with a short session and build up regularly.

Remember to do warm up exercises and at the end of your exercise have a cool down session.

From a chair

If I had a pound for every time I was told that a person didn’t know they could ‘exercise’ from their bed or a chair I would be a very rich woman!  Simple movements will be added to this page as and when I can.  Although this video was produced for and by patients of Parkinsons the principles are the same.  Thank you to Janet Capstick one of our friends from Health-Steps.

In a wheelchair

It is important if you are in a wheel chair to keep moving.  You will need to build strength in your upper body and if you have feeling in your legs then to keep them moving as well.  I spent pre new knees many times in a wheelchair.  Numb bum and people's attitude where the  overriding memories of that time.

Also mobility scooters are great for getting you out into the fresh air but you need to build strength in your legs because sometimes you will have to park outside a store and walk inside or you will need to stop and find a toilet.  Therefore leg and foot exercises are so important to keep those muscles strong.

One of the best websites for wheelchair and those who like to exercise from a chair recommended by a L-W-O member, Sandy Owen is Wheely Good Fitness.



The most important part of any exercise is the warm up, these exercises prepare your body in a gentle way and are the first exercises undertaken as part of the Healthy Steps programme. 


Use your favourite music to help with your exercise as this will also help towards you feeling good.  Make sure you drink water.

Always warm up first and cool down at the end of your routine.  I use the Healthy-Steps/ Lebed Method as this was designed for those who have lymphoedema.  All these exercises you can find on YouTube.

Steve Kelland Canada


Steve Kelland Canada

Here are Steve's thoughts.

1) regardless of mobility, stamina, coordination or degree of LE affliction, "activity" is key. Too many believe that "exercise" must occur. From my time at Wittlinger Therapiezentrum in Austria (collocated with Vodder Academy), I appreciate that the term "exercise" can be daunting or intimidating to some with significant restrictions. Motion "activity" whether standing, running, walking, treading (water), sitting, etc. can & will pump the lymph flow;
2) regardless of weather, season, conditions, there is always some way to incorporate "motion" into one's day; &
3) while the oft-/over-bandied "inspiration" can be helpful for one living with LE, it must lead to "motivation" to reap accomplished health benefits. With inspiration & motivation achieved, the third step of "aspiration" becomes within grasp, ie reclaiming what type of life YOU want...LE be damned.
Good active lymphatic health...all year long. Cheers

Sitting or lying down

When you are in bed, lying on the sofa, or sitting in a chair with your feet up, it helps to position yourself so that the lymph fluid can continue to drain. 

  • Arm lymphoedema when sitting raise your arms to a level that is comfortable for you by using a cushion or pillow.  Not above your shoulder.
  • Leg lymphoedema, support your legs in the same way with a cushion or pillow. Do not lie with your legs down.
  • If you have head and neck lymphoedema, sleep with two to three pillows to raise your head and help the fluid to drain while you are sleeping.  If possible raise the head by using blocks under the legs.

Healthy Steps

Healthy Steps, moving to a better health with the Lebed Method.

The Healthy Steps programme is designed to maximise participation and activity. Healthy Steps is fun and easy to do, and no special abilities are required.  The aim of the Healthy Steps programme are slow, smooth movements which open the lymphatic system.  Whilst it is fun in a class you can do them from the comfort of your own home.

Healthy Steps is for anyone with:

  • Breast Cancer, or other forms of cancer
  • Lymphoedema
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson's
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Other chronic and debilitating condition

Ballet and Tap Dancing


L-W-O member Ann Gill joined a beginners Ballet and Tap Dancing class.  Since joining her class she has also taken part in shows.



Useful tips

  • Swimming and water exercise is very helpful
  • Yoga encourages you to stretch and relax and also to breathe correctly
  • Allow time to stretch all your muscles in your warm up and cool down sessions and include breathing exercises
  • Avoid using a sauna after exercise as this may cause the swelling to increase
  • Take a water breaks before moving on to other exercises.  I can't emphasise enough the importance of drinking water. Water helps the lymph fluid flow and stops it stagnating.  This will prevent any blockages and help to protect you from infection.
  • Avoid over exerting yourself to prevent fatigue

Head and Neck Movement

Swelling for head and neck muscles can also be reduced through exercise.  Everyday we all change our facial expressions.  Use these changes as part of your exercise routine.

  • chewing
  • frowning
  • smiling
  • yawning
  • shaving (not to forget our male members)

You can do this in front of a mirror at any time of day.  I found this poster on Pinterest.


Take a look at our Pinterest page;

Head Turns

Head turns - Head facing to the right shoulder turn head to the left, then to the right x 2. 

Head roll - Head to the right side, roll down to your chest and across to your left side x 2 

Neck Tilts

Stand with legs hip width apart, relax your body.

Neck Tilts - Head facing in front, tilt head forward, chin to chest,  x 2.                      

Head facing forward, tilt head to right to the right, ear to shoulder x 2.                        

Head facing forward, tilt head to the left, ear to shoulder x 2


Stand with legs hip width apart, relax your body.

Shoulder shrugs - Raise your right shoulder to your right ear and back down x 2.  

Raise your left shoulder to your left ear and back down x 2                             

Raise both your shoulders to your ears and back down x 2

Shoulder rolls - Place both your hands on your shoulders; circle your right shoulder x 2 repeat with your left shoulder x 2.  Circle both your shoulders x 2

The above exercises are particularly useful to keep your shoulder joints mobile, to prevent stiffness. Each needs to be performed slowly and repeated x 2.  You can then build up repetitions to 5. 


The following exercises use the muscles in your swollen arm and stimulate lymph drainage.  In between each set of exercises, gently shake your arms and hands, this helps to loosen the muscles and helps you relax.

  1. Elbow bend - Bend your arm at the elbow, then straighten it slowly.  If your arm is heavy rest it on a table.
  2. Wrist exercise - Bend and stretch your hand at the wrist so that your fingertips point to the ceiling and then to the floor.
  3. Clenched fist - Slowly spread out your fingers and hold for the count of 5, then make a fist whilst resting your elbow on a flat surface.
  4. Fingers - With your right hand touch your index finger to your thumb, repeat with each of your fingers through to your little finger.  Change to your left hand and fingers.  Finally repeat using both hands.   
  5. Large Circles - Draw a circle clockwise with your right arm x 2.  Repeat anti clockwise x 2.  Repeat with your left arm.

Strenghten those fingers

Genital Lymphoedema

This is one of those subjects that those living with Genital Lymphoedema find hard to discuss.

Pelvic floor and tummy exercises can help to control your lymphoedema.  These exercises help to drain the lymph fluid into the lymphatic system in the abdomen.

Ask your lymphoedema nurse to show you how or alternatively there are pelvic floor exercises on You Tube.

Becky Sharp

Becky has a passion for hiking and is fortunate enough to live by the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee.  Here is a little bit about Becky.

After developing lymphedema from breast cancer treatment in 2011, and now lipolymphedema in right foot I decided to become a LE advocate. I started a LE support group (LANET) in Knoxville, TN. I am on the Executive Board of the Lymphedema Advocacy Group for The Lymphedema Treatment Act and have lobbied in DC six times. I am a Lymph Science Advocacy Program Patient of the National Lymphedema Network (NLN). I have attended four NLN conferences, five Lighthouse Lymphedema Network conferences, and presented on starting a support group at the World Congress of Lymphology in 2015.

Becky Sharp


Karen Copeland

The exercise I have looking after my horse as well as riding him is good for the lymphoedema in my legs. Above all though is the feeling of well-being I get from riding and being around my horse.and my dogs come too 




L-W-O Pam Slawson

Reduce Swelling

You can reduce your swelling whilst doing your daily activities:

  • Wear your compression hosiery when you undertake any form of exercise, so that the muscles can work more effectively.
  • Ease off any activity when you start to feel uncomfortable or tired.
  • Avoid activities where you hold your limb in the same position for any length of time, this may increase your swelling.
  • Breathing exercises are useful for deep lymphatic drainage; they use the diaphragm to help pump the lymph so that it can drain away.
  • Remember to take water breaks and be prepared to "pee" more.

Remember to do warm up exercises and at the end of your exercise have a cool down session.


Walking is the cheapest form of exercise.  Not only good for you but just getting out of the house and having fresh air will do wonders for your well-being.  Then I hear "I can't get off the sofa".  Yes you can.  You start by walking to the kitchen or the bathroom. Then if you are fortunate enough to have a back garden walk to the end of the garden, turn around and come back.  Add a little more each day.  When you are more confident front door is next, walk to the end of the drive, turn round come back, repeat as many times as you can.  

Walking your dog is a great way to get out in the fresh air, left Sarah Bowing, top right is Nic Henn and bottom right Hannah Gilsenan


Hannah tell us:  We do lots of walking hols and climb several mountains together most years. I have Primary LE present in all four limbs. My left leg/foot is my biggest problem. Walking and climbing in cool temps really helps me. In the last 4 years I’ve climbed Snowdon twice, Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Helvellyn a couple of times.

My Physio Suggested

If you have had new knees or hips my physio suggested the following to get me walking again. This can be adapted for lymphoedema.

  • venture into your street, walk the length of car, turn around and come back
  • next day do the length of two cars
  • then three, then four, sometimes when you have severe mobility problems it is as much about giving yourself confidence
  • ask someone to walk with you, having someone with you that you can chat to will also help you feel good.

Sarah Bowring

L-W-O member Sarah Bowring, describes herself as " Ex cancer 7 years clear...warrior of Lymphoedema. Living and learning, loving life.  Sarah loves to walk and run and has taken part in marathons running for good causes.  Here are a few photographs of Sarah's activities and her wish is that they will inspire your to take up running.

Sarah Bowring


Staying Active

It is important to stay active as possible when you have lymphoedema.  Lymph flow depends on the muscles working like a pump to encourage drainage and prevent fluid from accumulating in your tissue.  Healthy Steps are low impact but we exercise all our limbs. 

Please remember that many of the Healthy Steps movements can be done sitting down.  This is a great help to me when I have problems with standing and leg movement.

Members activities

L-W-O members activities include:

  • light aerobics
  • ballet
  • cycling
  • dingy sailing
  • hiking
  • horse riding
  • nordic walking
  • swimming
  • tai chi
  • walking
  • yoga

There is a very good website all about walking in groups, take a look at;

Aqua Aerobics

Aqua Aerobics is not only a wonderful way of doing a workout it can become a social occasion and therefore not only good for your physical health but good for your mental health.  Working out in the water puts less stress on your joints and muscles and helps build strength.  The water helps support your body therefore, helps you move better and you are not overheating and likely to exercise for longer.

For a class in your area contact your local leisure centre or put your postcode in:  Aqua Aerobics


Swimming is very good for your lymphoedema, please make sure when you leave the pool:

  • shower thoroughly to remove all the chlorine from your skin. 
  • dry yourself thoroughly. 
  • put on your compression as soon as you can after leaving the pool.   
  • moisturise your skin as soon as possible. 
  • protect your feet, in the pool, poolside, changing areas.  A slither of glass that the eye cannot see can cause serious damage. 
  • keep you feet covered, this will reduce the risk of fungal infections like athlete's foot.
  • make sure you carry a tube of antiseptic cream in case of emergencies.

Fridge reach

Fridge reach - stand with your right arm out, push to the side x 4 relax.  Repeat left side.

Blow the candle - Stand with your finger out to the front, take a deep breath and blow x 2

Tree hug - Stand with both arms out to the side, take a deep breath in and bring your hands together whilst breathing out x 2

Leg Movements

Ballet Bends - Stand with both your arms out to the side. Bend your knees and bring your arms down and up over your head x 3.  On the third bend, hold your arms up to the ceiling clasp your hands together and push up to the ceiling x 4

March - Using a chair for support, lift your right leg and hold for a few seconds x 2. Repeat with your left leg x 2

March - Sitting down preferably in an upright chair, lift your right leg and hold for a few seconds x 2. Repeat with your left leg x 2.

Leg Cramps

Many of our members get leg cramps and there can be several reasons for this, mine started with pregnancy many moons ago.  Dehydration, low sodium, too little calcium, magnesium or potassium and nerve compression are just a few of the possibilities that you might experience leg cramps.  You could go to your GP and ask for Quinine tablets if your leg cramps are very severe.  For me a banana a day helps and there is quinine in good tonic water, check the label on your cans or bottles next time you buy to see if the have quinine.  Stretching your leg or foot will also help.

Foot excercises

To be written

Exercise on Prescription

If you haven't exercised for a long time, please ask your GP about exercise on prescription.  GP's across the UK can prescribe exercise as a treatment for a range of conditions, including depression.

Exercise programmes last for around 6 weeks and sometimes can be extended for a further 6 weeks.  It might be the motivation you are looking for to get you started.

This could be a new beginning, meeting new people especially if you can make it a social event.

Sedentary Lifestyle

So, if you have sedentary lifestyle for example you spend a lot of time of the sofa, then you must shift your position every 30 minutes.  Any type of movement is good for you. Start with a few minutes build a sequence of movements every day, that don’t but strain on your limbs and increase those sequences until you feel comfortable.  Two minutes is better than none but aim overall for a bout 20 minutes.   Think of the sense of achievement you will feel if you could do 20 minutes or more every day.

Desk Job

You have a desk job and when you have sat all day then you become stiff and your limbs begin to swell.  There are so many ways you can combat that, and it is essential you have even a few minutes away from your work station.  There is a great movement in Coventry now where instead of that meeting in the office you walk down to the local coffee shop or better still, pick up your coffee and do a walk and talk.  Away from your desk you will find you can often be more productive.

One of the workplaces I was impressed with when L-W-O was invited was the George Headquarters at Lutterworth, where apart from their café, there are lots of places to sit away from the workplace to chat to colleagues, hold meetings. 

After attending body language courses many moons ago one of the suggestions was that if you are on the phone then instead of sitting, stand to take your phone call.  From a business point of view the idea is that if you were standing you were in a more powerful position to get you point across.  Not sure I agree with this thought process, but the principle is good for getting you out of your seat.




A rebounder is like a mini trampoline but with a firmer bounce. It fits in most living rooms and can be used daily for great lymphatic and circulatory health. I use mine several times a week for a proper 30-45 min sweaty workout or during the day for a few minutes when I need a boost of energy. I was sceptical for many years as I worried it would aggravate my lymphoedema in my left leg but with adequate (a little more than during the day) compression I have seen great results. The benefit of the rebounder is that it is suitable for all levels. You can bounce as hard or light, as quick or slow as you like in the comfort of your own home. For added upper body strength I add wrist weights.

I like to do it with one of the many YouTube videos you can find for free but you can also subscribe to a paid service via or you can make your own programme based on your level and what you like. Rebounders are found in many price ranges and some make more noise than others so make sure you read the reviews before purchasing or try one in your local sports shop. You can also get one with a handle/bar if you are worried about your balance. Happy Rebounding!  Thank you to Pernille Henriksen for writing this piece.

Note: The rebounder I have has a handle because I have balance problems.  Also when ordering please bear in mind that some rebounders have weight limits so always check when buying if it is suitable for you.



LSN Exercise Leaflet

 LSN have published a leaflet on Exercise.  The leaflet is free to all LSN members. You can order a copy via Tel: 020 7351 4480

In brief here are their exercise recommendations:

  • swimming
  • water activities
  • aqua aerobics

Your limb in water is supported and it is not necessary to wear your garment.  Breast stroke is a good gentle exercise.  Start your exercise slowly and build your strength each time you go.

Aqua exercises build slowly, keeping your limb in the water for support.  Using floats you can build resistance.

Listen to your body it will tell you if your are overdoing things.

Thank You

Thank you to our L-W-O members for giving me permission to publish their names and photographs.  I value your continued support and by sharing your activities I hope you will truly inspire others to get moving.  

This page was formerly called exercise and first published in July 2014

The page was re-named 20th July 2018 to Get Moving

On social media we use the hashtag #getmoving

Page last updated 06/02/2019