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L-W-O Community

For those living with Primary, Secondary & Paediatric Lymphoedema Online & in the Community

Foot and Leg exercises

Presentation by Carla Zanichelli Lymphoedema Therapist

On behalf of Cancer Research UK

Foot Movement

  • Ankle circles:  Help to strengthen your ankles and increase your mobility by slowly circling your ankles clockwise x 5 followed by anticlockwise x 5 - change foot and repeat - you can do this sitting down - for me the ideal time is when I am sitting watching TV with my feet up
  • Calf raise: This can be done either sitting down or standing up while standing and holding onto a chair for support, slowly raise your heels, then lower x 5 - change leg and repeat
  • Heel stand: Sitting or if you are standing hold onto a support, slowly raise your toes, then lower x 5 change leg
  • One-foot stand: At first, support yourself by holding on a chair and raise one foot and hold for 10 seconds x 5 - change leg

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.

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.


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.

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.

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 L-W-O Community uses the hashtag #getmoving

Page last updated 31/03/2021