Exercise is the cornerstone of treatment for people with lipedema because it moves lymph fluid, reduces edema, and reduces fat growth. Although moving may be painful in the begining, the benefits of exercise cannot be overstated. Even a small amount of movement each day serves to strengthen muscles, increase blood and lymphatic flow, boost mood and confidence, and manage stress. Exercises that activate the foot and calf “muscle pumps” increase lymphatic drainage and reduce edema formation in the tissue, relieving pain and inflammation.
Exercise that is too strenuous and deprives the muscles of oxygen can have an adverse effect, increasing pain and inflammation, so balance is important. The type of exercise a patient chooses should depend on the stage they are at. Focus on strengthening, but not aggravating, the areas around the knees and feet, and remember that wearing compression when needed and staying hydrated will further improve outcomes.
For patients with lipedema, there are certain types of exercises that generate the best results with the least amount of strain.
- Swimming/Pool exercises: This is the number one type of exercise recommended for reducing edema (swelling), as being vertical in the water offers a natural gradient compression with pressure increasing the deeper you go. Water-based exercise supports painful joints and the pressure of deep water on the legs helps improve lymphatic and venous function.
- Walking: Unlike jogging, which strains the knee and back, walking provides a way to strengthen, not aggravate, the areas around knees and feet. Using poles, sometimes called Nordic walking, helps to distribute force away from the knees.
- Biking: Cycling, particularly on a stationary bike, is another frequently suggested form of exercise for lipedema. Because it can be done seated, less weight is placed on the knees and back.
- Pilates/Yoga: Pilates and Yoga are good for hypermobility, a common issue in those living with fat disorders, and also provides the added benefit of core strengthening exercises. Some people find that slow-moving yoga does not help move the lymphatic system enough, so look for an instructor who moves at a good pace.
- Whole Body Vibration: There are many potential benefits to whole-body-vibration, from weight loss to increased bone density to improved blood and lymphatic circulation, however there have also been debates about the possible harms of these stationary machines. By working the core and improving balance, whole body vibration machines are designed to stimulate the lymphatic system with less movement.
Dr. Marcia Byrd and her team of experts care for patients throughout the United States and abroad. Locally, Dr. Byrd services the North Atlanta, GA area including Roswell GA, Alpharetta GA, Milton GA, Woodstock GA, Canton GA, Dunwoody GA, Sandy Springs, GA and more. If you suspect that you suffer from Lipedema, call (770) 587-1711 and schedule a consultation.