Why water exercise is so good for lymphoedema?
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
Spring time is the time to renew ourselves. For me, it is the best time of the year: flowers are blooming, birds are chirping and mornings are magical. I live near the bush and the cacophony of birds when waking up in the morning is incredible. The temperature is still fresh and inciting to get up and walk around. Even the possum in my roof is moving out of hibernation... but this is another story. Spring is also the time for warmer days and the invitation to jump in the pool is getting more pressing.
This is where my story begins because I would like to discuss the benefits of exercising in the water for lymphoedema. Do you know why it is so beneficial for the body? lt is because the water is naturally compressing body tissue, decreasing oedema. You do not need to wear a compression garment in the water because there is such a thing as hydrostatic pressure, which is the pressure of the water on the body. The deeper the water, the more compression in the distant parts of your body and this is due to the weight of the fluid above it. lt is the same for a gradient medical compression garment, meaning that the compression is the highest at the wrists or at the ankles, the most distant parts of the body, just like in deep water.
The water pressure is also pleasant and cooling in the summer months. you do not feel like you are exercising when you run, walk or just splash around in the pool. You can do what I call the "hundred walks": you walk sideways, forwards and backwards across the pool. you pretend that you run in slow motion, hop forwards and backwards, run in circles using your arms to propel yourself. lt really does not matter what movement you do as long as you keep a good posture and can breathe comfortably. You may just exercise different muscles or muscle fibers but you won't injure yourself when applying this simple rule. Also drink enough fluid when exercising, as you may not be aware that you perspire when submerged in a pool of water. Deep abdominal breathing can help pump the left thoracic trunk, which is the biggest, busiest lymphatic vessel in your body, pushing blood and lymph fluid against gravity from both legs and the lower abdominal region.
Water offers what we could call a double-positive because when splashing for example, you push the water away and have to pull your arms in to repeat the movement. You feel resistance in two directions and can build muscle strength. You experience buoyancy, as you are somewhat suspended in the water. You can also use a buoyancy belt to keep you afloat when moving in deep water. This would totally remove the impact on your joints and encourage you to perform movements that you would not attempt on land anymore, such as star jumps for example. lt is another world where you feel weightless and happy and full of confidence.
It is best to swim or exercise in a 24-28 degrees’ temperature pool. A higher temperature can be detrimental to lymphoedema, as heat can dilate blood vessels and allow for more fluid in the tissue. Be mindful when walking around or getting in and out of the pool. Scratching your limbs could cause infection and you can wear shoes to minimize the risk. Ensure that you wear sunscreen in an outdoor pool, shower after exercising to remove chlorine, dry yourself thoroughly and moisturize your skin before wearing your compression garment.
Voila I This is a 3 seasons remedy (spring, summer and autumn) or whole year around activity for the brave enough to tackle the winter months. Do you know that your metabolism increases when you feel cold? - how is that for an incentive to jump in the pool in winter? I leave that up to you. Have a terrific water season and tell me all about it.