Can lipedema go away with exercise? What are the best exercises for lipedema? This week I discuss the benefits of exercise for lipedema patients and what role it played in my 140 pound weight loss. More on that here and here. Read on or watch below.
Remember I am not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice. Work with your care team before starting any new exercise routine or making changes to your self-care routine.
Mentioned in this Video: Benefits of exercise for lipedema patients and 5 great ways to get your lymph moving.
Can exercise help lipedema?
Absolutely! Exercise has tremendous benefits for everyone, including Sturdy Women dealing with the cornucopia of lipedema, lymphedema, and/or venous insufficiency. Anything that engages your calf muscles is going to help push fluid, including lymph, up and out of your legs. One of my major takeaways from the FDRS conference in April was that fat loves a fluid-rich environment. So get it out of there! Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress. Stress contributes to inflammation and inflammation makes lipedema worse.
Can you exercise lipedema away?
Again, I’m not a doctor, but all signs point to no. The truth is that exercise isn’t particularly effective in helping anyone lose weight, regardless of whether they have lipedema. This is one of the myths that Aubrey Gordon busts in her new book You Just Need to Lose Weight and 19 Other Myths About Fat People. I highly recommend reading it to better understand that science and for strategies to confront fat bias and size discrimination in your daily life. She gives lipedema a shout out in chapter 1!
I’ve lost 140 pounds since my diagnosis in 2020, but exercise played a minor role. Keto and understanding my food sensitivities has been magic. The core of my lipedema workout is walking and, as my energy improved, I added some light jogging and strength training. Earlier in my life I managed to lose weight through Biggest-Loser-Style calorie restriction and extreme exercise, but it didn’t change my legs and it consumed my entire life. I was punishing myself and I was miserable. It’s challenging, but try to “flip the switch” to seeing exercise as an avenue to support your health rather than penance for perceived flaws. Finding something you can enjoy doing every day will make a big difference.
What exercise is good for lipedema?
- Walking is my absolute to-go exercise for lipedema. I try to do it twice a day and my doctor and physical therapist both emphasized frequency was as important as duration. Several short walks throughout the day can be more beneficial than one long walk at the end. Find a good pair of wide walking shoes (those are my favorite!) and something relaxing to listen to. Check out my Love Your Lipedema Life Playlist for musical inspiration or try out a podcast or audiobook. I’m a huge fan of Audible for both and it’s a great way to learn, laugh, or catch up on current events while doing your lipedema walking.
- Swimming is a good low-impact exercise for lipedema that comes with the extra benefit of compression from the water. Fellow lipedema lady Susan O’Hara recently published the book Aqua Therapy for Lipedema and Lymphedema. It includes more information about the benefits of swimming for us Sturdy Women and how-to photos of different movements to do in the water. Worried about what to wear to the pool? Designers are making so many great, conservative options that can help you feel covered and confident. I discuss lipedema bathing suits and lipedema swimwear in my recent post How to Dress with Lipedema.
- Cycling, whether indoor or outdoor, will help move lymph and other fluid out of your legs. I’m a former spin instructor (yes, pre-diagnosis at 300 pounds!) but you don’t need to do anything that intense. A recumbent bike that puts your legs in more of a horizontal position will make it even easier to move fluid – take that gravity! They even make small models you can use under a desk or while sitting on the couch. Check out the DeskCycle.
- Vibration plates deserve their own post (coming soon!) but I couldn’t leave them off this list. Research suggests that combining whole body vibration with MLD is more beneficial than MLD alone. Whole body vibration increases circulation and stimulates lymph flow. It can be used standing, sitting, or even laying on the floor. I like to use mine for 15 minutes before using my pneumatic pump, but I know other Sturdy Women who like to keep one under their desk to energize their legs throughout the day. Look for a model that oscillates (wobbles up and down rather than just side-to-side) like the Shake It Off vibration plate in the Sturdy Woman shop (we offer interest free payment plans!) or the similar LifePro Waver available on Amazon. You want to use it without your compression garments for full jiggly effect.
- Rebounding might be the most fun and playful way to move your lymph. Sadly, I live in an upstairs apartment and I don’t think the people downstairs would appreciate me jumping on a mini trampoline! The up and down motion combined with the contraction of the calf muscle is great to pump fluid out of your legs. Look for a heavy-duty one with a handle so you can feel really stable while using it. This rebounder has a 450 pound weight capacity and a bar. No, you don’t need to do tricks or practice for the circus! Gentle bouncing is all it takes. There is also a miniature version called the Trampolette that’s perfect for bouncing under your desk or taking along when traveling. That’s the one I need in my apartment! It was designed explicitly for lipedema and lymphedema to help combat swelling.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but hopefully it gives you some ideas to get started and get moving. The most important thing is to do something and you are much more likely to stick with your lipedema exercise program if you find something you enjoy. Taking care of yourself shouldn’t feel like punishment ❤
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