Only too often we think it is too late to start an exercise regime after we have been diagnosed with a serious illness. That could not be further from the truth. There are many ways regular exercise may help patients during cancer treatment:

· Keep or improve physical abilities (how well one can use the body to do things).

· Improve balance, lower risk of falls and broken bones.

· Keep muscles from wasting due to inactivity.

· Lower the risk of heart disease.

· Lessen the risk of osteoporosis (weak bones that are more likely to break).

· Improve blood flow to the legs and lower the risk of blood clots.

· Less dependency on others for help with normal activities of daily living.

· Improve self- esteem.

· Lower the risk of being anxious and depressed.

· Lessen nausea.

· Improve ability to keep social contacts.

· Lessen symptoms of tiredness (fatigue).

· Help control weight.

· Improve quality of life.

These benefits also apply to you if you suffer from lymphoedema. Although one size never fits all, regardless of your situation / circumstance; however, it is even more important when you are on your cancer journey that any exercise program is coordinated between treating physicians and exercise specialists. They will create a progressive program with measurable milestones which will give you a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Breath – an often-overlooked component of exercise

One of the most important, and often overlooked component of exercise is breathing. Not only does breathing allow precious oxygen to be circulated through the bloodstream, but it is also effective for moving fluid through a gentle pumping action of the abdominal muscles. The fluid is pumped through the central lymphatic vessel in the chest cavity, stimulating the flow of lymph. When you breathe in, using your abdominal muscles, the pressure in the chest cavity changes, because the belly breath moves your diaphragm. When you exhale, the pressure changes once again. This back-and-forth alternation in the pressure acts like a pump on the large lymphatic trunk that runs up through the chest cavity and drains into the venous system of the neck. So how do you breathe using your abdominal muscles? Sit in an upright position. Take a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth, flattening your belly and squeezing out every bit of air. Emptying the lungs completely and removing all the stale air from the bottom of the lungs automatically stimulates a diaphragmatic breath. Breathe in through your nose and notice how your belly expands. Repeat the sequence again. Let the air out through your mouth, making sure your belly flattens. Try another one or two breaths this way. If you get light-headed, try to slow down your inhalation, and pause before breathing in again. It is not necessary to breathe with a giant breath - just one that goes to the bottom of your lungs, while your chest remains still. Imagine a balloon in your stomach that inflates when you inhale and deflates when you exhale.

General Exercise Recommendations.

The Department of Health recommends: Be active on most, preferably all, days every week. Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week. Those activities should incorporate aerobic fitness, strength, flexibility and balance. Most health problems can be helped by being active; however, your best option is to work with a fitness professional who has the qualification to assess your situation and design bespoke programs that suit your individual situation. Check out my website and book your free assessment! Remember before starting with any exercise regime consult with your medical professional. Other points to remember when exercising: Always wear your support garment or bandages if they have been prescribed. Always include a 5-minute warm up and lymphatic drainage exercises, i.e., lower body lymphoedema includes upper and lower body lymphatic drainage exercise and upper body lymphoedema does upper body lymphatic drainage exercises only after the warmup.

In my next blog, I will share the benefits of rebounding in the prevention and management of lymphoedema.