My Lymphedema in-flight exercises

These are the exercises I do when on long haul flights. My physio therapist has recommended them.
Before the exercises I want to mention a couple of tips for the flight. Here goes:
  • Get an aisle seat, best to the side of your lymphedemaleg so you can stretch it every now and then when sitting down. An aisle seat will allow you to get up anytime you want, at least I find that when in the middle seat I don't feel like bothering my neighbor more than absolute nessesary.
  • Drink lots to stay hydrated and to make sure you get up (to go to the toilet).
  • Consider wearing extra compression on (some of) the leg, ie cut an old stocking in half and wear it on top of the other. Be careful if you have pressure sensitive spots though.
  • Consider wearing trekking sandals for the flight so you won't have trouble getting your shoes back on should the foot go up a little.
  • Bring bandages (or nightgarment if you have one) and consider wrapping (some of) the leg the first night after arrival.
  • Get up and walk/move often. It sucks when you just want to sleep, but it will do you good.
  • Not really flight-related but perhaps it is wise to put the words Cellulitis and the latin name for Rosen, Erysipelas, in your phone or on a piece of paper in case you get it, it might speed up treatment if doctors don't have to figure it out themselves first. Just an idea.

And now to the in-flight – or anytime – exercises:

Standing with feet together and knees together, focusing on keeping knees together kick your bum with the lymphemaleg. This will help draw the fluid in the knee area upwards. Repeat 10 times or more per session.
This one can easily be done in the aisle.

Lifting your knee and thigh as high as you can.
Also suited for the aisle. Repeat.

On your toes and down again. Aisle material.

The classic lift your heel, lift your toes, getting those pumps going.

Lift your leg upwards while you with both hands try to push it back down. Hold it for 5-10 seconds, then rest before another round. This creates circulation in the limb.

Deep squatting. This one can be done in the bathroom, if need be with one leg of either side of the toiletbowl. Up and down. On my last long haul I would do this 15 times every time I went to the bathroom.

Deep breathing. Take deep breaths filling up the belly, not the chest. Breathe in and out through your nose. You can practise from home by lying down, one hand on the chest. If done correctly the chest should not be moving. My belly is full of air here.

You can also do lunges, they are supposed to be really good.
I don't really fancy them with an audience though...

  • Exercises for the pelvic floor. For women: Imagine having a pee and having to stop. Big lymphnotes are located in this area, which is why this one is useful.
  • Go for walks in the aisle. Often.

That was it, I hope this was useful. Upon request I'd be happy to send a PDF-file (one sheet, A4) with the exercises to print out and take with you, just e-mail me on

Update: Download the PDF-file here.

See other posts about flying with Lymphedema here.


  1. I was a healthy young female with an attractive shape until I developed a serious life-threatening cancer. After being very sick for a year I then developed severe lymphedema of the lower extremities. It was very difficult for me to lose my shape, my freedom and to deal with the constant bandaging. At one point I lost my will to live that I cried out to God for help. the next day I thought of the idea to buy bed lifts. I bought them and added them to the bottom frame of my bed so that my bed was on a slant. After a good nights sleep I found that my body drained normally and that the skin on my legs was supple. It is 20 years later and, even though I need to lay down now for a few hours in the afternoon, I lead an active lifestyle that no one knows that I am disabled. I hope this can help someone.

    1. Hi there, thanks for writing :-)
      I totally recognize the distress of loosing your shape, freedom etc. and it has taken a long time for me to get to where I am now. I still feel akward but at least I can live with it now.
      It is amazing and wonderful that elevating your leg at night has helped you so much - an inspiration for others! I have a make-do solution to my bed with old phonebooks etc. to elevate it.
      Thanks again for your input!

  2. Hi , I am a 22 year old female living with Lymphedema in my left leg . I was diagnosed in high school. I have trouble dealing with my leg I had no idea there were others that go some of the same issues like me.

    1. Dear Natalya, thanks for your comment - I am glad you found me! You are so not alone, there are millions of us out here! I too felt very alone with my condition in the beginning, that is one of the reasons I started this blog. I have also joined a patient association where I meet other Lymphedema patients IRL. If there is one near you I really do recommend you look them up, it really is beneficial to be with others in the same boat.
      Welcome on board :-)

  3. Hello...Trying to get "special" underwear for those of us with lymphedema, found your site, and believe me, it has been a miracle, reading about others dealing with this..illness. People look at you, like if you are out of this world, I always used high heels, now, it is out of the question, I have bought sneakers, very sophisticated, but, sneakers..jeans, are out of my closet. Feel comfortable with shorts, and if they are not too tights in my thighs...My question is, if it started in my left leg, could it be spread to the torso, or to my arms?..I am afraid,,and my self esteem is very very low...Thanks for listening, or better, for reading..ji ji ji