Most older clients can and should “tune-up” their lymphatic circulation with planned exercise to better their health. Lymphatic “Tune-up” is desirable in any period. Yet this focused effort may be even more critical when societal immunity is threatened by novel viruses.
What the Lymphatic System Does
Many older clients, and perhaps some personal trainers, can gain a fuller appreciation for “the other half” of human circulatory systems – the human lymphatics – which are crucial for immunity. Then they should program skeletal muscles and gravity to provide clients’ “intelligent movement” to promote “uphill” drainage and immunity fluid flows. A formal definition of the human lymphatic system is, “The system …that carries excess fluids to the bloodstream and filters pathogens from the blood… “As context, this word lymph is derived from the Roman deity of freshwater called Lympha.
Fact: As we age, our lymphatic systems may become unbalanced or “clogged” from environmental toxins, processed foods, nutritional debits, and/or lack of “intelligent” physical activity. Perhaps a client or two of yours may have mentioned chronic fatigue, weight gains, unexplained skin conditions, or auto-immune conditions like arthritis.
Our “de-toxified” livers and flowing lymphatic fluids may be natural counters to these conditions. Or a client might have episodic or almost chronic swollen ankles. These swollen tissues are usually caused by “edema” or leaked interstitial fluids that did not get absorbed and piped by lymphatic veins. A safety note is to skip lymphatic stimulation for drainage if a client is:
- suffers from [certain] cancers
- has inflammation in the body
- has blood clots in the legs
- suffers from lymphatic gland inflammation and lymphadenopathy
Note: Such medical and physical safety concerns may lead a reader to ask, “What happens if a client has chronic swelling (also known as lymphedema)?
A Doctor might prescribe formal lymphedema sessions in which a trained physical therapist can massage and apply acupressure to one’s lymph glands, nodes, and veins to improve circulation and decrease that swelling. A client might be approved to continue prudent exercise activity with a trainer, with MD approval.
How does physical activity factor in this wellness equation?
Unlike our cardio-vascular circulation, our ducted lymphatic system does not have a “heart” to serve as its hydraulic pump. And, we are considering relatively large amounts of fluid, lending to complex dynamics.
Fact: We need muscle-induced bodily movement, good breathing techniques, and proper intestinal activity to push leaked fluids of metabolic byproducts and toxins toward those venous transfer points above our hearts – the subclavian veins on each side of our necks.
What degree of capillary leakage does an average adult have to “duct” daily with her or his lymphatic system? Three to 4 liters! That is about a gallon or eight-ish pounds of leaky [excess] fluid to be recycled as “blood plasma” when all is well. A healthy, hydrated client (of either gender) weighing 65 KG (143 pounds) should have about 12 liters (3.1 Gallons or ~25 pounds) of lymph flowing one-way to her or his heart daily. As an important point, we have about three times more lymph fluid than regular blood [in that other circulatory system]. As a slight percentage of lymphatic fluid is fatty; effective lymphatic flows may also help clients lose a bit of fatty bodyweight.
“Excess fluid is picked up by capillaries of the lymphatic system. These extremely thin-walled* vessels have copious numbers of valves that ensure unidirectional flow through larger lymphatic vessels that eventually drain into the subclavian veins in the neck. An important function of the lymphatic system is to return the fluid (lymph) to the blood. Lymph may be thought of as recycled blood plasma.”
Lymph, Intelligent Movement, and Exercise
We recall that regular exercise is key for overall circulatory health. Unclogged lymph nodes and “counter-gravity” flows of lymphatic fluid are crucial for that health! Most skeletal muscular activity boosts lymphatic flow by expanding and contracting both our large regions of interstitial fluid regions and lymphatic ducts/nodes. Remember that most of our body regions are “downhill” from our hearts. While regular resistance training may be adequate, a portfolio of lymphatic stimulation stretching exercises may assist other clients with their “recycling” and immunity tune-ups.
How to Stimulate the Lymphatic System
Start your clients with easy training moves ideal for moving lymph like gentle Neck Rolls and Standing Side Bends, and slowly introduce more intense muscular exercises or yoga poses. Yoga poses in which a client’s head is lower than her or his hips/lower limbs are excellent. Boats (Navasanas), Standing Half Forward Bends (Eka Pada Mukha Svanasanas) with optional straight arms behind back and overhead, Hip Bridges (Setu Banhasanas), and Extended Triangles (Utthita Trikonasanas) are exemplary Asanas or moves to help ‘tune-up” our lymphatic systems.
If clients are able, adding resistance bands or, light kettlebells or dumbbells for dynamic yoga-like motions are appropriate. If some clients are cleared/ready, willing and able, jumping rope or engaging in plyometric exercise is great. Kettlebell swings are also fine for pumping both halves of our circulatory systems. For those extraordinary older clients, wall handstands are optimal!
A Trainer could also encourage older clients (free of cardiac problems) to try temperature-adjusted showers to help recycle fluids through our lymphatic veins and ducts. And, encourage them to hydrate properly (most of the lymphatic fluid is water). Ask them to avoid wearing tight clothing and encourage them to eat “clean”. Finally, encourage them to BREATHE deeply using their diaphragms for stomach breathing. “The pumping action of deep breathing will help the lymphatic system transport the toxins into the blood before they are detoxified by the liver.”
“Lymph fluid relies on movement and the contraction of your muscles to make it flow.”
An older client may need your help to offset her or his episodic swelling of lower limbs, and to enhance flow of “recycled blood plasma” for optimal fitness and wellness. After medical clearance, planned exercises as lymphatic system tune-ups for our older clients are invaluable. An older client just might like to end her/his training session as a Happy Baby.