LOVE Your Lymph — The Forgotten Fitness Fix
by Ann Louise Gittleman
Exercise isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite pastime. While some seem to run that extra mile and squat that extra set with ease, many of us struggle to ﬁnd the motivation to exercise at all. In fact, the numbers are staggering.
According to the most recent study by National Center for Health Statistics, only 49% of adults 18 years and older met the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic activity. That number is only 20.9% for adults 18 years and older who met the Physical Activity Guidelines for both aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activity.
You may be reluctant to hear this, but exercise is simply not something you can skimp on—your lymphatic system depends on it.
Love Your Lymph
The word lymph comes from the Latin word for “water goddess,” in honor of the ﬂuid’s watery nature. A healthy lymph is transparent, with a slight yellow tinge and a vaguely opalescent sheen. Unlike blood, which is pumped by the heart, the lymphatic ﬂuid has no pump. Instead, what moves the lymph through its many ducts and channels is exercise.
Yes, exercise. The behavior of the lymphatic system is one of the ways we know that nature intended for us to be active, vigorously moving creatures—not sinking into the couch with our noses in our phones or sitting at a desk for 40 hours every week. Back when humans spent their days constantly moving—gathering food, building shelters, and running away from wild animals—this was no problem. These days, our lymph cannot rely on voluntary activity. So, because the lymph doesn’t have the luxury of having an involuntary system in place—like the constant beating of the heart—its performance deteriorates.
Ideally, our lymph moves through a complex network of needle-thin tubes known as lymphatics, collecting excess ﬂuid from cells all over the body. Different body parts produce different types of lymph: protein-rich ﬂuid from the limbs; lymph full of white blood cells from the bone marrow, thymus, and spleen; and, most important for our purposes, high-fat lymph from our intestines. Fat is the only food element that moves through the lymphatic system. The proteins and carbohydrates that we ingest go right from the intestines into the bloodstream, but the intestinal lymphatics draw fat into the lymphatic system before it reaches the blood.
So, what happens when the lymph isn’t ﬂowing properly? First, the excess ﬂuid that isn’t draining from our tissues causes them to swell. These bloated, water-logged tissues can add up to 10 or 15 pounds to your weight, and cause you to swell two extra pant sizes.
Also, poor lymphatic circulation means that the nutrients we ingest don’t get properly absorbed. Picture a single body cell as it is bathed in nourishing ﬂuid from your blood-stream. This little cell is fed by the water, proteins, and other molecules that leak from the capillaries—tiny arteries that drain into body tissues. But if the tissues are already full of liquid, they can’t efﬁciently absorb those nutrients. It’s like having a backed-up drain—no more water can get into the sink because it’s already full. The function of the lymphatic system is to continually drain excess liquid, so that new blood, with its new nutrients, has room to ﬂow into the cells.
Obviously, if the new blood has trouble reaching your cells, you won’t absorb its nutrients very efﬁciently, and so you’ll need to eat more to obtain the same nutritional beneﬁts. In fact, you might be relatively malnourished, despite the high-quality food you are consuming. By assisting the lymphatic system to drain ﬂuids more effectively, it enables each cell in your body to absorb available nutrients, making the best use possible of every calorie you consume.
Create the Habit
I hope by now you are convinced of how important it is to get moving! If you’re thinking “I know that I need to exercise, but it’s impossible for me to ﬁnd the motivation to do it,” stop right there. You can ﬁnd the motivation and once you do, if you’re patient and diligent, it will become a habit. These are my best tips to ﬁnesse ﬁtness into your life.
Find the Right Niche
Don’t limit yourself to one type of exercise or force yourself to do one that doesn’t suit you. There are avid runners, passionate yogis, strong weight lifters, and energized power walkers. Experiment with trying different classes, different trainers, and different styles of exercise until you ﬁnd what’s right for you. It may even come as a surprise how much you end up loving a class you never thought you’d take.
Set Small Goals
It’s great to set long term goals, but when that becomes your focus, you can easily become overwhelmed and lose sight that you are, in fact, making steady progress to those goals. Each week, set your intentions—whether it’s to run a little farther, lift a little more, or simply get moving doing anything a certain number of days—and at the end of the week evaluate how these small goals are moving you towards the bigger ones. You’ll feel proud and accomplished at each check in!
Strategically Determine Your Timing
It’s ideal to exercise with the sun-rise, but exercising at any time is far better than not exercising at all.
If you seem to try and fail to rise early, but it’s much easier to motivate yourself to head to a ﬁtness class after work—do that. You can also always split your time. Perhaps you can set your alarm 15 minutes early for a morning walk and work in another 15-30 minutes later in the day. Many also ﬁnd great success with a mid-day workout during their lunch break. Work with your schedule, not against it.
Do Your Best—For that Day
There are countless factors that come into play each day that affect your mood, your energy, and your overall motivation. Each day, work to the best of your ability for that day and don’t berate yourself when one day
is different from another. It’s okay if on Tuesday you beat a personal best, but on Thursday you are simply happy that you completed a short walk.
Find a Friend
Accountability partners make all the difference for many. When you know that your friend is joining you for that morning jog or waiting in their car for you at the gym, it ignites an extra spark to not let yourself—or your friend—down. Plus, during your workout, you have a built-in motivator and a great person to chat with while resting between exercises.
We may not be hunters and gatherers anymore, but there are still plenty of ways in our modern world to get moving and keep your lymphatic system in tip-top shape. For even more lymph-loving tips and tricks, pick up a copy of my New Fat Flush Plan. This time-tested lifestyle program is unlike any other diet or ﬁtness book, targeting the lymph and resetting your entire body for optimum function and wellness.
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS is an award-winning author and highly respected health pioneer who has spent her career continually breaking ground in traditional and holistic health. Her over 30 published books include New York Times bestsellers The Fat Flush Plan and Before the Change. A Columbia University graduate, Gittleman has been recognized as one of the top ten nutritionists in the country by Self magazine and has received the American Medical Writers Association award for excellence.