Exercise and the Lymphatic System
By Robert Bresloff
Exercise has many benefits. It increases metabolism, tones muscles, improves circulation and joint range of motion (ROM). Whether you’re running, walking, lifting weights or cycling, muscles are contracting and relaxing. Those muscle contractions might just be accomplishing more than you think.
You may or may not have heard of peripheral heart action (PHA), but PHA may be the most important reason to exercise.
When a muscle contracts, blood is trapped within the muscle where the oxygen in the blood is quickly used up to convert glycogen into the energy needed for the muscle to contract.
When the muscle relaxes, the venous blood is released carrying toxins and acid away and newly oxygenated blood flushed into the muscle.
It is the very act of muscle contractile and relaxation that make up PHA. For example, if a soldier stands at attention for too long, he will eventually pass out. Why? Because, the heart isn’t designed to pump blood efficiently through the body alone—it requires muscle movement. Without movement it is difficult for the venous blood to release its toxins into the lymphatic system to ultimately exit in urine and perspiration.
What is the lymphatic system? Lymph is a clear fluid that rids the body of toxins. Dead cells, fat, viruses and particles of undigested food that seep through the stomach wall, to name a few, are carried away by lymph. With T- and B-Lymphocytes, lymph is one of the first lines of defense for the immune system. The most common example of lymph cleansing is the common cold. Your lymphatic system is hard at work keeping you immune from toxins and disease.
By now you’re probably wondering what this all has to do with exercise. More than you would think. By way of muscle contractile, the valves in the lymphatic system open and close allowing the lymph fluid to move the toxins through the body and eventually exiting through perspiration and urine.
One of the most popular methods of lymphatic health exercises is rebounding. By bouncing up and down on a rebounder the fluids are pushed against the one way valves that are placed throughout the lymphatic system. When these valves open they allow the lymph fluid into the next chamber. Then as the muscles relax, the valves close until the next contraction.
Nearly all exercise helps to move lymph fluid as it travels through the body, but rebounding has been considered the most effective by far. There is another way. An effective and well thought out circuit training regime can give you great benefits in regards to lymphatic flow as well as cardiovascular fitness.
Developed by Dr. Robert Gajda, a former body building champion, The PHA exercise system can answer all your fitness needs: strength and conditioning, cardiovascular fitness and lymphatic exercise. The PHA is designed for the more experienced exerciser and should be used with caution. If you feel any pain or become light headed, stop immediately and call your physician.
The system is based on sequencing multiple sets of three to four exercises per sequence. Each sequence starts with a primary exercise, (some examples: squat, bench presses, leg presses, jumps, military press), a secondary exercise, (some examples: lat pulls, rows leg extensions, hamstring curls, hip extensions), a recovery exercise (abdominals, low back, calves, tibialis) and isolation exercise (biceps, triceps).
Perform each sequence in order then repeat one or two times depending on how many sets you want to perform before continuing on to the next sequence. (I recommend starting with one or two sets of each sequence and no more than four sequences per workout). Perform no fewer than 10 and no more than 15 repetitions per movement. As your body adjusts to the system, you will be able to work in any rep range needed depending on whet your goal is.
Sample sequences: Squats, Lat Pull, Spinal Extensions, Tri Push Down.
Bench Press, Hamstring Curls, Calf Raises, Dumbbell curls
Military Press, Leg Extensions, Dorsiflexion, Tri Extension
Leg Press, Seated Rows, Abdominals, Bar curls
Along with the terrific health benefits that can be derived from using a PHA, this system can bring a welcomed change when you’re looking to spice up your program.
Remember, the sky is the limit. With a little imagination, peripheral heart action can take your workouts to the next level. Always check with your doctor before starting this, or any exercise program.
Robert Bresloff is a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Therapist, Adaptive Fitness Specialist, a Specialist in Fitness for Older Adults and Endurance Trainer with The International Sports Sciences Association. He owned and operated, Total Fitness Concepts Inc for 10 years. He has written for Masters Athlete Magazine, The Waukegan News Sun and trade e magazines and recently released his first fitness book, 'The Baby Boomer's Guide to Fitness"