The more physically active you are, the better; and if youve been diagnosed with cancer or are undergoing treatment, its especially important to take care of yourself. Studies show that one of the best ways to do take care of yourself while on cancer treatment is to stay physically active. Of course, were not talking about training to run a marathon. And we’re not asking you to go mountain climbing either but some moderate aerobic exercise, such as riding a stationary bicycle or taking a walk daily, coupled with the use of light weights for strength training, can enhance physical well-being and spur recovery.
Here are some benefits of working out during cancer treatment:
The most common complaint during cancer treatment is fatigue and research shows that patients who exercised regularly experienced nearly 40-50% less fatigue. Besides, no harmful effect has been found on patients receiving regular exercise while undergoing treatment.
Engaging in regular exercise increases muscle strength, joint flexibility and general conditioning, all of which may be impaired by surgery and some therapies. Exercise is known to improve cardiovascular function and to protect bones. It also elevates mood, offering drug-free relief for the feelings of depression that may accompany a cancer diagnosis.
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Regular exercise keeps your weight in check which is of crucial importance as gaining weight during and after treatment raises the risk of a cancer recurrence, particularly for breast, colon and prostate cancers.
The sooner you begin, the better. Exercise with a purpose; any exercise program should have three basic components if it is to be effective:
- An aerobic workout that pumps up your heart rate. Examples include brisk walking (outdoors or on a treadmill), jogging, swimming, or bicycling.
- Strength training to tone and build muscles. This includes lifting weights (light in case of cancer treatment) or working with a machine circuit or resistance bands.
- Stretching to keep muscles and joints limber.
Suggestions and precautions
It is imperative that you first speak to your doctor and therapist before you start to exercise to ensure safety. Depending on your fitness and comfort level, some of us may want to start with a 10-minute walk, while some may be able to exercise for 20 minutes or longer right away. Your goal should be at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week. But be cautious: if you try to do too much, you may become discouraged and stop exercising altogether. On the other hand, if you were a regular at the gym before, you may have to lower the intensity of workouts for a while.
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The following are some of important suggestions you may find helpful:
- If you don’t have the energy to exercise a full half hour, break it up; try three 10-minute walks during the day.
- Make exercise enjoyable; find a walking partner or listen to music with headphones while on a recumbent bike or treadmill.
- Do some gardening or house cleaning both provide physical workouts.
- Consider yoga and tai-chi; though not aerobic, they integrate movement and meditation, and enhance wellness.
- Look for programs designed specifically for cancer patients. Some health clubs and hospitals offer exercise classes that address the challenges and needs of people with cancer.
- If on radiation therapy, avoid swimming pools; they can expose you to bacteria that may cause infections and the chlorine may irritate radiated skin.
- Listen to your body; don’t exercise if you’re not feeling well or running a fever.
Most importantly remember to stay positive! Cancer can be a tough battle but you won’t win the war without fighting. So, eat healthy, stay positive and surround yourself with everything good. If you like this article then don’t forget to hit the like button and if you know someone who’d need this then do share it. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments section below.