Over one million people each year here the words, cancer. Six letters that far to often obstruct or devastate the lives of many. This diagnosis usually implies a significant lifestyle change, filled with many hurdles, obstacles and emotions — but maybe that change can be a gateway towards something positive.

To maintain the stamina needed to battle against the disease, many cancer patients find solace in working out, whether they are or were regular gym dwellers or had only walked into a gym once in their life prior to diagnosis, exercise provides hope. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults exercise at least 2.5 hours a week and this recommendation includes cancer patients.

Studies have shown that physical activity can decrease the risk for certain cancers – even more there are new studies showing that regular exercise can also improve overall health and quality of life for those already diagnosed.

The symptoms of treatment are often intense and anything that can be done to lessen the burden felt by the person in treatment is worth a shot. Exercise can reduce the symptoms associated with their cancer treatments including fatigue, nausea and aerobic capacity. These symptoms are often a barrier to an active lifestyle, let alone an exercise routine, but once that first push is made there would be an immediate change in energy levels. The exercise can, and will, lead to a more enjoyable day to day life.

Many forms of cancer diminish lung capacity especially with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that can develop in the lungs. Patients with mesothelioma diagnosis for example, experience symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, and fluid build up in the lungs – all of which could be lessened by exercise. Additionally, as with many types of cancer, the prognosis is impacted by numerous factors, many of which are uncontrollable to patients such as age, location and the stage of the disease. Making healthful decisions is certainly within control, therefore, initiative and ownership with physical activity goes a long way. Having the ability to change one aspect of their disease, with exercise can be a concrete goal to work towards when many other factors, are out of individual control.

Exercise following cancer treatment should not be another source of stress but instead a way to encourage hope and strength in a stressful, physically bearing time. Low-impact workouts are generally safest to improve lung capacity and reap all the other benefits while stimulating endorphins. Strive for thirty minutes of low impact workout three to four times a week to prevent blood clot formation of surgery patients, increase energy levels, boost mood, self- confidence, and overall health to in turn improve prognosis.

Home Exercises to Try

Cancer Patients and Exercise

  • Walking: Whether warming up before exercise or simply a light aerobic activity, walking in place, on a treadmill or around the house, elevates heartbeat to increase blood flow.
  • Strength or Weight Training: You do not have to be a body builder to use weights. A set of at home free weights will help to target specific muscles in need of strengthening. Begin at a comfortable level.
  • Yoga: Gentle yoga poses for cancer patients help clear toxins from cancer treatments effectively by stimulating muscles, increasing blood flow and lymphatic flow, enhancing the body’s internal purification process.
  • Deep Breathing: Similarly with yoga, deep breathing from the diaphragm, held for several seconds (or as long as comfortable), exhaled slowly is meditative and proven a feasible intervention among patients receiving chemotherapy.
  • Pilates: providing both physical and psychological benefits, pilates aids in the rehabilitation and recovery of cancer patients by improving muscular strength, endurance, postular enhancement, increased range of motion, elevated moods and more.

The Cancer Research Center has reported several studies proven to show that exercise is safe, possible and helpful for many cancer patients. However, it is very important for those with cancer to discuss their exercise plans, routines and hardships, with their doctors prior to starting and often throughout while striving to lead a healthful and positive lifestyle throughout remission.

Additional Exercise Suggestions for Cancer Patients:

  • Break up exercise: Depending upon cancer stage, prognosis, treatment, et cetera it may be difficult to exercise for thirty minutes straight or even 15 minutes. Break up intervals as needed, striving for 10 minute intervals.
  • Make exercise enjoyable: Caregivers play a major role in cancer rehabilitation and support. Even a recruited caregiver or friend (who maybe even enjoys the same taste in music) can make the thought of exercise more enjoyable.
  • Avoid Harm: if on radiation therapy, avoid swimming pools that can expose the body to bacteria, leading to infection and chlorine which may irritate skin treated by radiation
  • Listen to your body and physician: If not feeling well, feverish or sickly, stop. Rest and communicate in detail with your doctor.

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