Staying Active In Winter, Even With Cancer
Winter is on its way (it will be here sooner than you think!). If you live in one of the colder regions of the country, it can be difficult to stay active as it sets in. It might be snowy or icy outside or just too darn cold for your taste! Maybe the activities you love most are better suited for the warmer months of the year.
But it is important to continue physical activity during the winter, even if you aren’t planning to venture outdoors much. Physical activity has an important impact on more than just your body. It can help you combat the winter blues too. The health benefits of physical activity, even if it is not a specific exercise program, are not limited to the major muscle groups!
If you are undergoing cancer treatments, like chemotherapy or radiation therapy, it can be critical to your physical and emotional health to find ways to stay active during the colder, shorter days. It might be even more challenging because of cancer related fatigue or health problems that accompany treatments.
But, there are plenty of things you can do inside to keep yourself moving. Doing so can greatly improve your quality of life.
Of course, you should speak to a doctor first before embarking on any exercise plan.
When you have cancer, activities that keep you mentally stimulated can be equally as important as physical exercises, especially in the winter.
Here, we will share some ideas to keep you or the cancer patient in your life moving, engaged, and working toward a healthy lifestyle!
Indoor Physical Exercise Is Still Exercise!
Again, speak to a doctor about physical limitations you might have before starting an exercise program. You might not be able to lift weight or jump or exert yourself too much. If you have muscle weakness, you might have to limit your physical activity or limit your exercise sessions.
Even with limitations, you can still reap the benefits of exercise.
What low intensity exercise or physical movement might help your mind and body feel good?
Stretching exercises are more than just warm up exercises. Simple stretching on its own can provide many benefits. It can increase blood flow, decrease the risk of injury, improve mobility, range of motion, balance, and enhance muscular relaxation. Regular exercise in the form of stretching can yield positive health outcomes for everyone, not just cancer patients.
Yoga provides many of the same physical benefits as stretching. It can provide relief from back pain, increase muscle strength, and provide practitioners with renewed energy.
Research shows that walking even 10 minutes a day can have proven benefits for the mind and body. It can help regulate your blood sugar, improve cardio health, improve your circulation, and help you sleep better. Walking also does wonders for your mental health.
Also, good news? You can walk anywhere! It doesn’t have to be outside, although the sunshine can ramp up the emotional benefits of walking.
You might think that chair exercises are only for the elderly. But, anyone can benefit from movement, even if you are seated for part of it. If you are wiped out from chemo or radiation, consider exercising while sitting.
Chair-based exercises can improve balance, posture, flexibility, and circulation and reduce the risk of injuries from falling, especially if you have muscle weakness from cancer treatment. They can also strengthen your core, shoulders, and knees without putting too much pressure on your lower body. You can, for example, do arm curls with light weights, torso twists, and leg lifts.
For someone getting cancer treatments, housework might seem especially daunting. But, it can be a good way to get in some physical activity. Sweeping the floor, changing the sheets on the bed, and even doing meal prep and washing the dishes can provide health benefits.
The American Heart Association considers housework to be a moderate intensity exercise.
We all know that living a still, sedentary life is not optimally healthy. It can lead to an increased risk of cancer, including colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and some chronic diseases.
Simple physical activity can make a difference in your overall health and quality of life.
When you have physical limitations, however, finding ways to keep moving can be challenging, especially during cancer treatment.
Speak to your doctor, nurse practitioner, cancer rehabilitation specialist, or another health care professional to get yourself started and on the right track.
Activities for Your Emotional Health Can Improve Quality of Life
There are often non-physical roadblocks to engaging in physical activity. Depression, anxiety, and stress can get in the way of even our best efforts to move.
These feelings can worsen during the winter when there is less sunlight, and it gets cold. People tend to feel more isolated during the winter. When you are getting cancer treatment, this isolation can lead to increased feelings of depression and hopelessness. Pulling the covers over your head might be all the physical activity you can muster some days.
But, as hard as it is to get started, physical exercise can improve your mental health! This is not a debatable fact. Physical activity increases feelings of positivity, self-esteem, confidence, and satisfaction. Exercise is an excellent remedy for depression.
What if your treatments have you feeling too fatigued to exercise? What if you have too many physical limitations making it hard for you to move around? You can still work on your emotional health and do things to keep your brain “moving” and engaged.
Just as physical activity can improve your mental health, tending to your emotional fitness can benefit your physical well-being.
Simple “Exercises” To Foster Mental Well Being During Winter
Consider some of these activities to help you “exercise” for your mental health:
Plan and execute a “big” project – This can be anything from committing to watching a show you’ve never seen to piling clothes you want to donate to goodwill.
Cleaning out the kitchen drawers, organizing photos into albums, making a holiday gift list for online shopping, or making a meal plan can be great ways to keep your mind busy and focused. Once you complete the project, plan a new one.
Find activities you enjoy doing at home and do them as much as possible. Jigsaw puzzles, crafts, games, and reading are wonderful ways to exercise your brain and improve your mood.
Meditation can be a great way to improve overall feelings of well-being. Meditation can reduce stress, decrease anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and help control pain. You can meditate anywhere!
Connect with other people to avoid feelings of isolation and depression. Even if you can’t get out, stay connected with friends and family. Have friends stagger visits, so you are not alone too much of the time. Perhaps you can join or start a book club.
If you can’t do things in person, texting, zooming, and face timing are great ways to interact with people when you (or they) are stuck at home.
It is never more important to keep as physically and emotionally fit as it is when you are fighting cancer, a cancer recurrence, and getting cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy and radiation can make it hard to engage in physical activity (and sometimes normal activities), but even little things can go a long way. When you can’t engage in a hardcore exercise session, take a high intensity aerobic fitness class, or even be as physically active as you used to be, don’t give up.
Staying strong in the face of cancer, as challenging as it is, can make a difference to your physical and mental health. The benefits of exercise can help your quality of life during cancer treatment and beyond.
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